WASHINGTON — Now it’s the Washington Redskins who must face the unknown.
A year ago this week, the Redskins delivered a jolt to the NFL, introducing Robert Griffin III and the zone-read offense. They put up 40 points on the unsuspecting New Orleans Saints, the first salvo on the way to an NFC East title.
On Monday night, the league’s next new, big thing makes its regular-season debut. Coach Chip Kelly, who piled up points at the University of Oregon with a pedal-to-the-metal attack, will try to do the same in the pros with the Philadelphia Eagles, starting with a visit to the Redskins.
“New Orleans wasn’t really sure what we were going to do,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “I think we had a competitive advantage there. There were rumors, there was speculation, but they couldn’t see anything on film, so I think the element of surprise is an advantage.”
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick agreed — “It’s our first time showing anything other than what we showed in the preseason, so it gives us an advantage” — but there is a difference: Kelly’s creativity has been on display for all to see for several years.
“I can only go on what I’ve seen,” Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “I’ve watched 23, 24 Oregon films, and what they did in preseason. If they can do anything else, God bless ‘em.”
With that in mind, here are five things watch:
RG3 and the knee: The game takes place eight months to the day since Griffin’s reconstructive surgery on his right knee, a remarkably quick and smooth rehab by an athlete determined not to lose a step after winning the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Chip hits fast-forward: The Eagles ran 74.25 plays from scrimmage per game during the preseason, more than any other team. The trick, of course, is turning plays into points.
Still quick Vick: Kelly’s offense seems well-suited for Vick, who beat out Nick Foles for the starting job in the preseason. “I’m able to put myself in a position to spread the field and keep the defense off-balance,” Vick said.
Secondary concern, Part I: The Redskins ranked 30th against the pass last year and couldn’t afford any big-name free agents to beef up their secondary. They used the draft instead, selecting two safeties and a cornerback.
Secondary concern, Part II: The Eagles have the same weakest link as the Redskins, with three new starters on the back line. Gone are cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, replaced by free agent signees Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.