Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III has his pro debut this Sunday in New Orleans against the Saints and it seems the entire league is watching to see how it will go. Even opposing quarterbacks are interested:
“You figure it’s only a matter of time before he takes this league by storm,” Brees said in a conference call Wednesday with Washington area reporters. “I just hope it doesn’t happen on Sunday.”
SS Brandon Meriweather is out 2-4 more weeks after spraining the MCL and PCL in his left knee during practice on Monday. I suspected the Redskins would go with Reed Doughty to replace Meriweather because the two are similar players, but, wisely, the Redskins appear to be coaching up second year player DeJon Gomes to move into the starting lineup. I like that decision, if that's what happens, because Gomes is a better player against the pass than Meriweather or Doughty, who really belong near the line of scrimmage in run support. With the Saints aerial assault shattering NFL records last year -- and more of the same coming on Sunday -- it's a good idea to have as many good pass defenders on the field as possible.
Rich Campbell has more thoughts on what the Skins will do at safety without Meriweather:
Gomes flashed around the line of scrimmage during his rookie season, and he is a sure tackler when he is decisive and attacks in the box. Doughty is smart, and he, too, can tackle well when he’s in position. The situation would be much direr if either of those two natural strong safeties had to fill in at free, which was the case last season when Oshiomogho Atogwe was hurt.
Gomes’ or Doughty’s success in deep coverage will determine the level of dropoff from Meriweather, and it’s not as though Meriweather’s cover skills are renowned. The Redskins do have better depth to withstand Meriweather and Jackson’s absences because they have another free safety on the roster in Madieu Williams. Williams isn’t known for his range at this stage of his career, but playing him against New Orleans’ high-powered attack on Sunday is better than forcing two strong safeties into the lineup.
Whoever replaces Meriweather likely will have to play deep coverage at times against New Orleans, and that’s a matchup the Saints will try to exploit. Gomes is faster than Doughty, so perhaps that gets him on the field in passing situations. Gomes says his coverage has improved in his second season now that he went through a full offseason program. If he proves it, losing Meriweather wouldn't be nearly as detrimental as it might seem now.
The only other issue I see here is that the Redskins had various blitz packages they wanted to use with Meriweather and I don't know if they can still use those plays effectively with Gomes or Doughty.
So, that was the bad injury news from yesterday. The good injury news is that OLB Brian Orakpo and LG Kory Lichtensteiger practiced fully yesterday and appear ready to start on Sunday. Washington will need both players at full strength to have any chance at all against the Saints.
TE Fred Davis is eager to outdo Saints TE Jimmy Graham on Sunday. That won't be easy, considering Graham caught 99 passes for over 1300 yards and 11 touchdowns, numbers that dwarf what Davis did in 12 games before his season ended due to a drugs suspension. Of course, Graham had Drew Brees throwing to him and Davis had Rex Grossman, but still Graham is clearly the superior player right now. In fact, I have Graham as the second-best tight end in the NFL, trailing only Rob Gronkowski of New England.
But Davis isn't covering Graham. That job falls to OLB Ryan Kerrigan, a college defensive end who had to make the transition to outside linebacker and the coverage responsibilities of the position when he became a pro last year. No surprise, then, that Kerrigan sometimes struggled in pass defense last season. He feels he's improved in that area over the offseason and he better be right about that because Jimmy Graham is a tall order...literally.
“You want to be physical at the line because he is a taller guy,” Kerrigan said of Graham. “You don’t want to let him off the line because once he does, he gets out in the open, and when the ball is up in the air, nine times out of 10 he’s going to come down with it.”
The Saints of course, try to counter any physicality against Graham by where they position him on the field.
“He’s usually inside but they split him out a lot because, a receiving threat like that with his height, you want him down the middle of the field exposing matchups,” Kerrigan said. “He’s probably faster than a lot of linebackers, bigger than a lot of DBs, definitely a guy that they try to exploit.”
The new practice bubble at Redskins park is so the team can practice even when the weather is poor, but the Redskins are using it to prepare for the noisy atmosphere of the Superdome.
RG3's pro debut in New Orleans against the Saints means a lot to his family:
Griffin said he will have 30 to 50 family members inside the Superdome for the game–although he will only be paying for seven of them, he said. Both of his parents are from New Orleans. He attended Saints games in the past, he said, and is pleased to have his first game in a city that means so much to his family.
Let's hope RG3 makes his family proud on Sunday.