Monday, September 9, 2013

The Eagles are inferior to the Redskins, yet well positioned to pull off an upset

The Philadelphia Eagles are quite likely to end up with the worst record in the NFC East this year. They also, in my opinion, have a better than even chance of starting 1-0 after beating the Redskins tonight.

The basis for my pessimism caution is the matchup between new Eagles coach Chip Kelly and Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. All offensive coaches focus on creating situations in which they can array more blockers against fewer defenders and get the ball to one of their (so-called) skill position players with room to run. But there are a few factors that make tonight's situation not quite routine.

Chip Kelly (based on what I have read, I am not a college football aficionado) is particularly renowned for his success at this aspect of the job. Whatever novel approach Kelly takes tonight, Jim Haslett will have never seen it before (despite his protestations). Remember how lost the Saints defense looked in Week 1 of 2012 when no one (in the NFL) had seen or game-planned for read option before? It is at least possible that the Redskins will face some little wrinkle that they are simply not prepared for. This ties into my next point...

In my opinion, Jim Haslett is particularly poor at adjusting when the opposing offense isn't cooperating with his plans. Remember the 2010 Colts game at FedEx when he tried to get cute with only one down linemen and everyone else milling about standing up, and Peyton Manning simply spent the evening audibling inside runs? Yeah me too. I also lack faith in Jim Haslett's ability to create a gameplan that successfully maximizes his personnel's strengths and minimizes their weaknesses, especially against an opponent who is sure to unleash some surprises.

Haslett's general approach when faced with an offensive threat is to blitz early and often, hoping his guys can get to the quarterback before the offensive can execute its plan. But he has a track record of designing blitzes poorly (slow-developing blitzes against quick-passing offenses, etc) and calling them in bad situations (don't get me started).  The "book" on Michael Vick is that you can force him into bad decisions with constant blitzing, which will make it all the more tempting for Haslett to blitz himself into finding DeSean Jacskon over the middle, with all the linebackers vacated, ready to victimize one of the Redskins safeties.

Speaking of those safeties, when Jackson or LeSean McCoy find themselves with the ball in their hand and Kelly has successfuly schemed blocking superiority to outnumber the Redskins linebackers, the last line of defense will be one of the biggest weaknesses on the team. At free safety the Redskins will likely be playing a rookie (Bacarri Rambo) with a documented weakness at tackling runners in the open field. Strong safety playing time will likely be split between a guy who has a history of undisciiplined play and will be rusty (Brandon Meriwether) and a guy who is just slow (Reed Doughty).

The hope of course is that the Redskins offense can simply score more than the defense gives up. There is a good chance of this, but I think we all know we shouldn't have strong opinions on Robert Griffin's post-surgery effectiveness until we see him on a field. There is also a chance, of course, that Chip Kelly will not succeed at putting an effective offense on the field in his very first NFL attempt, or that Michael Vick's chronic inconsistency could render it moot.

I know predictions like this are completely pointless, but it seems like the sort of thing that should come at the end of this sort of blog post so...

Eagles 31, Redskins 27


  1. I almost took your post seriously until you said "Roger Griffin."

  2. Wow you nailed it. Nice work.