After a painfully long wait, the regular season is finally here. It is unbelievable to think about how much the Eagles organization has changed since the December 30th match up against the New York Giants. After eight months of nothing but speculation, predictions, and mystery, real football is only a day away. I feel like a 5 year old on Christmas Eve just thinking about it!
When the NFL schedule is first released, eyes naturally look to the opener. This year, I did not quite know what to think of Week 1. I held out some hope that RG3 would not be ready for the opener, but as most predicted, he is ready and hungry to get back on the field.
A constant theme across the coverage of RG3’s return has been the importance of the preseason. Nobody understands the process of “shaking off the rust” more than former NFL players. Many former players turned analysts have stressed how vital it is to play just a few series in the preseason, as the jump in game speed from training camp to the regular season is immense.
This should lead us to believe that because RG3 has not played until the opener, he will be “shaking off the rust” in the first few possessions, giving the Eagles a chance to storm out of the gates and get a lead before the half.
While some are wary of the defense facing such a formidable offensive attack in their first game, the coaches and players are looking at it as a great opportunity to see where they are in their development. This is especially important for the defense.
Billy Davis has stressed since the beginning that the defense’s goal this year is to make the transition from a wide-9 4-3 to a two-gapping 3-4 defense. However far they make it by Week 1 is going to determine the defense.
Monday night is when we will learn exactly how far they have come, and then the unit can worry less about learning new concepts, and more about gelling as a team and eradicating mental errors. Once the defense reaches the point of reacting without thinking, we should see significant improvement as the season rolls on.
Let’s also not forget how the Redskins took the league by storm last year. They ran the read-option to spread out the field and leave huge holes for Alfred Morris and RG3 to run through.
Not only has the whole league spent the last 8 months returning to the college ranks to learn how to stop this, but the Eagles defense has been facing the Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy lead read-option all through the Spring and training camp, and they are ready and prepared for anything the Redskins will throw at them.
When looking forward to this season, the last thing Eagles fans want to do is reminisce on 2012, but it is necessary to put this Redskins team in perspective.
When the Eagles were in the midst of their awful losing streak, devastated by injuries, had given up on their coach and were playing like the scum of the NFL, the Nick Foles lead Eagles came within a penalty of taking RG3 into overtime in a shootout. Since then, the Eagles have improved in nearly every area. On the other hand, the Redskins will have gotten a few players back from injury, but for the most part will be the same high powered offense and mediocre defense that started 3-6 last season.
The national media may be overlooking this game as an “easy win” for the Redskins, (see the ESPN the Magazine prediction of 41-0 Redskins) but do not be surprised if the Eagles walk onto FedEx field and show the entire league that they mean business by putting a damper on RG3’s return. Expect a lot of points and a great game that will probably come down to the wire, but in the end, whichever defense makes less mistakes will come away with the victory.
My final prediction for the Monday Night football opener is 34-31 Eagles, and if you think I am being biased towards the Eagles, you’re darn right I am!
No matter what the result, the entire nation will be witness to the unveiling of Chip Kelly’s offense, and who knows, maybe Michael Vick can bring back some of that Monday night magic that lit up the nations capital in 2010. This is just the beginning of 2013 Eagles football, and it’s going to be an exciting ride!