The wait has felt like forever since the fateful afternoon of December 30 in the Meadowlands, one that turned out to be Andy Reid’s swan song with the Eagles. After the long wait until minicamp, then the long wait until training camp, then the long wait until the preseason games, the most recent long wait (the regular season) is drawing to a close. This is the last Sunday without football for the next five months, meaning this week begins the official preparation for Week 1 and the Washington Redskins.
The first Monday Night Football game of the season will feature the much-hyped, if not controversial, return of quarterback Robert Griffin III to the Redskins’ starting lineup. RGIII will also share the national spotlight with the man making one of the most anticipated coaching debuts in recent memory, Chip Kelly. Next Monday will also mark the first clash between Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III, two electric athletes at the quarterback position who have been compared countless times.
RGIII has taken the league by storm in just one season, similar to what Vick did a decade ago. Never before had a quarterback devasted defenses with his legs like Vick did, forcing opposing coaches to develop new defensive concepts to defend him. 10 years later, RGIII and the Redskins re-introduced the read-option concept, something defenses have yet to figure out. Vick, now 33, is still one of the most electrifying playmakers in the game and appears rejuvenated under new coach Chip Kelly. Watching these two quarterbacks collide head-to-head is more than enough for the casual fan to tune in to this game.
Personally, I don’t like to predict every Eagles game because it is naturally hard for me to pick against my team. However, through all the storylines and subplots in this matchup, I am predicting the Eagles to defeat the Redskins and give Chip Kelly a win in his debut.
FedEx Field is going to explode with excitement at the return of their franchise quarterback, and they should. However, when push comes to shove, Robert Griffin III is not even nine months removed from ACL surgery. Sure, he has looked good running around in camp and in pregame warm-ups this preseason, but regular season games are an entirely different scenario. I compare the current RGIII situation to a similar one the Eagles encountered in 2007.
Donovan McNabb had torn his ACL in November 2006 but was on track to return for the 2007 opener. Everyone had raved about how good McNabb looked that summer throughout camp. When the regular season came around, expectations were that McNabb and the offense would pick up at the torrid pace they left off in 2006. However, the Eagles started 2007 with back-to-back losses. In Week 4, McNabb was sacked twelve, yes twelve, times in an ugly loss at the Giants that dropped the team to 1-3. McNabb was not the same early on that season because he had limited mobility coming off knee surgery. By late October and into November, McNabb started to move around much better and showed more flashes of his mobility. By December, McNabb was fully healthy and led the team to three straight wins to close out the year.
The bottom line is this: Recovery from a major knee injury as a mobile quarterback takes time. RGIII will make his share of plays against the Eagles, but it is unfair to expect him to be the same as he was last year. Yet.
Because of the precedent that Adrian Peterson set in 2012, many expect RGIII to bounce back from knee surgery and be the same, if not better, right away. While I don’t put that past RGIII, I don’t expect it from him.
At the same time, don’t expect Michael Vick and the Eagles’ offense to do what they did last time they faced the Redskins on Monday Night Football in Washington. On that magical night in 2010, Vick hit DeSean Jackson for an 88-yard TD on the opening play. He went on to account for 6 TDs (4 passing, 2 rushing) in a 59-28 rout.
In the end, the Eagles defense will stop a rusty Redskin offense just enough times and force a timely turnover or two. As the Eagles’ QB, Michael Vick has never lost to the Redskins in a game he started and finished. Kelly’s offense, led by Vick, will put up enough points to give the Eagles a win in Chip Kelly’s debut and start the season 1-0. Prediction: Eagles 30, Redskins 17.