Redskins-Saints game preview: The moment is here

Redskins-Saints game preview: The moment is here
September 8, 2012, 4:33 pm
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What: Redskins vs. Saints
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT
TV: Fox WTTG-5 (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa)The moment a floundering franchise and a famished fan base has awaited for months finally arrives Sunday.Robert Griffin III wont end Washingtons stretch of four consecutive last place finishes in the NFC East in a single game. But how the No. 2 overall draft pick shows against the Saintswillhint at how quickly a turnaround might begin.Coach Mike Shanahan has tailored the Redskins offense to accentuate Griffins ability to tuck the ball, take off and leave defenders grasping at air. The extent to which Griffin does that, however, remains unclear after a 3-1 preseason in which Shanahan shielded his playbook from rest of the NFL and his prized rookie from potential harm.Griffin attempted only 31 passes and five rushes scattered over parts of three preseason games, which has left more questions than answers about the 22-year-olds comfort level and, more important, how Shanahan plans to deploy his most dangerous weapon.Asked directly how he intends to use Griffin against the Saints, Shanahan flashed a wry smile and said: Youll have to show up and come to the game.Well be there, Coach. But Griffin wont be the only player the CSN Washington team will be monitoring. Heres what else well be watching:Redskins returning to healthThe Redskins open the season as healthy as theyve been in recent memory. In fact, only one starter on the active roster strong safety Brandon Meriweather will miss the game if left guard Kory Lichtensteiger (knee), linebacker Brian Orakpo (shoulder) and cornerback Josh Wilson (abdominal strain) suit up as expected.The loss of Meriweather, though, could be a significant one against a vaunted air attack directed by one of the games best passers in Drew Brees, who last season broke Dan Marinos record for passing yards in a season.The Redskins depth chart lists Reed Doughty as Meriweathers backup, but it seems more likely that DeJon Gomes will pick up the slack. Gomes is more mobile than Doughty and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said this week that Gomes coverage skills have shown great improvement entering his second NFL season.But will that be enough against Brees and targets like tight end Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston? (Colston is listed a questionable with a left foot injury after being limited in practice Friday.)They have a whole crew of guys, Gomes said. And they have a good running game to complement their passing game. We have be on our Ps and Qs.Mystery surrounds running back positionThe Shanahans have been elusive about how they intend to implement running backs Evan Royster, Roy Helu Jr. and Alfred Morris.Will they ride the hot hand as Kyle indicated this week? Will they allow the situation to dictate their choice? Will they rotate them?Royster joked Monday that he might know the plan and whos starting until after kickoff.So, it seems, theres only one way to find out. More important, though, what unfolds Sunday might provide a glimpse at how the trio will be utilized the remainder of the season.Redskins prepare for Supdome noise in their own domeNew Orleans is home to Griffins parents, Robert Jr. and Jacqueline, and hell have three-dozen members of his extended family in attendance at the Superdome. The other 72,000 on hand, however, will be bent on making Griffins first career start as difficult as possible.To say the aging arena in downtown New Orleans is loud would be understatement. Its deafening and a big reason the Saints went 9-0 at home last season.Griffin and the rest of the Redskins offense has spent the past three weeks preparing for the challenge in Ashburn, where faux crowd noise was blasted during at least two practices inside the teams practice bubble. Practice, though, is no substitute for experience.Weve got to go out and make sure we can communicate non-verbally, Griffin said. Make sure guys arent making little mistakes because they cant hear.As if going toe-to-toe with Brees, reading an NFL defense in the regular season for the first time and controlling his own emotions werent enough for him to worry about.Good news on bounty suspensions won't have much effectAfter a tumultuous offseason that included the bounty scandal and Brees sometimes testy contract negotiations, the Saints scored their first victory of the 2012 season on Friday.A three-member appeals panel overturned the suspensions of the players implicated in the pay-to-injure scheme, clearing the way for them to return Sunday.Its expected that Saints defensive end Will Smith will play against the Redskins, while linebacker and emotional leader Jonathan Vilma will watch from the sidelines. Vilma is still recovering from a knee injury.The Saints didnt need another reason to get fired up. But now theyve got one.Victory is mine!!!! Vilma tweeted.