What was real, and what was a mirage against the Saints?

Opening Kick logoWell, that was fun, wasn’t it?

I’m not sure I remember off top when the last time the Redskins were the talk of the NFL for playing well. The Falcons, Bears and Texans were probably equally happy with their openers, but only maybe the Jets had a win and sharp performance that was as unexpectedly nationally as Washington’s. And none of them beat teams the caliber of the Saints.

Nice to see what Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett can cook up when they’ve got the right players in the right places. The Redskins get a ‘bravo’ for Week 1.

If only they could all go so well.

If there’s one thing we know about the NFL, it’s that we know nothing. What looks to be the rock solid truth one week couldn’t look further from it the next. So on Mondays, I like to play a little game called traction vs. overreaction. Humor me, if you will.

The league is full of mirages.

I haven’t gotten very far on my DVR rewatch of the game, and the way we ‘watch’ it in the office while working on keeping the Web site up to date, scanning the rest of the league and such doesn’t lend itself to in-depth analysis. But here a few things that looked real and not-so-real:

TRACTION: Alfred Morris is legit.
The sixth-round running back from Florida Atlantic looks to be Mike Shanahan’s latest find in the running back department, although we were saying similar things about Ryan Torain, now out of football, about a year ago, weren’t we? Still, Morris looks like the perfect fit for the offense, finding holes quickly, making his cut and bowling over tacklers in his path. Zone-blocked run plays don’t require the fanciest running backs (although the plays work even better with Arian Foster or LeSean McCoy in the backfield), they just require someone who finds the natural crease and is decisive about getting through them. Morris’s start was an extension of his impressive preseason, and validates the decision to let go of Tim Hightower despite Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. not being all the way healthy.

OVERREACTION: The secondary is fine.
They played well, no doubt. Seeing 5-foot-9 Josh Wilson go up with 6-foot-6 Jimmy Graham to bat away a potential touchdown pass is an impressive thing. So is DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty getting interceptions, though Doughty’s was just the game-ender. Still, Haslett dialed up corner and safety blitzes to help his guys out against Drew Brees, and the Redskins got a pretty good game from the five active D-linemen. Once teams see which blitzes the Redskins like in which situations, they might not be able to rely on those to buy the secondary time. And New Orleans did pass for 326 yards and three touchdowns, numbers that are probably only acceptable because they came against the Saints.

TRACTION: This RGIII guy isn’t half bad.
But that’s not really a surprise. Nobody expected him to get swallowed up by the moment. He’ll face better defenses than the one he saw in New Orleans, and he won’t always be flirting with a perfect passer rating. But running, passing or making good decisions and taking care of the ball, he was as good as advertised.

OVERREACTION: See you back in New Orleans this February.
Redskins fans in general might be some of the most eternally optimistic, but let’s see it for several weeks before we start thinking about Super Bowl plans. I’m sure most of you weren’t going down this road yet, but for those of you who were, why not just bask in the glow of Week 1?

What did you see that was real on Sunday, and what did you think was a mirage? Leave your traction/overreaction picks in the comments.

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