Analysis  

 

Robert Griffin III's dynamic debut, Packers' silver lining and more

In order to acquire the quarterbacking services of Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins were forced to part ways with a bevy of draft picks. After one regular-season game, I don't imagine there is any buyer's remorse in the nation's capital.

The rookie signal-caller had an outstanding NFL debut, passing for 320 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another 42 yards and not turning the ball over a single time in Washington's 40-32 upset of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

When I evaluated RG3 on college tape, the two biggest traits that stood out were his poise and playmaking ability. He put both elements on display in his inaugural NFL regular-season contest. He showed poise by standing tall in the pocket and delivering accurate passes while taking big shots from blitzing Saints defenders. He showed his playmaking ability by frequently escaping the pocket, finding open receivers and throwing strikes down the field.

Griffin was able to get into an early rhythm, thanks to savvy play calling of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. On the Redskins' opening drive, RG3 completed all six of his passes and not a single one of them was thrown beyond the line of scrimmage. He connected on three bubble screens, two quick screens and one screen to the running back. As the game progressed, Shanahan opened up the playbook and let Griffin push the ball down the field, but he was very wise to build up his rookie QB's confidence with those easy completions to start the game.

Five different teams trotted out rookie quarterbacks on the 2012 season's opening Sunday, but Griffin was the only one of the bunch to deliver a win. Leave it to the former track star to be the quickest out of the starting blocks.

Interceptions galore

There is usually some sloppiness during the first week of the season, as offenses are still working to develop timing and chemistry. This year was definitely no exception. With a pair of Monday-night games still to come, six different quarterbacks have thrown three or more interceptions in Week 1. Amazingly, two of those quarterbacks, the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford and Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick, overcame those turnovers to throw late, game-winning touchdown passes.

So far, there have been 34 interceptions thrown this week. At first blush, I thought that number was very high, but in reality, we've seen much worse in past opening weeks. According to our NFL Network research team, there were 47 interceptions tossed during the first week of the 1980 season. That is the highest Week 1 total dating back to 1950.

Impressive in defeat

Despite losing the game on the scoreboard, there were reasons for several teams to be encouraged in defeat:

Green Bay Packers: Green Bay struggled in several areas during its home loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but there was one inspiring sign: The Packers' pass rush produced four sacks. Last season, the Packers only accomplished that feat one time in 17 games (including the playoff loss to the New York Giants). Clay Matthews collected 2 1/2 of those sacks after only producing six all of last season.

Cleveland Browns: Cleveland's defense was aggressive and opportunistic against the Eagles' explosive offensive attack in a one-point loss. Cornerback Joe Haden was outstanding in coverage throughout the game, and the Browns' defensive line hit Vick repeatedly while also forcing several holding penalties. Cleveland picked off four Vick passes, with D'Qwell Jackson returning one of those errant throws to the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Browns' offense has a LONG ways to go, but this defense is already playoff-caliber.

St. Louis Rams: Jeff Fisher's squad suffered a heart-breaking loss to the Lions, but there were a few bright spots for the Rams. The rebuilt secondary has two very good cornerbacks and they both played well versus Detroit's high-flying offense. Free-agent addition Cortland Finnegan did just about all you could ask of a cornerback. He recorded 10 tackles, one tackle for loss, two pass breakups, one interception and one touchdown. Rookie Janoris Jenkins made his presence felt as the cornerback on the opposite side of the field. He picked off a potential Stafford touchdown pass by jumping a fade stop in the end zone and then returned the ball 34 yards. The second-round pick finished the game with six tackles, one pass breakup and that interception.

Wide Receiver University

When I think of college programs that produce NFL wide receivers, I usually settle on the University of Miami and LSU. Suddenly, there's an unlikely school to add to that list: Georgia Tech. The program that is largely known for its option attack these days under Paul Johnson has quietly produced three highly drafted wide receivers over the last decade. Sunday was a good day for all three Yellow Jacket pass catchers:

» Calvin Johnson: six catches for 111 yards.
» Demaryius Thomas: five catches for 110 yards and one touchdown.
» Stephen Hill: five catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns.

Didn't see this coming

After attending Carolina Panthers training camp, I came away convinced they would have one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL. The Panthers have three accomplished running backs and a quarterback who broke the single-season record for rushing touchdowns at the position. Despite the absence of Jonathan Stewart, I still expected Carolina to successfully pound the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their opener Sunday afternoon. Wow, was I wrong. The Panthers totaled a meager 10 yards rushing on 13 carries. That is an average of 0.8 yards per carry.

Wide nine

The Eagles and Lions both utilize the wide-nine technique for their defensive ends. This alignment has drawn plenty of criticism from media members who question whether or not it puts too much stress on the linebacker position. Maybe those questions will disappear if these two units play as well as they did on Sunday. As of publishing time on Monday morning, the Eagles have the top-ranked defense in football, with the Lions sitting right behind them at No. 2. Granted, they each played less than stellar opponents, but the early returns are still impressive.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

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