Just a few days after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles, DeSean Jackson signed with the rival Washington Redskins. The explosive wide receiver's relocation within the NFC East certainly impacts the two quarterbacks involved, as Nick Foles' loss is Robert Griffin III's gain.
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Driving Chip Kelly's electric offense in last season, Foles posted the third-highest passer rating in NFL history (119.2) and led the Eagles to a division title. RGIII, meanwhile, just wasn't the same player following offseason knee surgery. His passer rating plummeted 20 points from his Offensive Rookie of the Year season, and the Redskins -- long removed from the playoff picture -- shut him down for the final three games of 2013.
But enough about the past -- let's shift our focus to the coming season. In addition to Jackson, Griffin gets another new toy in underrated receiver Andre Roberts. Foles loses Jackson but gains versatile scat back Darren Sproles and hangs on to talented wideout Jeremy Maclin (who missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL).
DeSean Jackson certainly provides Robert Griffin III with a highly explosive option, but between the two quarterbacks, I think it is clear that Nick Foles will have the better 2014 season. You might define "better" in a variety of ways -- more wins, more yards, more touchdowns -- but no matter how you cut it, I think Foles will outperform Griffin.
Foles is in his second full year under Chip Kelly and will benefit from taking all of the offseason snaps as the clear-cut starter. Griffin, meanwhile, will be learning a new system under new coach Jay Gruden, a system that will ask the quarterback to become more of a traditional pocket passer. That makes for a significant learning curve, coming from the play-action-heavy, roll-outside-the-pocket style of former coach Mike Shanahan.
Griffin has the stigma of being unable to play a full season, but of the two, Foles was actually the only quarterback to miss a start due to injury in 2013. After being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, Washington elected to shut down Griffin for the final three games of the season out of fear of injury, but he wasn't actually held out due to injury. With that said, Foles' style of play is more apt to keep him healthy, whereas we all will continue to hold our breath when Griffin decides to pull it down and run.
This question would have been crazy to contemplate a year ago. Robert Griffin III deservedly won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2012 over Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Nick Foles, meanwhile, was an afterthought. I hope Griffin has the better season, because anything less would be a massive disappointment.
New Redskins coach Jay Gruden and Griffin have no excuses now. Their collection of weapons is insane: DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Alfred Morris, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed make up the fastest skill-position group in the NFL. Left tackle Trent Williams is a Pro Bowler. Foles has the experience and the advantage of being in Chip Kelly's system, but Griffin's talent should win out. Redskins fans know, however, it's not always all about talent.
The answer is Nick Foles. The Eagles have a better offensive line and Shady McCoy. With McCoy and Darren Sproles in the backfield together, only a few teams -- maybe just Seattle -- will be able to use their base defense against Philadelphia. Do you play nickel and let those running backs thrash you (by running the ball and contributing in the short passing game)? Or do you play base set and let Foles pick and choose from a multitude of weapons?
I fully expect Robert Griffin III to have a better season, but is Washington going to be a run-first or pass-first team under new coach Jay Gruden? DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon give Washington two explosive deep threats, and you can't have enough speed -- especially in a division where there isn't an abundance of great defensive backs. Even so, Foles will be more familiar with Chip Kelly's system in Year 2 -- as will most of the other guys on offense -- and should have a firmer grasp of things from Day 1.
Robert Griffin III will outplay Nick Foles in 2014. Griffin will not only post better production than his division rival, but he will make the Redskins legitimate contenders in the NFC. Now, I know Foles thrived in Chip Kelly's system in 2013, but the NFL will adjust to the Eagles' spread offense in 2014. Additionally, the loss of DeSean Jackson will result in fewer explosive plays for the unit.
Looking at the Redskins' offense, I believe RGIII is in a position to take off, with four talented pass catchers (Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed) on the perimeter. Throw in the powerful presence of Alfred Morris in the backfield, and Griffin should have plenty of big-play opportunities in the passing game. If Jay Gruden can carefully script a game plan to suit his quarterback's talents, Griffin should regain his dominant form in Year 3.
Are the Redskins going to get a better defense? Or offensive line? Because if we judge QB seasons by the win-loss record, then Nick Foles is going to have a better one, as he is on the better overall team. Losing DeSean Jackson is a blow, but it will be cushioned by Jeremy Maclin's return from injury, the trade acquisition of Darren Sproles and, potentially, the May selection of a receiver prospect from a deep draft class. Oh, and there's the fact that the Eagles are simply more balanced and have a more experienced head coach than the Redskins.
That's not to say that the RGIII-to-Jackson connection -- and the speed of Jackson and Pierre Garcon -- won't dazzle us or produce some breathtaking statistics. But the Redskins still need a lot more help to ensure RGIII has a better season than Foles.
I think Robert Griffin III will enjoy a better year. He will be healthy, for one, and new coach Jay Gruden will design an offense that will help him get back on track. DeSean Jackson will open up the running game and work to Griffin's strength, which is throwing the deep ball.
Nick Foles will miss Jackson -- Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin just don't get the same separation. And I am not sure Darren Sproles will have the impact everyone anticipates. All that being said, I do think Foles will have a solid year.
I still like Nick Foles in this scenario. Robert Griffin III has a new head coach, and while DeSean Jackson will open things up underneath for the Redskins' offense, RGIII has to prove he can stay healthy and focused. Foles stepped in and stepped up in his second season, showing he could come back from adversity by going on an absolute tear after dealing with an injury and a rough outing against Dallas. Chip Kelly's play calling and LeSean McCoy's running had much to do with that -- and both are still in Philadelphia this year. Meanwhile, Foles gets the whole offseason to further entrench himself in Kelly's playbook.
While RGIII might end up with the bigger fantasy season, he has a lesser chance of being effective, what with that new playbook and new cast of characters. Of course, whatever happens, the NFC East should be interesting.
Especially considering what Washington's paying, I like the addition of DeSean Jackson to Robert Griffin III's quiver of weapons. (One of the more impressive aspects of RGIII's sublime rookie season was how he put up those numbers with such a collectively mediocre group of pass-catchers.) Still, D.C. football fans should temper their expectations. D-Jax doesn't quite cut the figure of a legit No. 1 receiver. If you take away his 2013 campaign (in the Chip Kelly offense that also made a star of Riley Cooper), Jackson's season averages over the five preceding years were 55 catches and 957 yards -- and he's built like Johnny Football on a diet. All that said, I expect RGIII to bounce back. I just don't think his team -- under the unproven leadership of Jon Gruden's brother -- will be able to keep up with the burgeoning powerhouse located an hour away on I-95.
At the moment, some analysts are suggesting the release of Jackson indicates Chip Kelly's hubris, as though the Eagles coach somehow wants to prove his system can thrive no matter which players he plugs in. I conversely trust Kelly & Co. have noticed the embarrassment of pass-catching riches available in next month's draft. Either USC's Marqise Lee or Oregon State's Brandin Cooks -- Pac-12 playmakers with whom the former Oregon coach is presumably familiar -- would make lots of sense when the Eagles' turn comes up in Radio City Music Hall.
Bottom line: I trust Kelly more than Jay Gruden. As a result, I predict Foles gets more enjoyment out of 2014 than RGIII.