Are the Redskins really that good?

Rick Snider
September 10, 2018 - 11:53 am

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

What did we just see? Are the Redskins truly a dominating team, capable of running over opponents while dominating defensively? Or, was it just a bad opponent?

Maybe a little of both, but Washington's 24-6 victory over Arizona on Sunday was no mirage. The Redskins are good enough to compete this season if they stay healthy. If Adrian Peterson doesn't quickly age and Chris Thompson stays healthy to form a formidable 1-2 backfield punch. If the secondary matures quickly with cornerback Quinton Dunbar playing fearlessly.

So many questions after the opening win. Mostly, was that effort real?

Last season, Washington beat the Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders for a 2-1 start and everyone was suddenly thinking playoffs. Two impressive wins over two supposedly good teams, though Oakland would soon fall apart.

But then the losing followed and Washington finished 7-9, largely thanks to persistent injuries and a flat finish. So, one game is just a taste, but at least the Redskins were left smiling after opening day for the first time in six years.

A few things that stood out:

Quarterback Alex Smith is sticking with short- and medium-range passes. Maybe an occasional downfield toss, but the Redskins will basically work the perimeter to find holes in defenses.

Coach Jay Gruden may use a run-first scheme for the first time. Surely, it was his thought before Derrius Guice suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason opener. Now Peterson probably won't carry it 26 times weekly like he did against Arizona, so Rob Kelley may get a few more snaps, but five runs by Thompson was perfect for him. That Thompson gained 65 yards showed he hasn't slowed from a leg injury last year, while his six receptions confirmed the runner brings a special sprinkle of magic to the offense.

Of course, the Redskins can only run as long as the defense holds. Arizona never found a seam in the run defense despite a healthy 4.5 yards per carry. While Larry Fitzgerald caught seven passes for 76 yards, Redskins defenders knocked away several to keep the iconic playmaker from beating them downfield. Washington could use a little more pass rush, but its overall balance and tackling were solid.

Washington now faces Indianapolis at FedEx Field on Sunday, in expected heavy rain from the remnants of Hurricane Florence. That definitely helps Washington use its running game and deflate Indianapolis passer Andrew Luck's strength.

A 2-0 start is all Washington could ask before facing the teeth of its coming schedule. But then, maybe the coming storm of Green Bay, New Orleans and Carolina isn't as formidable as expected. Maybe it's the Redskins who are the storm?

We'll soon see.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks​