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Redskins at Saints preview

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

When » Sunday, 1 p.m.

Where » Superdome, New Orleans

TV » Fox

Keys to victory

1 Stay patient » The Saints will move the ball because that's what they do. On everyone. They have too many weapons and options to shut it all down unless a team forces several turnovers. But the Redskins need to stay patient on defense, allowing small gains on checkdowns or short routes while preventing long ones. That has been an issue for them the past two seasons. The minute they get impatient, Drew Brees will make them pay.

2 Expose the linebackers » New Orleans' strength defensively is at cornerback and safety. It's not a good defense, particularly if they're not causing turnovers. So there are many ways to exploit the Saints. But if their cornerbacks are healthy, it's a tougher matchup for the wideouts. Tough but certainly not impossible. However, tight end Fred Davis is a difficult matchup for the Saints, whether it's a linebacker or safety Roman Harper. Look for a big day from him.

3 Help the rookie » Robert Griffin III can have a big game in his debut. But he will need help from his offensive line and backs in protection. And he will need help from his coaches in terms of play-calling. They can't fall into old traps and simply put it all on the quarterback (which also means the line must open holes in the run game). Griffin has the poise to handle the atmosphere in the Superdome. He also can help himself with his legs as much as his arm. Watch how his legs help in the red zone in particular. It could be fun.

Matchups to watch

LG Kory Lichtensteiger

His first game back after arthroscopic knee surgery will provide a challenge.

vs.

DT Sedrick Ellis

He's in the last year of his deal and seeking big money. He's good at penetrating gaps.

LB Ryan Kerrigan

This is really a job by committee. But the Saints will test Kerrigan in coverage.

vs.

TE Jimmy Graham

The 6-foot-7, 265-pounder caught 99 passes for 1,310 yards last season. Have fun.

NT Barry Cofield

The Redskins need to collapse the pocket from the interior with Cofield and Co.

vs.

C Brian de la Puente

The Saints' interior has done a good job of stout pass protection over the years.

State of the teams

New Orleans will be one of the angrier teams this season after an offseason of Bountygate. But that wouldn't matter if the Saints lacked talent. They don't (especially on offense). However, their defense hasn't been very good and is undergoing a transition. They will play in many shootouts. Having the players' penalties thrown out in court Friday will give the Saints even more of a bump -- not to mention their best defensive end, Will Smith, who was prepared to serve a four-game suspension for his role in the bounties.

The Redskins enter the season with hype about one player, not the team. On paper, they are the worst team in the NFC East. But a surprise team rises each season, and that's their hope. And that one player, Robert Griffin III, provides them hope they haven't had in a while.

Examiner predicts

The Saints' offense will be too much for Washington to handle. But it won't be a bloodbath as Griffin has a promising debut. Saints 31, Redskins 21.

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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