The Washington Redskins will be looking to extend their 'winning streak' this week against arguably the best team in the NFC this year, the Philadelphia Eagles. While at first glance this game would appear to be a walk for the 11-1 Eagles, there are many factors that will keep this game close... the Redskins defense, homefield advantage, and the Redskins having nothing to lose. Don't expect a let down from the Eagles to help the Redskins' cause, it will definitely take the Redskins' best game of the season to have a chance to win. here are some key player match-ups.
Jon Runyon vs Renaldo Wynn
By Scott Hurrey
Jon Runyon is a 9-year veteran, hailing from the University of Michigan. Much like our own Michigan left tackle, Runyon is known for his powerful and aggressive blocking style and his durability. Amongst active NFL players, Runyon is eighth in consecutive regular season starts (112) and consecutive combined starts (125). His 13 postseason starts lead the league for active players.
Renaldo Wynn is often overlooked when people go down the list of the league’s best defensive ends. When the Redskins signed the former Jacksonville Jaguar as a free agent in 2002, he had shown his effectiveness and versatility as a defensive lineman, and yet most Redskins fans had never heard of him. He is a 7-year veteran, known for his work ethic and dedication to the game. Wynn may not be flashy, but the former first round pick puts forth a 100% effort on every snap of every game. Since joining the Redskins, he has been a consistent performer at both defensive end and defensive tackle, registering 7.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, while never missing a start.
At 6’7” and 330 pounds, Runyon definitely has the advantage in size. His feisty nature and overwhelming power make him one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. Wynn, at 6’3” and 292 pounds, will have to use his speed and technique to his utmost ability if he wants to win this battle. He will also need to remain dedicated to his assignments to help contain Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb. In the players’ first meeting earlier this season, Wynn posted 6 tackles and 1 sack for a loss of 2 yards - one of his most productive games this season.
Antonio Pierce v. Brian Westbrook
By Fran Farren
What do you get when you cross an over-achieving linebacker playing very well with a running back playing for a team looking to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs? A very good match-up, that’s what you get.
This week pits LB Antonio Pierce against speedy RB Brian Westbrook. Last week, against the Packers, the Eagles used a pass-first, rush-second approach and it worked very well for them. Look for them to use a similar approach this week against the Redskins, who have the #3 defense against the run. Because Westbrook’s running style is more finesse (slash and dash) than physical (pound it up the middle), he is not capable of sustaining a power running game against the Redskins. Don’t expect him to get close to 100 yards on the ground this week against Pierce and Company.
Pierce’s challenge this week will not come in trying to stop Westbrook rushing the ball. It will come with trying to stop Westbrook, the receiver. The Eagles love to use Westbrook as a safety valve out of the backfield and when they start having difficulty running the ball, look for McNabb to go to the air both downfield and also to Westbrook in the flat. Last week, for example, Westbrook racked up a whopping 156 yards receiving on 11 catches (14.2 yards/reception average) and 3 touchdowns! Westbrook has been dangerous as a receiver all year long and last week was his best day, as a receiver. Look for the Eagles to try to continue this trend this week against the Redskins.
This week, however, Pierce will certainly be up to the challenge. Pierce’s speed and quickness to the ball should limit the “yards after the catch” numbers put up by Westbrook this week. Stop Brian Westbrook and you have an excellent chance to beat the Philadelphia Eagles. In the first meeting, the Redskins were able to do just that, limiting Brian Westbrook to 63 yards rushing (no touchdowns) and 42 yards receiving (no touchdowns). Yes, the Redskins *CAN* stop Brian Westbrook. They did it the first time. They’ll do it Sunday.
Clinton Portis vs. Jeremiah Trotter
By Mark Solway
What would match-ups be without looking at the most important piece of the Redskins' offensive puzzle -- Clinton Portis. Portis is coming off his best outing as a Redskin last week when he chalked up 148 yards on the ground and added two touchdowns. The job of stopping the runningback often falls squarely on the shoulders of the opposing teams' middle linebackers, or inside linebackers... this week, that's likely Jeremiah Trotter.
Obviously Trotter is very well known to Redskin fans after spending the last two seasons in Washington. But do they know THIS Jeremiah Trotter? The linebacker had a tough time in Washington and never lived up to any expectations. There was also talk of Trotter being a 'bad egg' and a disruptive force. But not for the Eagles this season, and perhaps the whole Washington 'experiment' with Trotter actually helped him mature as both a person and a player. He has been a brilliant surprise for the Eagles, and has patiently went about his work and earned the starting job after only playing Special Teams. With him being on a roll, the Eagles will be counting on him on most downs to stop Portis.
Last week, the Redskins offense finally showed signs of 'clicking'. It's no secret that Portis' ability to earn effective yards is paramount to the Redskins' offensive success. Against the Giants, Joe Gibbs returned to his 'original playbook' and called more of his faithful counter-type runs, than the 'zone blocking' runs that they have been running the last few weeks. But the difference last Sunday was mainly, that it was working. Portis had a much easier time waiting for the plays to develop and was able to utilize the lanes created for him to demoralize the New York defense all day long.
This week, the Redskins will have the exact same gameplan. Trotter's biggest troubles come when he gets too aggressive and over-pursues. By running right at Trotter, the Redskins will look to frustrate the 27-year old linebacker who will undoubtedly want to put on a good showing in his return to Fed Ex. By attacking the middle of the line, they force Trotter to cheat inside and he'll be very susceptible to any run cut back against the flow of play. Portis may have many 2 and 3-yard runs inside trying to earn tough yardage, but they will set up multiple 15-20-yard runs when he breaks the first wave of tacklers and gets into the secondary.