Gameday Preview: Redskins vs. Eagles
By: Les Barnhart
Category: Washington Redskins News
November 6th, 2005
ESPN 8:30pm (Mike Patrick, Paul Maguire, Joe Theismann and Suzy Kolber)
In a game that features two teams known for their hard-nosed style of play and for their overall toughness, the latest installment in the long standing series resembles more of a M.A.S.H. unit than a football game. In addition to Donovan McNabb adding another injury to his laundry list for this season, his ever compassionate teammate, Terrell Owens, has decided to add a chapter to the soon to be available biography titled, "Looking for the Money Train (and a clue)". Owens has been suspended by the Eagles for conduct detrimenal to the team and will not play on Sunday. The Eagles will stumble into FedEx Field injured, and still reeling from a sound defeat that the Broncos gave them last week in Denver. The Redskins, however, stagger home from the New York as a beaten up team. They were embarrassed by the Giants in The Meadowlands, and, in addition to losing the game and the respect of some of the league, they also suffered some injuries to their defensive line.
The Eagles offense comes into Washington as one dimensional as a team can get. Not since the days of Marino and the Dolphins has a team had such a disparity in their play calling. The lack of a running attack has allowed defenses to key on McNabb and the passing game but that has done little to slow down their production as they have averaged a league best 295.7 yards per game. Their running game ranks dead last at 60.6 YPG. The Eagles use what could be deemed a hybrid running ball in that they use dump passes and screens in lieu of a traditional running game. That, of course, makes their running stats a bit misleading. They still have one of the best backs, Brian Westbrook, in their backfield, and while his rushing stats (304 yards with 1 TD) may not scare opponents, his ability to catch the ball should. Westbrook leads the NFL running backs with 39 catches for 423 yards. The true motor that drives the Philadelphia offense, despite what their loudmouth wide-out thinks, continues to be Donovan McNabb. His status (listed as questionable) is critical for the Eagles. McNabb suffered a rib injury in the loss to the Broncos and, while being slowed this week in practice, has referred to himself as "the walking wounded." Yet, he's also stated that he will be under center for the important division match up. Without McNabb, the Redskins work would seem to get easier with either Koy Detmer or Mike McMahon taking the snaps for the Eagles. No matter who is at quarterback, the Eagles, with all their success through the air, will likely try and get their running game on track against a Redskins defense that is allowing 130.4 YPG (25th in the NFL). The Giants and Tiki Barber ran roughshod over the Redskins last week en route to their 36-0 win. The Redskins defense as a unit, as a result of the Giants game, fell from the top five defenses as they now sit at sixth best in the league. They do however rank at the top of the NFL defenses against the pass, allowing only 152.7 YPG.
If the Redskins are unable to get pressure on McNabb, the Eagles can move the ball. With Lavar Arrington seeing more playing time, the Redskins are hopeful that their pass rush will also see improvement. Against the Giants, they were unable to get consistent pressure without the use of various blitz packages. Those packages make the secondary vulnerable and against a quarterback like McNabb and the weapons that he has, which could result in the big play that teams look to avoid. The Redskins will need to get some healthy bodies on their defensive line as well or the Eagles powerful offensive line could establish both a running game or provide McNabb the time and protection he needs to move the ball through the air. Keeping McNabb healthy and upright will be critical for the Eagles; getting to the QB and knocking him down will be crucial for the 'Skins. The Redskins will likely look to get physical with the banged up signal caller as his injuries (rib and sports hernia) are such that he could be sidelined at anytime. The Eagles, on the other hand, will need to make even more of an effort to protect their quarterback. Losing McNabb for an extended period of time would undoubtedly make a return trip to the Super Bowl even more of a daunting task.
The Redskins offensive machine had its tires flattened last week against the Giants. In a game against the worst defense in the league, the Redskins second ranked offense posted a meager 125 yards (87 yards passing and 38 rushing) and failed to post a score. They also garnered only 7 (6 earned and 1 by penalty) first downs while posting an average of 2.4 yards per play. The Eagles defense, 25th overall in the NFL, plays the run and pass about the same. They allow an average of 123.7 YPG on the ground and 232.0 YPG through the air. The Redskins, needless to say, saw their ranking drop like a rock after their vomit-inducing performance last week. They now lay claim to the 10th ranked offense, averaging 349.7 YPG (125.3 rushing and 224.4 passing, 10th and 12th in the NFL). Mark Brunell, who was enjoying a career season before last week (11-28 for 65 yards and 1 INT); will need to have a short memory as the team can not afford to have consecutive offensive setbacks. The offense comes into the game healthy and, hopefully, a bit embarrassed. The Eagles defense is suspect both on the ground and against the pass, which means the Redskins should be able to move the ball easily. Then again, the Giants had the league's worst defense, and the offense fell flat. Injuries have also hit the Eagles defense as well, with both Jevon Kearse and Sam Rayburn dinged up after the Broncos game. If the Redskins offense can deal with the blitzing and scheming that the Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will surely throw at them, they should be able to stay within striking distance throughout the game. The Redskins need to get their running game on track with Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts. If this can happen they will control the clock and open up the passing game. Portis only needs to get 33 yards to reach the 5,000 yard mark in his career.
Both teams look to have their number one kickers in place for the game. While the Redskins' John Hall returned last week, he didn't get the opportunity to kick either an extra point or a field goal. The Eagles are looking at getting David Akers back after he tore his hamstring earlier in the year against the Raiders. Having the three-time Pro Bowler back in the lineup gives the Eagles another scoring weapon.
As is the case with every game, the team that can control the line of scrimmage will go a long way in winning this game. The Redskins defensive line will have its work cut out for them considering the number of injuries they have at this time. The Eagles will certainly look to take advantage of the lack of depth on the Redskins defensive line. On the other side of the ball, the Redskins will need to protect their quarterback and be able to handle the different defensive sets that the Eagles will offer. Teams have been able to run the ball against the Eagles and eventually wear them down. For the Redskins to do this, they will need both Portis and Betts to be as physical as they have ever been. Both teams will bring physicality to the table, and, just like the old days, this game could come down to the last man standing.
· The Redskins are 10-3 at home against the Eagles under Coach Joe Gibbs.
· The Eagles are 1-3 on the road; the Redskins are 3-0 at home.
· Coach Gibbs is 17-10 against the Eagles; Coach Reid is 9-3 against the Redskins.
· The Eagles have won the last 7 straight against the Redskins.
· The Redskins hold a 72-62-5 advantage in the series.
· Donovan McNabb has a career 8-3 record against the Redskins as starter.
· Clinton Portis' teams are 19-7 when he runs for 100 yards in a game.
Key Player Match-Ups:
Jon Jansen vs. Jevon Kearse
By Daniel Coleman
Kearse seems to be having an off year. He has only three sacks and is struggling with some injuries (currently listed as questionable). If he plays, however, the Redskins can not afford to overlook his skills and athleticism. Jansen is coming off a week in which the entire team struggled. Though he is a solid player, the offensive line has not performed well during this season as a whole.
Even if the Redskins respond well to the thrashing they received last week at the hands of the Giants, they may still require max-protect schemes to give Brunell enough time. Jansen may hold his own, but it would be surprising to see him dominate Kearse come Sunday night.
Clinton Portis vs. Jeremiah Trotter
By Daniel Coleman
The days of viewing Eagles - Skins games as Trotter vs. Former Teammates may be over, but look for Trotter to cause some trouble come Sunday night. As a middle linebacker facing the Skins power running game, Trotter's work between the tackles could dictate how successful Portis will be on Sunday.
Clinton plays well when the Redskins offense gets rolling, but he has struggled this year to make big plays happen on his own. If Trotter can shut Portis down early it might be a long day for #26. Conversely, if the Skins get ahead on the scoreboard and if the offensive line starts playing well, watch for Clinton to slash by a contained Trotter while the playclock ticks down.
Santana Moss vs. Lito Sheppard
By Mark Solway
Lito Sheppard will get the majority of the calls to cover the league's second most productive receiver (777 yards). Sheppard struggled last week against the Broncos as did the entire Eagle secondary. Recently Philadelphia has given up some big plays and Washington will look to exploit just that. Shepperd has a size advantage and will have to be aggressive with checking Moss at the line of scrimmage.
The Redskins success on Sunday could very well hinge on Moss' ability to make an early long reception. Eagles' defensive co-ordinator Jim Johnson is very aggressive and if Washington can make Philadelphia respect the long threat, it will also back off the linebackers and give Portis more of an opportunity to be successful.
Look for Moss to grab a screen pass on the first drive to make Shepperd give up his cushion and to set up an early pump-and-go with Brunell.
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