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Xs and Os: Eagles Face Redskins In Do or Die NFC East Battle

Background/Storylines: Eagles (3-6) and Redskins (3-6)

Do you remember the last time an Andy Reid-coached Eagles team was 3-6? Neither can I, because the last time it happened was 1999, Reid’s first year as head coach. Ironically, the situation wasn’t so different back then: a struggling veteran QB (Doug Pederson) was replaced midseason by a highly-touted rookie (Donovan McNabb) as the Eagles began to slide. Now, while Vick’s concussion may have been the reason for Nick Foles to enter, the situation is the same. That season, the Eagles finished 5-11 but turned things around over the next eleven seasons to make nine playoff appearances. Hopefully, this season causes a similar sort of “fulcrum” effect that the 1999 one had.

While the Washington Redskins are also 3-6, they have a completely different mindset than the reeling Eagles. With much lower expectations coming into the season and several key newcomers (rookies and free agents) looking to find themselves within the scheme, they’ve developed a nice young core that they can build off over the next several years. Although he’s slowed down over the past couple of weeks, Robert Griffin III starts all that. The No. 2 overall pick has been electrifying at times, throwing for 1993 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for rushing for 529 yards and six touchdowns. Running back Alfred Morris has had a breakout season under Shanahan, rushing for 793 yards and five touchdowns, while free agent wide receiver Pierre Garcon has been solid when healthy. Defensively, injuries have plagued this Redskins team, as they lost Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo early in the season to season-ending injuries while free agent safety Brandon Meriweather still hasn’t seen the field at all—although he’s expected to play against Philadelphia.

Fantasy Watch: DeSean Jackson (PHI) and Alfred Morris (WAS)

Meriweather’s return won’t to much to mitigate Washinton’s deficiencies in the secondary; they are the 30th-ranked pass defense in the league, giving up over 300 yards through the air per game. On the flip side, they’re ranked in the top ten when it comes to rushing, so expect Andy Reid to use that as an excuse to pass more than ever.

That will mean plenty of targets on both deep and intermediate patterns for DeSean Jackson, who’ll likely be matched up against DeAngelo Hall. Hall, like Asante Samuel, is known for going for the pick once in a while, which I expect to translate into a couple of big plays for D-Jax down the field.

My projected stats for Jackson: 107 yards, 1 touchdown (16.7 points)

Over their five-game losing streak, the Eagles have done a great job of making mediocre running backs look good and good running backs look great. This happened against Rashard Mendenhall, Mikel Leshoure, Michael Turner, Mark Ingram, and Felix Jones. Now, there comes Alfred Morris, who is having the best season out of all of those guys. The Eagles are known for shying away from tackles against explosive runners, so I expect Morris to break a couple of big ones and having his way with the defense at times.

My projected stats for Morris: 103 yards rushing, 1 touchdown, 8 yards receiving (17.1 points)

Key Matchup: Pierre Garcon vs Nnamdi Asomugha

Asomugha’s play could decide the game (via Sitracking).

With Pierre Garcon likely to return, the Eagles have another weapon to worry about apart from Morris and RG3. As he showed earlier in the season against New Orleans, Garcon has the ability to have a big game at any time and the Eagles can’t let that happen if they want to contain the Redskins. The Redskins love working with the “pistol” formation, where Griffin lines up in the shotgun with a running back to his right, a running back behind him, a tight end on the other side, and two wide receivers split out wide. With three potential weapons in the middle of the field—the two running backs and the tight end—the Eagles will need to keep a safety in the box which means one-on-one match-ups on the outside.

Asomugha has been fantastic over the past several weeks, shutting down Calvin Johnson for three quarters (before Juan Castillo foolishly switched him and DRC), Miles Austin, and Lance Moore. If he can continue his excellent play against Garcon, who loves the double-moves and vertical post routes, he can take Washington’s deep threat out of the game and allow the Eagles to focus on RG3 and the “pistol”. If not, the Eagles will be forced to drop Kurt Coleman back into coverage which will open things up for Griffin.

X-Factor: Trent Cole (PHI) and Barry Cofield (WAS)

According to ESPN Stats & Information Next Level Stats, RG3 has a 97.7 QBR (the new rating system out of 100) against the blitz. Against a four-man rush, however, that number drops to 71.6. The Eagles have started to generate more pressure with their front four over the past couple of the weeks, and if they want to slow down Griffin, they’ll need to continue to do so. It all starts with veteran Trent Cole, who’s been struggling to say the least with only 1.5 sacks so far. The Eagles need Cole to get upfield and pressure Griffin to make plays more quickly than he wants to.

The Eagles biggest problem this season has been stopping pressure from coming up the two-gap (between the guard and center) all season, and the Redskins will try to exploit that with nose tackle Barry Cofield. If he and a rushing linebacker can get through the middle, Nick Foles won’t even have a second to release the ball. With Dennis Kelly replacing Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce out for the season, two inexperienced linemen will be at that spot. If Cofield can get a consistent push, the Eagles offense will have trouble doing much of anything.

Prediction: Eagles 24, Redskins 23

I’m not a big believer in historical stats deciding games, but the Redskins are 0-7 against rookie QBs since 2005 and I expect the Eagles to rally around Nick Foles on Sunday. You could see a difference in blocking when he entered the game, and I expect an overall better effort from a team that should be desperate to keep their season alive. It isn’t pretty, but the Eagles pull it out.

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Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Eagles, Editorial

Author:Manav Khandelwal

I am the founder of Khandyman Sports, and follow all Philadelphia pro sports teams religiously. I also write for the Hoop76, covering the Sixers for ESPN, and am a credentialed Flyers reporter for Main Line Media News.

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2 Comments on “Xs and Os: Eagles Face Redskins In Do or Die NFC East Battle”

  1. November 18, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Great article

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