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Eagles-Redskins Preview: The "Sanchise" Meets the "Franchise"
The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins will meet on Saturday night in a game that probably doesn't even matter. The Redskins have already clinched last place in the NFC East with a 3-11 record, while the Eagles could win their last two games to finish 11-5 and still not make the playoffs. But since they're still going to play the game anyway, let's take a look at the matchups.
The teams met in Week 3, but that 37-34 victory for the Eagles will have almost no bearing on the outcome of this game. First of all, neither team will start the same QB. Nick Foles is still out with a shoulder injury for the Eagles and Kirk Cousins is only using his shoulder to help him hold a clipboard on the bench these days. The Eagles offensive line was in shambles back then and DeSean Jackson was healthy and torched his former team for 5 receptions for 117 yards, including an 81-yard TD catch. Now most of the Eagles line is healthy, but Jackson is not. With that in mind let's look at who actually is playing this game at FedEx Field.
Eagles Offense Versus Redskins Defense
The Eagles are on a two game losing streak mainly due to the fact that Mark Sanchez has proven to be....Mark Sanchez. Sanchez is 31st in interception percentage, thanks to throwing 9 picks in 223 attempts this season. He also has validated all of the talk about his lack of arm strength by not being able to stretch the field at all. Luckily for him, the Redskins pass defense stinks. They are ranked a respectable 17th in the NFL (237.9 yards per game), but their 109.9 opponent passer rating is the worst in the league. The Eagles have the 7th best passing offense (266.6 ypg), but most of that credit goes to Foles, not the rag-armed Sanchez.
Another positive for Sanchez is the fact that the Eagles offensive line is as healthy as it's been all season and they've only given up 25 sacks all season, which is 12th best in the NFL. The Redskins don't exactly get after the quarterback without the injured Brian Orakpo, as they are ranked 16th, with only 33 sacks. DE Jason Hatcher is also nursing a knee injury and may not play. What Washington defensive coordinator Jim Hasslett will do is bring the blitz. The Redskins haven't won a game since they beat the Cowboys in Week 8, but they did that by blitzing Tony Romo mercilessly. When they blitz, Sanchez will need to find the open receivers against a secondary that gives up big plays because of repeated coverage breakdowns. Sound familiar, Eagles fans?
Jeremy Maclin, who is having a career year, and the rest of the Eagles receivers and TEs should be able to exploit the Washington secondary. CBs, David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland are especially beatable and safety Brandon Merriweather is playing with turf toe. Even Sanchez should be able to put up decent numbers against this secondary.
Of course, the Eagles would be wise to establish the run with LeSean McCoy. Yes, McCoy was held to 22 yards on 19 carries in the first meeting, but that was without RT Lane Johnson, LG Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce. All of them are back now, so even though the Redskins are 7th against the run (101 ypg); the Eagles need to have a balanced attack to prevent Sanchez from being, well, Sanchez and literally giving the game away.
Which QB is the Bigger Fraud?
Redskins Offense Versus Eagles Defense
Well, well, well. Look who's back at quarterback for the Washington Redskins. Robert Griffin III is back under center after getting benched in Week 12. Since Cousins stinks and Colt McCoy is injured, it's back to RGIII. That isn't necessarily a good thing for the home team. Griffin has a 69.3 completion percentage and only 3 TD passes in 150 attempts. One of those TDs came last week when he replaced the injured McCoy, but he was also sacked 7 times. And therein lies the major problem with RGIII. He's isn't a passer. He's just an athlete, who runs around and can throw the ball far. The Eagles will need to contain him in the pocket and force him to beat him with his arm. Expect Mychal Kendricks to be the spy on RGIII.
Because RGIII is a gifted runner, he takes way too many sacks. He's actually been sacked 28 times on 178 pass plays this season. The Washington offensive line is not a very talented bunch, ranking 31st in giving up sacks, with 53 this season. Plus, LT Trent Williams sprained his shoulder and center Kory Lichtensteiger sprained his knee against the Giants last week. Both will play hurt. That's bad news for RGIII, since the Eagles are the 2nd best team in the league at sacking the QB, with 47. OLB Connor Barwin has 14 1/2 sacks this season and is going to eat RT Tom Compton's lunch all game.
The Redskins may have the 12th best offense in terms of yardage (358.6 ypg), but they can't convert those yards into points, as they are 26th in scoring (18.4). As a matter of fact, they are only averaging 12 points per game over the last five games. Part of that problem is due to their biggest offseason acquisition, former Eagle WR DeSean Jackson. I already told you how well Jackson did in the first game, but he's only had 14 receptions for 173 yards in his last five games. The second half fade happens every year with Jackson. Pierre Garcon is a more reliable receiver, but he doesn't have Jackson's explosiveness. With CBs Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams on the field, Jackson is sure to get another long TD. It's not like safety Nate Allen is going to provide any help back there. He never does. They are the reason the Eagles are a lowly 28th (257.4 ypg) against the pass.
The Redskins are surprisingly only 20th in the NFL in rushing with 106.2 ypg. The offensive line is partially to blame for that low ranking, but RB Alfred Morris doesn't seem like the same runner. He has only had one 100-yard rushing game all season and was held to 77 yards on 23 carries in the first game against the Eagles. The difference will be the presence of RGIII, who is a legitimate threat as a runner on zone reads. Fortunately, the Eagles are a decent 18th in the NFL against the run (113.9 ypg). Expect DE Fletcher Cox to continue his dominating season against the injured Williams.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
Eagles kick returner Chris Polk had a 102-yard return for a TD in the first game and Darren Sproles leads the NFL in punt returns (13.7 avg). Washington's special teams aren't so special, ranking 25th in punt coverage and 26th in kickoff coverage. Redskins punter Tress Way leads the NFL with a 47.9 yards per attempt average, but that coverage ranking just shows you that he's consistently out-kicking his coverage and allowing returns. On the other side, Eagles punter Donnie Jones has had just 17 of his last 47 punts returned. Redskins kicker Kai Forbath is 21 of 24 on his FG attempts, but is 0-for-1 over 50 yards. Eagles kicker Cody Parkey is 29-for-31 on his FG attempts, including 4-for-4 from 50+ yards. As usual, this is a huge advantage for the Eagles.
Chris Polk's 102-Yard Kick Return TD
Washington's first-year head coach Jay Gruden hasn't exactly been as good as advertised so far. He's playing music chairs at the QB position and never misses an opportunity to rip his own franchise QB. Even if he's right, he can't be doing that. One has to wonder how long he'll last working for Daniel Snyder if he keeps criticizing the owner's hand-picked QB. Chip Kelly may have gotten outcoached the last two weeks, but the one thing he and this Eagles team have proven that they can do is beat bad teams. The Redskins are a bad team that won't be able to keep up with the Eagles' fast-paced offense all game.
The Redskins have nothing to play for and there are now serious questions about the guy who was supposed to be the face of the franchise for the next decade. RGIII is more of a threat as a runner than a passer and the Eagles can actually stop the run. I imagine that they will quit at the first sign of trouble on Saturday night against an Eagles team that needs this game to even have a chance at the playoffs.
Eagles 37 - Redskins 24