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Eagles-Redskins Preview: Weathering the Storm
The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins come into their matchup on Sunday with matching 1-2 records, but it might be Joaquin who decides the outcome of this game.
Hurricane Joaquin is due to hit the east coast this weekend, which may make for some wet and windy conditions in the nation's capital. As a matter of fact, the NFL is considering moving the game to Detroit, if the weather is really bad.
We'll assume the game is played in FedEx Field in front of only a handful of Redskins fans and plenty of Eagles fans, but let's also assume that it will not be a good day for the offenses.
Eagles Offense Versus Redskins Defense
Saying that Sam Bradford has been a disappointment so far this season is an understatement. Bradford has been downright awful, except for one half in Week 1. He is 29th in the NFL in passing and is averaging a minuscule 5.7 yards per attempt. Bradford is only completing 62.4% of his passes for 678 yards, 3 TDs and 4 INTs. Adding bad weather only makes things worse for Bradford. Of course, the Redskins are not good against the pass in spite of their current rank of 7th in the NFL. That's because their already suspect secondary has been ravaged by injuries.
The Redskins lost their starting strong safety early in the season. Their best CB, DeAngelo Hall has been ruled out for this game. And the No. 4 CB, Quinton Dunbar is an undrafted rookie WR who the Redskins converted to CB in training camp. It's just too bad the Eagles don't have anybody besides Jordan Matthews who can catch a football among the WRs. Matthews has 22 catches for 231 yards, while all other WRs on the roster have combined for only 13 receptions for 122 yards. The Eagles also have 11 dropped passes already this season, after having only 25 all of last season. Matthews (6-3) will have a huge size advantage over Bashaud Breeland (5-11) in the slot, but that might be the Eagles only advantage in the passing game other than TE Zach Ertz. The Eagles RBs should once again be very busy in the passing game with Captain Checkdown at QB. It is also interesting to note that the Redskins don't have a single INT this season.
The Eagles were the worst rushing team in the NFL through two weeks and then somehow shredded a tough Jets D last week. Whether that had more to do with changes that Chip Kelly made in his offense (Having Bradford taking snaps from under center and more man-on-man blocking and less zone blocking) or the change in RB is still up for debate. Ryan Matthews started for an injured DeMarco Murray and carried 25 times for 108 yards. So will Matthews still get the majority of the carries now that Murray is back practicing or will Murray and his 0.5 yards per carry (21 carries for 11 yards) go back to getting the majority of the rushing work? It might not matter since the Redskins are 3rd in the NFL against the run (75 ypg) and Kelly has proven he will abandon something if it doesn't work right away.
The Eagles offensive line was already suspect and now they've lost RG Andrew Gardner for the season and LT Jason Peters is also hobbling. Meanwhile, the Redskins D-line is a strength of the team. NT Terrance Knighton is a massive run-stopper who center Jason Kelce is going to need help with all game. The Redskins will blitz often because Bradford doesn't handle pressure well and they need to limit the amount of time their suspect secondary has to cover even the Eagles pathetic receiving options. The Redskins only have four sacks on the season, but they are still dangerous. Peters and RT Lane Johnson better be prepared to deal with OLBs Trent Murphy and Ryan Kerrigan rushing the passer all day long
Redskins Offense Versus Eagles Defense
It tells you something about how bad RGIII is when you look at how bad QB Kirk Cousins is. Cousins has completed 69.2% of his passes for 715 yards, 3 TDS and 4 INTs. Yes, sadly, those marks are terrible, yet better than Sam Bradford. Anyway, Cousins gets into trouble if he has to throw a lot, so the Redskins will look to limit the amount of mistakes he can make by trying to run the football and allow him to use play-action. Cousins is nothing more than a game-manager at QB for the Redskins.
That Redskins running game is pretty formidable. It ranks 4th in the NFL (143.7 ypg), led by RBs Alfred Morris and rookie Matt Jones. Those two have combined for 388 yards and 4.6 yards per carry this season. Luckily for the Eagles, they are one of the better run-stopping defenses in the NFL. The Eagles have held opponents to a league-best 3.1 yards per carry and have given up a league-low 11 rushing first downs. The Eagles also haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 15 straight games. But with the weather expected to be bad, expect the Redskins to run the ball all day unless they get behind by double digits.
Ex-Eagle DeSean Jackson torched his old team last season, but he probably won't play on Sunday due to a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 1. That leaves the Redskins receiving corps woefully thin on talent. Pierre Garcon is a nice possession receiver, but he's nowhere close to a No. 1 WR. TE Jordan Reed is a dangerous receiver, who is actually healthy for a change. Expect the Eagles to matchup up one of their safeties, Walter Thurmond or Malcolm Jenkins on Reed, while leaving CBs Nolan Carroll and Byron Maxwell one-on-one most of the day. Normally that would be dangerous, but against a weak-armed QB like Cousins and no downfield threat with Jackson out, the Eagles are likely to gamble in the bad weather.
The Redskins offensive line is led by Pro Bowl LT Trent Williams, so I don't think OLB Brandon Graham is going to show up on the stat sheet on Sunday for the first time all season. But the Eagles do have a big advantage inside where the Redskins will have LG Spencer Long making his first NFL start. Fletcher Cox is going to eat him alive. Also expect the Eagles to blitz a ton. Cousins has thrown 3 of his 4 INTs this season against the blitz. With the return of ILB Mychal Kendricks, expect the Eagles to rotate him in with DeMeco Ryans and rookie Jordan Hicks, but expect Hicks to play the most snaps with his ability to play both the run and the pass. Hicks played every defensive snap against the Jets last week while leading the team in tackles and adding an INT and fumble recovery. Kiko who?
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
The one area where the Eagles will hold a decided advantage is on special teams. Both teams have kickers that started the season on the street, but the Eagles return and coverage units are far superior to the Redskins. Rashad Ross and Jamison Crowder don't scare anybody returning kicks and punts for the Redskins. Meanwhile, Washington punter Tress Way is statistically the worst punter in the NFL, with a league-worst 26.4 net average. Tress Way, meet Darren Sproles. Sproles' 89-yard punt return for a TD was the difference in the game last week and he could make it two weeks in a row with a return TD against this pathetic bunch of Redskins.
Can he do it two weeks in a row?
The genius cap has fallen off of Hip Kelly's head so far this season, as his gimmicky offense ranks 31st overall in the NFL (285.3 ypg). Whether defenses have figured out his simplistic offense or he's just a horrible GM, who traded away a bunch of players who made his offense hum for a bunch of guys that just aren't producing, things aren't going well for Kelly's offense these days. As bad a year as Kelly is having so far, at least he's not the "other" Gruden brother. When Washington owner Daniel Snyder could get Jon Gruden to coach his team he hired his brother Jay before last season. All Gruden has done is lead the team to a multitude of losses and, oh yeah, benched the franchise QB, who Snider traded away a king's ransom to get.
Who will DeSean Jackson watch the game with?
The Redskins are better than the Eagles in every offensive and defensive statistical category. The only advantage the Eagles have on paper is on special teams. Of course, football is played on a field and that field is going to be rainy and windy on Sunday. Both teams want to establish the run, but both defenses excel at stopping the run. The Eagles have too much talent to be as bad as they have looked so far this season. Meanwhile, the Redskins have looked just as bad as everyone expected them to be. The winner of this game could be tied for the lead in the NFC East, as sad as that sounds after both teams have gotten off to rough starts to the season. I just can't see the Redskins pulling out a win over the Eagles, even with Joaquin's help.
Eagles 24 - Redskins 17