Jeff McLane's Eagles-Redskins scouting report
This is it.
Jeff McLane's Eagles-Redskins scouting report
This is it.
This is really it.
The 3-6 Eagles must win Sunday in Washington or their already minuscule chances of making the playoffs are cooked - which they probably are anyway.
Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 no 3-7 team has made the playoffs. So while the Birds wouldn't officially be eliminated, the end of the Andy Reid era would be all but mathematically over with a loss.
But if the Eagles were to beat the Redskins - and that is certainly plausible - they would still have a flicker of hope. There have been seven teams in 33 years that went 4-6 and made the postseason.
If you think talk of playoffs is pure folly considering how wretched the Eagles have played, then watch Sunday's game for a matchup between two rookie quarterbacks - the Eagles' Nick Foles in his first career start and the electric Robert Griffin III of the Redskins.
When the Eagles run
When LeSean McCoy has had more than 20 carries the Eagles are 3-0. When he has not, like last week when the Eagles lost to the Cowboys, his team is 0-6. McCoy finished with 16 carries for 82 yards, but the lack of rushes had more to the with the 21 points Dallas scored in three minutes than with Marty Mornhinweg's abandoning the run. The Eagles offensive coordinator usually deserves some criticism for the run-pass ratio, but not in this case. That being said, the Eagles need to get McCoy involved early. With Foles under center and the offensive line's struggles in pass protection, they will need the balance. The Redskins are ranked eighth in the league in yards rushing allowed, but they're in the middle of the pack allowing 4.2 yards a carry. Defensive ends Stephen Bowen and Jarvis Jenkins form a potent first line of defense, but beyond them it's hit or miss with 37-year-old inside linebacker London Fletcher recently slowed by a hamstring injury and showing his age.
When the Eagles pass
The Redskins surrender a 27th-in-the-league 27.1 points a game largely because of a terrible pass defense. Season-ending injuries to outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker have weakened a pass rush that is 30th in sacks per pass play. The back seven also hasn't done a good job against opposing quarterbacks. The end result: Opposing offenses are averaging 301.7 yards through the air. Even with Foles, Reid and Mornhinweg will be tempted to chuck it downfield. DeSean Jackson has gotten the better of Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the past. Two of Jeremy Maclin's seven 100-yard receiving games came last season against Washington. He'll likely see a lot of corner Josh Wilson, who has given up four touchdowns, and has allowed quarterbacks throwing in his direction a 115.9 passer rating. Perry Riley stays on the field in the Redskins' nickel defense along with Fletcher and is one of the better pass-defending linebackers around. He should be on Eagles tight end Brent Celek occasionally. With Dennis Kelly likely moving from right guard to right tackle, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will probably try to find ways to get his most effective remaining pass rusher, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (41/2 sacks), on the rookie. Kelly has seen plenty of Kerrigan before. The two often faced off in practice when they were teammates at Purdue.
When the Redskins run
Mike Shanahan has always been a coach who has run more than others, but he has never had a multifaceted weapon like Griffin. The rookie is the first quarterback in NFL history with more than 1,900 passing yards (1,993) and 500 rushing yards (529) in the first nine games. Griffin is averaging 6.5 yards a carry and has rushed for six touchdowns. But Shanahan, who always seems to discover unheralded talent to run in his zone blocking system, has more than just a mobile quarterback. Alfred Morris, a sixth-round draft pick, is second among rookie running backs with 793 rushing yards. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Mike's son, has implemented a pistol formation with Griffin half in the shotgun and Morris often behind him. The Redskins sometimes run a read option out of this set. They also have two-back sets with Griffin that allow for variations of the triple option. Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said he had never seen so much misdirection from an NFL team. The Redskins' sideline-to-sideline rushing attack will place additional pressure on the Eagles' ends and defensive backs. The Eagles allow 5.9 yards a rush when offenses run off the left end.
When the Redskins pass
Griffin already seems to get Rule No. 1 for quarterbacks: Don't turn the ball over. As much as he touches the ball, he has tossed only three interceptions - tied for fewest with Tom Brady - and lost only four fumbles. The Eagles, meanwhile, have only four turnovers in their last seven games. After going three games without a sack the Eagles have seven in their last three games. There should be opportunities to get to Griffin, who has been sacked 20 times. The Redskins' line is a strength, but right tackle Tyler Polumbus has been weak. He has allowed five sacks and 23 hurries on the season, according to Pro Football Focus. Eagles defensive ends Jason Babin and Brandon Graham will line up opposite Polumbus. Griffin has been very good against the blitz (122.0 passer rating), but he has had less success on third down (80.7). A high percentage of Griffin's throws are in the middle of the field. Wide receivers Santana Moss and Joshua Morgan will occasionally run routes out of the backfield. The Redskins, who already lost tight end Fred Davis for the season, could be getting back receiver Pierre Garcon, who hasn't played since Oct. 7 because of a foot injury.
Is it possible for the Eagles' special teams to be any worse? The punt return for a touchdown that they allowed last week to the Cowboys was a low point. Bobby April's units are 30th in punt cover, tied for 27th in kick cover, 26th in punt return, and 28th in kick return. The Redskins aren't much better in the return game (29th in punt and 29th in kick with returner Brandon Banks). But they can cover (fourth on punt and 14th on kick). Washington improved its kicking game when Billy Cundiff was released and Kai Forbath was added. Former Eagle Sav Rocca is 27th in the league in net punting, slightly ahead of the Eagles' Mat McBriar.
The Eagles are facing a team coming off the bye for the fourth time this season. They lost the other three (Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Atlanta). . . . The Redskins have lost eight straight to rookie starting quarterbacks, the longest such streak since 1970, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.