The Inquirer's Eagles beat reporters pick tonight's Eagles-Redskins game:
Sometimes local media and fans live in a bubble with their own teams. The positives are magnified and conversely so, too, are the flaws. We sometimes blind ourselves from the outside world and, for instance, that most teams don't have credible backup centers or starting-caliber safeties. The Eagles' safeties are not good. Patrick Chung can be decent, but Nate Allen is sub par. The Eagles are hoping that rookie Earl Wolff can supplant him sooner rather than later. But the position is certainly a weak spot in a defense that is suspect.
But take a look around the league, and in this case, across the field at the Redskins. Washington's safeties are scaring the heck out of their fan base. Bacarri Rambo is a rookie drafted in the sixth round and Redd Doughty is mediocre, at best. Michael Vick should be able to target the twosome, perhaps get some mismatches out of the slot, and, more important, the Eagles quarterback should be able to make correct pre-snap reads based on their whereabouts.
The Eagles will score points on Jim Haslett's defense. Vick will have his moments, as will DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown -- as long as they avoid turnovers. There will be moments when Chip Kelly's offense looks unstoppable. And there will be moments when the offense -- still adjusting to Kelly's tempo -- stops itself.
But the Redskins will have their way with the Eagles defense, as well. Robert Griffin III is back from his January knee injury, but he has yet to test it in a game. I'm not sure if he'll get much of a challenge from the Eagles pass rush. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks could be a blitzing wild card. He may also be asked to spy Griffin, as least in the early going as the Eagles get a better idea of the quarterback's mobility.
If I were Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, I would go right at outside linebacker Trent Cole. I'm fairly certain they have a few plays set up in the base defense that will stretch Cole out to the slot where he'll have to guard a receiver. Cole plans to knock those receivers off their routes, but he will always be at disadvantage in those matchups.
With Griffin likely grounded, running back Alfred Morris will shoulder much of the Redskins' running load. Morris is good, but he benefitted from the Shanahan's scheme and their zone blocking in racking up over 1,500 yards rushing as a rookie. But the Eagles run defense remains a legitimate concern. It did nothing in the preseason to suggest that it can stay cohesive for four quarters. Expect Morris to go over 100 yards on the ground.
Prediction: Redskins 34, Eagles 28.
What goes right: The Eagles special teams, highlighted by Damaris Johnson's returns, is vastly better than last year's units.
What goes wrong: Cary Williams doesn't perform well enough to compensate for some of off-the-field issues.
In the words of Brent Musburger, "take the over."
There will be scoring on Monday, as both offenses are superior to the defenses.
Let's start with the Eagles offense. It will look different than what was on display in the preseason. They'll push the tempo for a longer period of time, and there will be more diversity in the scheme. It won't be a radical difference, but it will be a noticeable difference -- although maybe not to Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
"I've watched 23, 24 Oregon films. I watched what they did in the preseason," Haslett said last week. "If they can do anything else, God bless 'em."
LeSean McCoy tops 100 rushing yards and Michael Vick throws for two touchdowns. The top receiver will be Zach Ertz, who will be a featured part of the offense. Look for James Casey's role to expand, too. The Eagles will try to get DeSean Jackson prominently involved, but the Redskins will focus on keeping him in front of them. The Eagles won't have trouble scoring, but they'll have trouble stopping the scoring.
Robert Griffin III won't show problematic signs of rust. The Redskins will run the ball to control the pace of the game, grinding out first downs and using the play-action when they can get the Eagles' defense cheating to the line. The key on the Eagles defense will be their safeties. Nate Allen and Patrick Chung must have good games for the Eagles. Allen keeps talking about how this scheme is more safety-friendly, and Monday will be a good test.
The difference will be turnovers. The Eagles will have more turnovers than Washington, and will lose the game in result.
Prediction: Redskins 30, Eagles 28
What goes right: Vick and McCoy look dynamic, Ertz works his way onto fantasy football rosters.
What goes wrong: Eagles struggle to rush the passer. They also lose the turnover battle.