The Eagles would like to get some help from Washington in their duel with Dallas for the NFC East title. The Cowboys are on the road against the Redskins tomorrow, and the first-place Birds have a one-game lead over Dallas in the division.
However, for Washington to lend a hand, the Skins will have to shrug off a blizzard of distractions. The latest bit of turmoil occurred yesterday when Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was sent home from practice.
Coach Jim Zorn told reporters that he sent home Haynesworth for disciplinary reasons. Zorn says Haynesworth will still play tomorrow against Dallas but might not start.
Haynesworth was fined $10,000 by the NFL on Thursday for an altercation with Giants running back Brandon Jacobs late in New York's 45-12 victory Monday at Washington.
Haynesworth signed a seven-year, $100 million contract with Washington, with $41 million in guaranteed money, during the off-season.
The Haynesworth incident is the just the most recent storm to hit the Redskins. Just over a week ago, Washington hired Bruce Allen, son of the late coaching great George Allen, to be the first general manager of owner Dan Snyder's stewardship. Allen's appointment meant an end to an era when Snyder associate Vinny Cerrato had a prominent role in team operations.
Allen's hiring also may portend a coaching change, as the beleaguered Zorn tries to hold together a team foundering at 4-10.
Zorn's Redskins haven't had much to hang their helmets on during what has been a dysfunctional season at best.
The defense, which was supposed to be anchored by Haynesworth, was one of the few bright spots.
Now, not so much.
The Redskins are allowing 29.5 points and 364 total net yards per game over the last four weeks. Now they face the Cowboys, whose offense has started to hit its stride.
"We know we can play better and we have to, especially going up against a Dallas offense ranked No. 3 in the NFL," said Washington secondary coach Jerry Gray. "They've got a lot of weapons, so we can't come out and get on our heels like we did early in the game on Monday night."
Gray was talking about the thumping the Redskins suffered against the Giants.
Performances like that one have the Redskins just trying to remain ranked in the league's top 10 defensively rather than being the No. 1 squad in the league - which was the goal when the season started.
"That was one of our main goals," strong safety LaRon Landry said of being the NFL's No. 1 defense. "That is something our defensive coordinator [talked about] and told us what he wants. As a team and as a defense, that is what we wanted also."
The Redskins defense has been ranked in the top 10 seven times this decade and the players want to be there again this year. They are currently ninth in the NFL.
Injuries and recent games against some of the league's powerhouse offenses that are gearing up for the postseason have taken their toll. And now, Washington is allowing 21.1 points per game.
Early on, the defense was statistically living up to the hype, allowing only 16 points and 287 net yards per game through the first six weeks. However, only one of those initial opponents remains in the playoff mix.
"It's not the last few weeks, but the whole year," defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin said about a run defense that ranks 23d in the league. "It hasn't just started . . . you have to stop the run to win our division. You have to stop the run, period, in the NFL. We have been pretty good against the pass, but part of the reason we have lost some games is because we couldn't stop the run, couldn't get the ball back to our offense when we needed to or gave up too many big plays."