Last week was a lot of fun, no doubt about it. But now it’s time to focus our attention on those Washington Redskins. Those division rivals. Those rivals led by one Donovan McNabb. If you ask McNabb, he’ll tell you that he got the best of the Eagles in their week 4 match-up. He’ll tell you that the Eagles made a “mistake” when they traded him. Friends, it is time to prove him dead wrong and that is what will happen this coming Monday Night when the Eagles travel to our nation’s capital. Let me tell you why.
The Redskins’ offensive line is weak-very weak. They’ve let McNabb take an absolute thrashing this season, letting up 23 sacks and 50 quarterback hits. McNabb is getting almost no time to get the ball out of there and this is the first step in beating him. McNabb is just like every quarterback where, if you hit them early and often enough, you can make them obsolete through the entire game. Trent Cole leads the Eagles defense with 7 of the team’s 24 sacks. He will be facing rookie left tackle Trent Williams, who hasn’t been looking that strong lately. In his first week he was able to neutralize a Dallas pass rush through sheer strength and athleticism. Since then, teams have figured him out and given him fits. Trent Cole did an excellent job of getting pressure on Peyton Manning and he will do the same against McNabb.
Behind their offensive line they are going to be starting running back Ryan Torain, who had a solid day against the Eagles in the previous match-up. He is a physical runner who is solid inside the tackles but struggles when bouncing it outside. Over the past weeks, the Eagles rush defense has stepped up significantly. They need to continue this trend against the Redskins and I believe they will. For whatever reason, the Redskins completely abandoned the run against the Lions in week 8, and Torrain only had 9 carries in which he rushed for 10 yards. I’d expect Shanahan to dial up a lot of running plays to take some of the pressure off McNabb. Torrain will get some yards but I don’t see him taking over the game. The Eagles are proving to be very stout against the run, and a lot of that has to do with the emergence of the line-backing core.
That line-backing core will again be largely responsible for the coverage of one of the top tight ends in the league, Chris Cooley. Cooley is McNabb’s most reliable targets and one of his favorites. He is second on the team with 39 receptions, 440 yards, and 2 TD receptions. In the previous meeting, he hauled in a shockingly low 2 passes for only 37 yards. One of those catches came at the beginning of the game and was a TD. The Eagles were beaten fairly badly by a backup offensive lineman turned emergency tight end in the Colts’ Jacob Tamme. He caught 11 balls and earned 108 yards and TD. I’d look for McNabb to be looking Cooley’s way early and often because the Eagles biggest defensive weakness is covering that position. Of all the weapons that Washington has, he is the one I fear and believe will put up good numbers this week.
At wide receiver the Redskins have a bunch of guys who might not make The Eagles’ roster, much less start. Santana Moss is their leading pass catcher, having hauled in 48 passes for 604 yards and 2 TDs. It’s my basic assumption that Asante Samuel, fresh off his excellent game against the Colts, will mainly be the corner back blanketing Moss. Past Moss, the Redskins have rookie Anthony Armstrong, who is their big play guy. This kid has some very solid hands and has made some truly spectacular catches. The Eagles secondary can not allow McNabb to find him deep because if McNabb can do that and get into a rhythm it could be a very long day. The Eagles secondary took a hit against the Colts when they lost rookie free safety Nate Allen for at least this week’s match-up. In his place, rookie Kurt Coleman played very well from what I saw. I do expect the Redskins to target him early and often to test him and see what he’s made of.
And of course there’s Donovan. No need for last names, you know who I’m talking about. Super 5. Donnie. The greatest thing since sliced bread if you ask Deion Sanders. That is a lie. McNabb was great. McNabb is now mediocre. I don’t buy that garbage about him not having enough time to learn the system. I don’t buy that he was hurt or out of shape when he was benched. I simply buy the fact that he’s no longer that good a quarterback and has never been what one could consider clutch, but enough of that. Let’s look at how the Eagles will match up against him. He still does have strengths, there’s no question about it. If he can get hot, he can light the defense up. He can still throw a deep ball with decent accuracy. However, take that away from him and he becomes a very easy player to defeat. The Eagles can take away the long ball and I expect them to do just that.
Flipping over the to the Eagles’ offense, the line is still a question mark. More precisely, the right side of the line is the one in question. When Max Jean-Gilles went down last weekend, the Eagles offensive line took a big hit. Who’d have ever thought we’d be saying that? It appears that Nick Cole will be starting. Last week, the Eagles’ offensive line played fairly well in pass protection, but they were very weak in run blocking. The Redskins have a very strong pass rush that’s garnered 18 sacks this season. They’ve also been smacking the quarterback around a lot. The Eagles’ offensive line, despite Vick’s mobility, is giving up a ton of sacks (24) and quarterback hits (44). The Colts brought pressure last week and I expect the Redskins to do the same.
Behind the line stands the man who started last weekend’s match-up off with a bang. A 62-yard bang to be precise. LeSean McCoy continues to improve every single week, and last week was no exception. However, as I mentioned before: Once Max Jean-Gilles went down, McCoy starting having problems finding running room. He will be facing the 18th ranked rushing defense in the league against the Redskins (112.4 YPG). However, that number is slightly misleading, because teams are not running the ball too much on the Redskins. The most popular and effective way to beat them is though the air. You can find running room in their 3-4 defense, although defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth is starting to play like a man who is actually earning his outrageous amount of money lately. McCoy likely won’t see too much statistical success this weekend rushing the ball. However, he has proven to be very successful in the screen game, and I’d expect the Eagles to utilize that as the Redskins have issues covering it.
Brent Celek is still our leading tight end, though the numbers sure don’t seem to indicate as such. He has a measly 21 catches for 229 yards and 2 TDs. Fantasy owners across the country are angry (I do include myself in that) but he isn’t as poor as the numbers suggest. The fact is that Celek played a huge role in beating the Colts last weekend. He is being utilized more as a chip blocker than a pass catcher and that’s due to our poor offensive line. So yes, he isn’t getting the numbers we’d all love to see but he is till helping this team. The Redskins defense does a solid job of covering the tight end, and given Celek’s limited role as a pass catcher, I see no reason to believe he’ll be putting up the numbers. However, he will be used as a blocker and could prove essential to the outcome of the game.
You know, it’s nice having DeSean Jackson back in the lineup. It’s nice having a guy who can catch up to just about any pass, no matter how far down the field it is. Guys like that are precious commodities, and Jackson showed just why against the Colts. The Redskins pass defense is terrible. It’s even worse than ours and that takes some serious (lack of) talent. The Eagles receiving core is at full strength and they are primed to dominate this game. Jackson is easily Vick’s favorite target, so I’d expect the Redskins to roll a lot of coverage his way. There will always be a safety shadowing him over top. That will free up Jeremy Maclin, who is having a huge season. The Eagles receiving core is simply too deep and too talented for the Redskins to contain them. This is a dream match-up.
Getting them the ball will again be Michael Vick, whose bandwagon I am completely on. Yes, I am buying into Vick now. I’m not ready to sign him long term just yet but I’m getting close.
Vick went down with an injury the last time we played the Redskins and it instantly affected the outcome of the game. Assuming he stays healthy this week (yes, I knocked on wood), I believe he’ll be able to dominate this Washington defense. He threw when he needed (accurately at that) and ran when he needed to against the Colts. He’ll likely be running about the same against the Redskins and that is fine by me. The more he runs the more the defense will cheat up on him and the more open our receivers will get. Again, this is a match-up I absolutely love. The Redskins defense has intercepted 9 passes this season, with 4 coming in one game. Overall, they are not a ball hawking team, and this season Vick has yet to throw a pick. The care he is showing with the ball is not something we saw in Atlanta. I expect that trend to continue this Monday night.
On special teams, I have to give the edge to Washington. They have an electric return man in Brandon Banks, who took one to the house in his last game against Detroit. Their punting and kicking units are solid. The Eagles do have the edge in the field goal kicking game, as Akers seems to have found his rhythm and is again looking to be automatic. The Eagles’ coverage units have steadily improved over the season and they will need to do likewise on Monday. In the previous match-up they let the Redskins get some big returns that set McNabb and the offense up in good field position early. At the end of the day, the edge goes to Washington here.
Andy Reid and Mike Shanahan now have something in common. They both benched Donovan McNabb. Oddly enough, I disagreed with the move both times. Well, I more disagreed with how Reid did when he benched McNabb in 2008. When Shanahan benched McNabb two weeks ago, I just flat out disagreed with it. Andy Reid, while he does drive me insane at times, historically is a very good coach when it comes to facing a team a second time in the season. The fact is that he rarely gets swept by divisional rivals and it’s around this time that he generally starts to put together a very strong game plan. I’ve never bought Mike Shanahan. I didn’t think he coached a good game in our last meeting, we just beat ourselves. I have little doubt in my mind that Reid is going to cook up something for this game and the outcome will be good for us Eagles fans.
HOW I SEE IT:
We’re taking this game. We have all the momentum going into the game after beating the Colts in thrilling fashion. That game was the kind of game that you can build upon. Meanwhile, the Redskins are starting to go into free fall mode. McNabb will not rebound from this benching like he did from the last one for the simple fact that he is not surrounded by a good team this time around. The Eagles team was embarrassed in the previous matchup and they will remember that. It will be close for a little while but by the end of the day I see the Eagles winning big in Washington.