Sunday will be the home finale for the 2012 season. The Redskins come to town hoping to add a win and get closer to securing a playoff berth. The Eagles are reduced to playing the role of spoiler. This sure isn't what I had in mind back in August, but if that's what we have to cheer for, so be it. Let's spoil things for Robert Griffin III and his teammates.
The Eagles have had a 10-day break since the loss to the Bengals. The team should be well-rested and fresh. That's also a lot of time for the team to prepare for the game. That's important for Nick Foles and the offense. Foles’ first start came against the Redskins and he played his worst game of the year. He threw two interceptions, finished with a passer rating of just 40.5 and the offense only scored six points.
In the four games since that first start, Foles has only thrown one interception. He has four touchdowns. The offense has averaged 23 points a game. I think this game will be a good test for Foles. He struggled mightily with the Redskins and their blitz packages in the first meeting. Foles should be much smarter this time around. The Redskins will adjust as well. Can Foles handle what they throw at him? Can he handle their adjustments?
Remember that in the first game the Redskins limited Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson to a combined two catches for 5 yards. Maclin was actually shut out. Maclin has 21 catches since then so expect him to be more of a factor. Jason Avant didn't play in the earlier game. He and Foles have developed a good chemistry and that will be a factor in this game. The passing game is better off than it was when Foles got his first start.
Foles will also have the benefit of LeSean McCoy getting back on the field. He suffered a concussion in the first game against Washington and hasn't played since. I'm glad that McCoy will play this week. It's a good sign that he wants to get back on the field. It would be easy to sit out a couple of meaningless games and just rest up for 2013, but that's not the mentality you want from your best players. You want those guys to want to get on the field. That competitive drive is often a key factor in making those players as good as they are.
We all know what McCoy can do. There isn't anything new to look for from him. I am interested to see how the coaches use McCoy with Bryce Brown. Prior to McCoy's injury, Brown did not have more than five carries in a game. Since Brown became the starter, he has averaged 18 carries a game. The coaches have seen just how good he is. I would love to see the coaches give both runners 10 or more carries and split playing time between them. McCoy is still the starter and key player, but I'm curious to see him function in a rotation. I also want to see how Brown does in a rotation. His fumbles have come in the second half of games, when he is likely worn down. Maybe fewer snaps will actually be a good thing for Brown.
McCoy will benefit from running behind an improved offensive line. Jake Scott has settled the right guard position. Dennis Kelly is improving at right tackle. Dallas Reynolds has become an effective starting center. You won't mistake this group for the line that was so outstanding in 2006, but they have gotten better.
The Redskins offense was efficient in the first game. They ran for 169 yards. Griffin III was 14-of-15 throwing the ball and came away with four touchdowns. More touchdowns than incompletions is never a good thing for the defense. This game will be a good test for the Eagles defense. They've played better in the last two weeks, but this is a more explosive offense than they faced in those games. A strong showing would be a real good sign for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and his players.
Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.
The defensive line played their best game of the year against Cincinnati. They came up with six sacks and played good run defense at times. The big stars were Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox. Graham could be in for a big game this week. He'll be taking on the right tackle. Washington's normal starter is Tyler Polumbus. He really struggled with Jason Babin in the first meeting. Polumbus is dealing with a concussion so if he misses the game Graham could go up against a backup. Either way, Graham should have the advantage.
Trent Cole did not have a tackle or sack in the first meeting. He got some pressure, but wasn't a factor. Cole played well against the Bengals and it would be great to see him build off that game. He's not had a good year to this point so a good finish would be nice to see. Cole is normally a very good run defender as well as a pass rusher. He should have plenty of chances to make plays.
One of the keys in dealing with the Redskins’ offense is playing with good discipline. That has been an issue for the defensive line. They live to fire off the snap and chase the ball all over the field. If you do that this week, you can get burned by bootleg plays. The Eagles need to be smart with locating the ball and then taking good pursuit angles.
I'm also interested in seeing how the revised linebacker corps plays. Jamar Chaney has had some good moments as the SAM. There are plays when he is really impressive. Unfortunately, there are others when he is in the wrong gap or struggles to get off blocks. Mychal Kendricks is now on the weak side and is also inconsistent. That's expected since he's a rookie. The one problem Kendricks had in the first game was taking bad angles when chasing Griffin III. I hope Kendricks has learned from that and will do a better job. Griffin III is most dangerous when he's in space and on the run. You must be smart when chasing him. If not, he'll burn you and deliver big plays.
The coaches decided to make a move at safety. Colt Anderson stays in as a starter. Kurt Coleman returns from injury and will take Nate Allen's place. The coaches feel that Coleman is the better run defender and that's what is needed against the Redskins. Coleman struggled in coverage in the first meeting, but did have seven tackles and a tackle-for-loss. Anderson has looked good in his two starts.
It would be nice to see the team win the final home game of the season and it would be fun to put a dent in the Redskins’ postseason hopes. Seeing the team play a legitimately good game would be a nice Christmas present. At the very least, I hope the young players have a good day. Life is a little bit easier when you see that there's hope for the future.