Coming off a disappointing 40-17 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday, the 6-8 Eagles face a short week before a must-win game against the Washington Redskins on Saturday. A loss would eliminate Philadelphia from playoff contention, while a win would put them in the driver's seat heading into the final week of the season.
On Tuesday, Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis spoke to reporters about the challenges of facing a 7-7 Washington team that is coming off back-to-back wins and playing arguably its best football of the season. With only two solid days of practice in front of them and injuries to both of the team's starting corners, Davis knows this week's matchup will be a challenge, but he also believes it is one his team can handle.
Here are a few takeaways from his pre-practice press conference ...
Davis Hopeful To Have Rowe And Maxwell Back
During Sunday's loss to Arizona, the Eagles lost both of their starting cornerbacks, first rookie Eric Rowe due to a concussion and later veteran Byron Maxwell to a shoulder injury. While they were sidelined for practice on Tuesday, Davis is confident that both will be available to play against Washington on Saturday.
The injuries were made even more troublesome by the fact that Rowe had only been elevated to the starting lineup after veteran Nolan Carroll suffered a broken ankle last month. And in the absence of all three in the second half of Sunday's game, Jaylen Watkins and E.J. Biggers stepped right in and were able to give the team solid play in the defensive backfield.
"The intelligence and the football IQ of our secondary really was on display the other night when (Rowe and Maxwell) went down." said Davis. "We were moving multiple positions, there was two- and three-man positional shifting going on within the drives."
Davis added that for that reason he was largely able to maintain his team's typical scheme and call the coverages he wanted to even after the injuries. He's preparing this week as if he won't have Rowe or Maxwell, just in case that were to happen.
Washington Will Be Tougher This Time Around
They say everything revolves around the quarterback position, and for the Washington Redskins that's certainly been the case this season. The team opened the year 2-4, and starting signal-caller Kirk Cousins had thrown six touchdowns to eight interceptions with a passer rating of just 77.4. Reports began to emerge that the fourth-year quarterback with a career 4-11 record could be benched if his struggles continued. But since Week 7, he's led Washington to a 5-3 record and has thrown 16 touchdowns to just three interceptions, earning a 115.0 passer rating during that stretch. In Sunday's 35-25 win over the Buffalo Bills, Cousins completed 22 of his 28 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns.
Davis knows that facing this Washington offense will be a tough task for his team, not only because of the vast improvement Cousins has shown in the latter half of this season, but also because of their talented group of playmakers that includes DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed.
"The Redskins' offense is playing as well as it's played all season," he said. "DeSean is getting vertical balls at a high rate – he's got the highest yards per catch ... He blows the top off of everything, and we've got to be aware and over the top of him.
"We've got to be at our best, we really do. We've got to tackle great, we've got to defend the deep ball. This has to be our best week."
The Eagles Control Their Own Destiny
While Davis isn't pleased with the way his unit has played this season, particularly in the second half of the year, he is stressing to his unit that despite their struggles they are in complete control of their own destiny coming down the stretch. With wins in Week 16 and Week 17, the Eagles would win the NFC East and earn a playoff berth. But a loss to Washington on Saturday would eliminate Philadelphia from postseason contention.
"The fact of the matter is with two games to go we're in the driver's seat," he said. "All we have to do is step up and play the defense that we know we can play for the next two games, get into the tournament and see what happens from there."