Philadelphia Eagles News

Fan-Demonium: Will The Redskins Fight?


Washington comes to town on Sunday for a big game. It's big for us because we're in the middle of the playoff chase. It's big for the Redskins because it puts them one step closer to ending their nightmare season. They've struggled all year, but the wheels have really started to come off recently. Last week, they outplayed Dallas for at least 55 minutes, but gave up a late touchdown and lost 7-6. Kicker Shaun Suisham came into the game having not missed a kick all year. He missed two in that game, including one that would have put the Redskins up 9-0 midway through the 4th quarter. The only thing worse than cheering for the Redskins is having them lose the game where you do that.

I have to think that losing last week will really take something out of Washington. They went on the road in the division without their best offensive player (Clinton Portis) or best defensive player (Albert Haynesworth). The Redskins did everything they could, but still came up short and lost to a bitter rival. That has to drain them emotionally. I'm certainly not projecting that we'll have an easy game, but I don't know how much Washington will have left in the tank after a loss like that. They will need to have some early success against us to get some confidence going.

In the first game with Washington, the Eagles offense started red hot behind the play of Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson. Then Westbrook suffered a concussion and the offense sputtered for most of the remainder of the game. Donovan McNabb didn't have a strong performance. He only threw for 156 yards. The offense struggled on third downs and we went the whole game without one snap in the red zone.

That performance came the week after the Oakland debacle. We're playing much better football right now. McNabb has played very well over the last five quarters. We have run a lot of the no-huddle offense in that span. I think we should keep that up. Washington isn't the deepest team right now because of injuries. Going no-huddle can wear down their players. Remember, no-huddle doesn't mean hurry up. It simply means that you get to the line without huddling and that limits players coming on or off the field. You basically go with who's out there.

         <td>Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He's followed the team for almost 20 years. Tommy has been trained by an NFL scout in the art of scouting and player evaluation and runs</td>

There is always cause for concern when the Eagles offense faces the Washington defense. They've gotten the better of us a few times. There are some reasons for optimism. As I mentioned above, McNabb is hot. When he plays well we move the ball and score points.

Also, our offensive line is coming off their best game. We're pretty healthy up front and the rotation at right guard is over. We're sticking with the best five blockers. In the first game, we had several missed assignments on run plays where defenders went unblocked. Now that we're getting some continuity up front those kinds of mistakes are going away.

Our running game was huge last week. We had 30 carries for 157 yards. Set the numbers aside. We ran the ball well on the go-ahead drive. The winning touchdown was a run. The blocking by non-linemen last week was good. LeSean McCoy ran really well. The coaches also seemed to figure out what plays were working for him and stuck with them. If we can run the ball like that this week, we'll win.

The Eagles defense would love to repeat its performance from the first meeting with Washington. Sean McDermott's unit came up with four takeaways, six sacks and even scored a touchdown. They only allowed 10 points when the game was competitive. Washington scored a touchdown with less than two minutes left to make the final score 27-17.

The key is still to shut down the Washington rushing attack. Portis only had 43 yards in the first game. Both he and Ladell Betts are out. That puts the pressure on backup Rock Cartwright to step up. He had 140 yards of offense last week. The Eagles will game plan to stop him and it will be interesting to see how Cartwright fares. He is short and thick. He runs hard and has good power. He lacks size and athletic ability, but Cartwright is a tough, veteran player that will give you maximum effort. He is a tough guy to tackle.

You want the running game to stall so that the pressure goes to quarterback Jason Campbell and the passing game. Campbell is talented, but can be maddeningly inconsistent. One thing I noticed last week was that Campbell really struggled when pressured up the middle. This isn't a question of toughness or anything like that. Blitzers off the edge didn't bother him all that much. Campbell would sit in the pocket and focus on his receivers. He froze when guys came free up the middle. Campbell is athletic enough to run right or left and either scramble for yards or throw on the move. For some reason, he's just not comfortable with pressure coming right at him.

I'm sure McDermott and the Eagles coaches noticed this. With that in mind, expect to see a lot of blitzing in the A-gaps, the space between the center and either guard spot. We did a lot of this early in the season. It was pretty effective. As teams adjusted to that attack, McDermott dialed up more blitzes off the edge. Two key guys to watch will be Trent Cole and Jeremiah Trotter. Cole has moved around more on defense this year than in years past. I expect him to line up as a stand-up rusher in the middle of the line a couple of times. He got a sack doing this last week and in the opener against Carolina.

Trotter had a solid showing last week. He ran well and looked good on the move. Trotter mostly played in the second half. We'll have to see how his knee holds up and if he can move that well a second week in a row. One thing Trotter has always been good at is attacking up the middle. He can drive the center straight back toward the quarterback. Trotter is a powerful guy that plays with great leverage. When he blitzes up the middle, he goes full speed and really packs a wallop for any blocker that gets in his way.

One of the reasons you love pressure up the middle is that it takes away an escape route from the quarterback. He can't step up in the pocket. He's got to go further back or move to the outside, which is where your best pass rushers are. As the line from the movie The Hunt for Red October says, "hounds to the hunters."

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