Last week was a mismatch. The Eagles shut down Jacksonville and spent much of the second half teeing off on beleaguered quarterback David Garrard. It was a feast. On Sunday against Washington, things are going to be different, and the Eagles defense is going to have to show some versatility.
Washington's offense has been tough to figure. The Redskins have a new system, a new quarterback and some questions about their offensive line and their ability to run the football. They struggled to score points in the win over Dallas and the loss at St. Louis, and in between the Redskins put up 27 points in the overtime loss to the Houston Texans.
In three games, Washington has scored 56 points. Top running back Clinton Portis averages 3.7 yards per carry, with 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Ryan Torain, a relative unknown on Washington's big-name roster, could be more of the go-to back this week.
As for Donovan McNabb, he has come out throwing early and often. He is averaging 34 passing attempts per game, along with 278 yards in the air each week.
So much for the idea that Washington would be a slow-it-up offense. Through three games -- and this is a work in progress -- the Redskins are pass first and run second.
"They do a lot of things well," said cornerback Ellis Hobbs. "Santana Moss (a team-high 22 receptions) is playing well and is always dangerous. Donovan can attack you from anywhere on the field with that arm and with the way he keeps plays alive. So, we have to be better than we've been. We can't give up any big plays, because they hit defenses down the field with their big plays."
The key, as it does in every game, comes at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles dominated Jacksonville because the stopped the run, had a lead, and then went hard after Garrard. McNabb won't be a sitting duck in the pocket. Washington rolls him out and moves him around as its offensive line works to find its groove.
First-round draft pick Trent Williams is banged up with a knee/toe injury and was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Facing Trent Cole is daunting enough for a rookie, and if Williams is able to play and is hobbled in any way, well, the Eagles could have something to work on over there.
"I think they are playing well up front," said Cole. "We know what we have to do. It's going to be a physical game and we know that Donovan is a great quarterback who is going to make plays. We have to be aggressive and disciplined."
Playing Washington means having to contend with tight end Chris Cooley, one of the game's best. He already has 14 catches this season and the Eagles know full well that they have their hands full limiting his touches. Washington clearly schemes to get both Moss and Cooley open and they have quickly become McNabb's favorite targets.
So it is more of a challenge this week. The Eagles had a great bounce-back defensive performance in Jacksonville. But this is the Redskins, a team that always, always, always plays the Eagles well. Does it really matter how the personnel matches up? Playing the game "on paper" means nothing. Each team knows the other inside and out, having studied division foes since the spring.
"The challenge for us is to take it to another level," said middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. "Nobody is content with what we did last week. This is a new game with a good team on the other side of the ball, so we have to step up our game and play consistent football to win this game."