For the Eagles to come out ahead tonight over the Redskins, here are the key factors to keep an eye on ...
Score Early, Score Often –Washington isn't likely to win a shootout. Put points on the board and get them out of their comfort zone. They can win an ugly defensive struggle, but put three or more touchdowns on the board and they are in trouble. I said this last week and sadly, it proved true.
The Cooler – Tight ends have been a major trouble spot this year for the defense. Sean McDermott must come up with some wrinkles to limit the damage that Chris Cooley can do. His best game in 2008 came against us. Hopefully Witherspoon's speed and range will make a big difference in this area.
Pressure –Trent Cole only had one sack and one tackle for loss last season against Washington. That is the bad news. The good news is that he won't go up against left tackle Chris Samuels this time out. Cole will face Stephon Heyer. This gives us a big advantage. Cole must win this battle and make plays in the backfield. Heyer normally starts on the right side. His move means that Juqua Parker will also face a replacement in Mike Williams. A big game from Parker would be good. He will be starting this week because Victor Abiamiri is out with a knee injury. Samuels may be forced to retire due to a neck injury. He has been an outstanding blocker for a long time and dominated Eagles pass rushers throughout his career. I have ultimate respect for the guys up front who do a great job of protecting their quarterbacks, even if they play for the enemy. Good luck, Mr. Samuels.
Offensive Balance – As much as I'd love to see a lot of runs, this actually means more balance in the passing game. We must use the middle of the field. DeSean Jackson had great success on crossing routes last week, but we didn't run them enough. Jason Avant was left out of the attack. Most passes were downfield throws or dump-offs to the running backs. We need more of a short, efficient passing game. Let's call plays to get the ball to Avant and Leonard Weaver and use all the weapons. Mix in deep throws to Jeremy Maclin and Jackson, but don't make them the foundation of the attack.
Find Brent Celek. Washington has a rookie linebacker named Brian Orakpo. He will cover the tight end in certain sets. That matchup favors us. The Panthers burned him for a simple touchdown pass to Jeff King. Orakpo is athletically gifted, but still adjusting to the move from defensive end, where he played in college. Go play-action and get the ball to Celek.
Be Physical – Which team won the line of scrimmage last week? Oakland, and it wasn't even close. Which team tackled better? See the last answer. Which team hit harder? See the first answer. Justin Fargas ran hard. He went through and over defenders. Portis is tougher and stronger than Fargas. We must tackle him with authority. Players have to rally to the ball to limit Santana Moss, Cooley and Antwaan Randle-El's run after catch yards. Tackling is all about effort. We tackled when it was convenient last week. That is completely unacceptable. Guys must hit their targets with force and wrap-up.
Obvious Stuff –The Eagles are the more talented team. Don't help Washington out. That means eliminating dropped passes, penalties, kicking game mistakes and turnovers. Play smart football.
-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 6:52 a.m., October 26