When Mike Shanahan took over as the Washington Redskins head coach in the offseason, he brought in Jim Haslett to take over as the team's defensive coordinator. With that move, the Redskins changed from a 4-3 defensive scheme to a 3-4, increasing the number of NFC East rivals for the Eagles who employ the 3-4 from one to two. The Eagles got a test against the 3-4 in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers and the results weren't great.
The Eagles allowed six sacks in that game, three of Kevin Kolb and three of Michael Vick, and the Packers defense spent a lot of time in the backfield beyond those six sacks. Following the game, head coach Andy Reid said the blame for the pressure did not fall solely on the offensive line, but on the tight ends and running backs as well. After two weeks blocking against 4-3 teams, the Eagles have a chance for redemption on Sunday when the Redskins come to town.
"We can prove that was a little bit fluky," said tight end Brent Celek. "I think as the season goes on, protection-wide, you get even better because you get to see all the blitzes that you haven't seen in the preseason, then you can work on them."
For their part, the Redskins are still adjusting to the new scheme. What was a top-10 defense in 2009 currently ranks 32nd in the league in yards allowed after three games. But that's no reason to overlook the Redskins defense. In addition to three games being a very small sample size, the Redskins also held the Dallas Cowboys to only seven points in Week 1 when they won their first NFC East game of the year. They also boast productive players like middle linebacker London Fletcher, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and safety LaRon Landry.
"You see productivity coming out of the (Redskins) scheme and the guys are starting to get used to it," said starting left guard Todd Herremans. "We definitely need to shore up some things that we saw the first time we played the 3-4. It's more repetition and stuff like that. We have a nice little game plan put together and we're all excited to put it to work."
The primary adversary in that Week 1 loss was outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who victimized the Eagles for three sacks. The Redskins have their own version of Matthews in Orakpo, the second-year player who notched 10.0 sacks in his rookie season. One of the men who will be charged with fighting off Orakpo is right tackle Winston Justice.
The 3-4 defense "moves around a little bit more usually," Justice said, "so it's something we just need to practice at.
"I think we're more ready after seeing it in Week 1."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 11:30 a.m., October 2