LAST year we were swept by the Redskins, in two games separated by a total of 12 points. While Washington won both games, they didn’t run away with either one. Thus, the Eagles spent the off-season prepping for an arms race. Meanwhile, (for some reason) the Redskins began disarming themselves on both sides of the ball. Thus, at least on paper, we’re clearly the stronger team now.
Let me speak plain. Recently the ‘skins have owned us, beating us in each of our last five meetings. While we’ll get two cracks at them this season, nothing would be as emphatic as choking them out in their own home, while making thousands of their fans watch helplessly. A win this week would put the division on notice from Day One. We’re already the better team. We need to seize the opportunity to show it.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to focus on this week versus the Redskins:
1) Build a fortress: QB Carson Wentz must be protected. Nothing we saw in the preseason indicates that our running game is ready to carry it’s weight yet, so we’ll have to lean on the passing game. That doesn’t work if Wentz is on his back, counting clouds. Protection is the primary key to this game.
2) Slow the rush: The Redskins are a 3-4 team that rushes it’s OLB’s. An OLB can’t rush the QB and cover the TE at the same time. So getting the ball quickly to TE Zach Ertz means either the ‘skins have to take a rusher away, or bring down a Safety to cover him. That would leave either WR Alshon Jeffrey or WR Torrey Smith with a one-on-one match-up. Surely putting a Safety on Ertz seems somehow more distasteful than taking away a pass rusher. So get Ertz the ball quickly. And do it early in the game.
3) Empty their pocket: Habitually inverting the pocket (even if we don’t sack QB Kirk Cousins), will go a long way to disrupting the ‘skins passing attack. Cousins won’t beat us with his feet, and is only so-so at throwing on the move. We need to force him to problem-solve, instead of allowing him to execute the offense.
4) Fish in a barrel: We need to corral their passing game, by re-routing their receivers closer to the numbers and to the middle of the field.
The idea is to increase traffic, making deflections and misfires more costly. Doing this means that Cousins is going to complete passes, but we need to stay patient and diligent with this approach. If we let the ‘skins have a big day passing to the outside, this game becomes a shootout, and shootouts are anybody’s game.
If we do all these things, we’re just about guaranteed to win. Now that we’ve covered what should happen, let’s get into what likely will happen:
The Redskins will want to spread us out, to create space so they can run the ball inside. They’re going to start on Offense by playing in 11 Personnel (3WR’s, 1 TE, and 1 RB). This means we’ll likely open the game in the Nickel, looking something like this on Defense:
Again, we have to re-route receivers as close to the middle as we can, in order to make deflections and misfires more costly, as well as to limit YAC (yards after catch). Increased traffic in the area will also cause Cousins to hold the ball longer, allowing our pass rushers extra seconds to get home.
On Offense, I would be surprised if the Eagles had a huge day running the ball. Alshon Jeffrey will draw CB Josh Norman, but that shouldn’t be an issue. Last year vs Norman (when he only had QB Matt Barkley throwing to him), Jeffery had 5 catches on 10 targets, and 92 yards. This year Jeffrey has Carson Wentz throwing to him, and a much more dangerous supporting cast, than he has played with since Brandon Marshall left Chicago.
Because of that cast, Norman won’t get much help from teammates, since they each have their own nightmares to deal with. For example, CB Bashaud Breeland is stuck with covering blazingly fast Torrey Smith. (FYI: Speed isn’t something Breeland is known for.) Washington’s 3rd CB Kendall Fuller likely draws WR Nelson Agholor as his dance partner for the day. The bottom line is, even the very top of the Redskins secondary isn’t equipped to handle the Eagles receivers. If Wentz gets decent protection the Eagles win, in a game that won’t be as close as the final score.
PREDICTION: EAGLES 24 – Redskins 20