3TFO: Eagles @ Redskins, Week 11
This NFC East showdown finds the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles both trying to climb out of a hole with 3-6 records. The similarities don’t end there, though — both squads will also be starting rookie signal-callers.
Current history is on Philadelphia’s side as in Mike Shanahan’s only two previous years as Washington’s head coach coming off a bye week, they’ve lost at home to this team. The Redskins are again coming off that one-week break heading into this game, but this time they’ve got an ‘x factor’ at QB in the shape of Robert Griffin III. On the other side is Nick Foles, who was thrown into the fire last week against a good Dallas defense when Michael Vick got injured.
Which of these desperate teams goes to 4-6, and which one falls even further behind to 3-7? Here are some matchups that will determine that answer.
Redskins Wide Receivers vs. Eagles Secondary
While the Redskins clearly improved their team with the addition of RG3, they still don’t have many playmakers for him to work with, especially at the wide receiver position. Their No. 1 guy, Pierre Garcon, has been mostly out of the lineup due to a foot injury (97 snaps in three games, his last start coming in Week 5) but is practicing this week, which is at least encouraging. How effective he’ll be is another matter — in the two games he played after the injury he caught four of seven passes for 44 yards, with two drops. That leaves Aldrick Robinson, Leonard Hankerson, Dezmon Briscoe, Josh Morgan, and tenured Redskin Santana Moss. Moss, who plays primarily in the slot now, is the only one with more than one TD catch (he has five).These five wide outs have more often betrayed their prized signal-caller than helped him, combining for 15 total drops, with Moss and Morgan being the biggest culprits.
There are plays to be made against this Eagles secondary. Their four primary DBs — cornerbacks Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha along with safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman — have missed a combined 12 tackles in coverage. Although he had a day to forget last week with tony Romo and Dez Bryant successfully targeting him, DRC has been the best of the bunch with six passes defended and three interceptions, while surrendering only two scores and a 62.4 QB rating. Asomugha, despite being targeted seven more times (38) than DRC, has been the weaker link, gifting QBs a 109.5 passer rating, 400 yards and three scores, the most embarrassing being Julio Jones’ 63 yarder not too long ago. Allen and Coleman have been average (-0.4 and 0.1 coverage grades at this point in the season) and have a combined four passes defended and two picks. Each has also conceded a TD, with Allen’s initial whiff on Felix Jones’ 22-yard catch-and-run score last week being the most recent.
Jason Babin vs. Tyler Polumbus
With Jamaal Brown practicing this week but still not cleared to play, backup Tyler Polumbus should once again be in charge of the right edge of the offensive line. His 92.2 PBE (Pass Blocking Efficiency) rating is the seventh-lowest among all tackles, although he did look improved in Weeks 6-8, allowing only a sack and three hurries. He came crashing back to earth in Week 9 though (three sacks and eight hurries!), mostly against Charles Johnson.
Polumbus will spend more than a few snaps against Eagles’ defensive end Jason Babin. Babin, like his team, has not lived up to expectations. In three games this year he has a mere two hurries or less (against the Falcons he was blanked). That includes last week where he was one of three linemen who failed to bring Romo to the ground, resulting in a 25-yard gain on third down. While his sack total is also low, he is tied for sixth among 4-3 defensive ends with eight QB knockdowns. Can the former Pro Bowler find success against the struggling Polumbus?
Eagles’ Offensive Line
The Eagles’ front five will once again be shifting after a mostly miserable effort against Dallas last week (three sacks, four QB hits, and eight hurries surrendered). The majority of that damage came against Demetress Bell at LT, who has been benched for this contest. Taking Bell’s spot on the left edge will be King Dunlap who, in terms of pass protection, was solid last week at RT (only three hurries conceded), but had been uneven at LT in previous weeks — Week 1 and especially Week 8 (a pressure-free performance) were good, Weeks 2 and 9 though not so much. Another change will be last week’s RG Dennis Kelly moving to RT, while sophomore/former first-round pick Danny Watkins will return to the lineup as the RG. Kelly struggled heavily at RG, but so did Watkins prior to his injury. Backup center Dallas Reynolds has not fared well either, with 12 total pressures on his 2012 resume. LG Evan Mathis has been by far the best of this group, but has allowed his QB to hit the turf six times.
Fortunately for them, the Redskins have failed to generate consistent pressure on opposing signal-callers this year. Part of that blame falls on Ryan Kerrigan, who hasn’t put a QB on the ground since Week 4 (though he did have a rare sack of a wide receiver on a trick play in Pittsburgh). Can the Eagles take advantage of this matchup and silence this group like so many other O-lines have?
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