3TFO: Redskins @ Eagles, Week 11
This NFC East showdown finds the 3-6 Washington Redskins traveling to Philadelphia for a rematch against the 5-5 Eagles. The Eagles won in Washington on MNF in Week 1 33-27 by jumping out to a big lead and stifling the Redskins’ comeback attempt.
The Redskins have found themselves in the same spot they were in last year — playing the Nick Foles-led Eagles with a 3-6 record. A big difference this time around is this Eagles squad under new head coach Chip Kelly, and the fact that Foles is not making his first career start (which was the case in that blowout loss to Washington last year). In fact, Foles has been playing well, but there are still some question marks about him, especially when you remember his nightmarish game at home to the Cowboys a few weeks ago.
Washington is arguably playing better than in the beginning of the season, but they still blew a lead to the previously one-win Minnesota Vikings last Thursday night. Can the Redskins find that 2012 magic this year?
DeSean vs. DeAngelo
These two players nearly got in a fight in that Week 1 contest which started because of DeAngelo Hall’s flagrant horse-collar tackle out of bounds on DeSean Jackson. Jackson ended up catching two of four passes on Hall for 40 yards, each resulting in a first down. That does not include the 25-yard TD catch where Hall was left out to dry by distracted safety E.J. Biggers (Hall was downgraded but Biggers was cited for primary coverage).
The way the Redskins use Hall has varied from game to game. The former Hokie is maligned for a reason (one example: he ‘leads’ all CBs in missed tackles), but is sometimes tasked with shadowing opposing No.1 WRs. Receivers he’s tracked include Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, Rod Streater (this surprised me as well but they abandoned this strategy as the game wore on), Calvin Johnson, and Demaryius Thomas — he’s snagged three picks, including two returned for scores, on these assignments. His two worst (and only red-graded) coverage performances came in the first two weeks where he primarily played the left side regardless of match up. How will Hall be deployed this week?
Nemesis Jackson has the third-most receiving yards this year among his peers, 1 yard less than the other-worldly Calvin Johnson. He also leads the league in deep receptions (passes that travel at least 20 yards in the air), six of which were scores — however, his 55-yard score last week should have been intercepted. Although he still isn’t always willing to put his body at risk for a first down (check out him shy away from the closing safety at 4:06 in the third Q of the rematch with the Giants), his stat line still commands respect, especially with the rotating QB carousel throwing to him. He isn’t just a deep threat either, catching plenty of passes on comeback, quick screen, and crossing routes. Whether Hall follows Jackson or not, the dangerous wide out spent 61 snaps lined up across from Hall in Week 1, so expect these two to have another battle on Sunday.
Orakpo vs. Barbre
As of Friday, it’s still uncertain if LT Jason Peters (questionable) will suit up Sunday. Peters, after missing all last season, has been solid this season with only two sacks (including one last week to Mike Neal) and 25 further pressures on his 2013 resume. He also only conceded a single hurry to Brian Orakpo, the Redskins most consistent pass rusher, in Week 1. If Peters can’t play, 2007 fourth-rounder Allen Barbre will be charged with protecting Foles’ blindside. Barbre played very sparingly in the first nine games, putting in work at LT for 31 snaps, tight end for two snaps, and a single snap at RG. Then last week he played 39 snaps at LT in relief of Peters — against Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, and Mike Neal, Barbre was perfect.
Orakpo’s sack total is disappointing so far this year — only four in nine games. Yet one of those was a rare sack credited against Minnesota’s Matt Kalil, and, as usual, sack stats don’t paint an accurate picture of his contribution. The former first-rounder also has nine QB knockdowns and 22 further hurries (not including plays negated by penalties). Yet Orakpo, in a contract year, had his lowest pressure total against back-up LT Chris Clark in Denver. Clark had been victimized by Robert Mathis the prior week, but conceded only a single hurry to Orakpo. It’s also worth noting that six of those QB knockdowns came when he was unblocked. Can another replacement left tackle once again render him ineffective? Of, if Peters is activated, can he beat the franchise left tackle for more than one mere hurry?
Alfred Morris vs. Eagles Run D
Former sixth-round pick Alfred Morris had a phenomenal rookie year, and it was no fluke — the man nicknamed “The Butler” had his second-lowest rushing yardage total in Week 4 against the Raiders with 71 yards on 16 carries in a win. Despite a 2-2 record in the past four games, Morris has compiled nearly 450 yards on the ground. Yet that ’12 carries for 45 yards’ stat line remains on his resume, courtesy of the Eagles in their eye-opening Week 1 win over the Redskins. Part of that was the big lead the Eagles jumped out to, but Morris unfortunately aided his divisional rivals with a fumble (forced by an un-blocked Trent Cole) on their first offensive play of the year, and a muffed pitch in the end zone not too many plays later. These mistakes led to 9 Eagle points.
Meanwhile, the Eagles run defense has been the strength of this suspect defense. The biggest contributor has been 2011 free agent Cedric Thornton who currently leads all 3-4 defensive ends in Run Stop % with 22 stops in 165 run snaps. Also productive in this area are outside LBs Trent Cole and Connor Barwin (34 combined stops and just a pair of missed tackles) and former first-round D-Lineman Fletcher Cox. The lowest graded run defenders on this unit have been both inside starting ILBs Demeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, who have combined for a -13.2 run defense grade. If the Philly offense doesn’t get a nice lead, can their defense still hold up against the run?
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