This Sunday the Washington Redskins return to Fed Ex Field to take on a Philadelphia Eagles team that is reeling. After Michael Vick threw four interceptions in their loss to the Buffalo Bills yesterday, the Eagles fell to 1-4, a record nobody would have predicted heading into the season. The Eagles were dubbed the “Dream Team” by Vince Young and given their flashy offseason acquisitions the moniker seemed apropos. But after five weeks of the regular season we’ve seen the flaws in this Eagles squad and the Redskins must take advantage of them.
First and foremost, the Eagles cannot stop the run. Currently they rank 30th in the NFL allowing over 140 yards per game on the ground. In their opener, the lowly St. Louis Rams racked up 154 yards rushing. Cadillac Williams replaced an injured Stephen Jackson in that game and went for 91 yards. And Jackson had 56 yards on just 2 carries! The following week Michael Turner burned the Eagles for 114 yards, his best output of the season. Then the Eagles “held” the Giants to 102 yards rushing in Week Three, but Ahmad Bradshaw averaged 5.7 yards/carry on fifteen carries. Starting running backs continued to expose the Eagles defense the last two weeks as Frank Gore racked up 127 yards rushing on just 15 carries (8.7 yards/carry) and Fred Jackson had 111 yards rushing yesterday. The game plan is simple against the Eagles defense: RUN, RUN, RUN!
And though the Eagles pass defense is currently ranked 7th in the NFL, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick showed what works against their vaunted secondary. Short passes. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Fitzpatrick attempted only three passes that flew at least 10 yards in the air. Those passes were incomplete. Instead, he hit 21 of 24 short passes for 193 yards. Look for a lot of quick passes from Grossman to take advantage of the Eagles weak linebacking corps.
Finally, on the other side of the ball, there is no denying how explosive the Eagles offense can be. Redskins fans don’t need to be reminded about last year’s Monday Night nightmare. Still this Eagles team is prone to make mistakes. Through five games Vick has thrown seven interceptions and fumbled just as many times (3 lost fumbles). Though the Eagles are ranked third in the NFL offensively averaging 445 yards/game — they racked up 489 yards against Buffalo yesterday — that’s not going to get it done when you’re dead last in turnover differential. As clear as the Redskins offensive game plan should be versus Philly, the Redskins defense must force turnovers against Philly to win the game.
The Eagles are a desperate team. Expectations were so high for them and now, at 1-4, history says they have just a 5% chance of making the playoffs. That’s why the Redskins must seize the day, pound the ball with Torain early and often and win the turnover battle. If they can do that, they will bury the Eagles and who would have thought that this early in the season?