Eagle Scout: Birds can exploit Redskins' weakness

The Eagles' DeSean Jackson , grabbing a pass, is a leader in nearly every statistical category.
The Eagles' DeSean Jackson , grabbing a pass, is a leader in nearly every statistical category.
Posted: October 03, 2010

Going by the statistics, the Eagles should beat the Redskins in a rout. The Eagles' strengths are far greater than the Redskins' strengths, and the Eagles' weaknesses are not as glaring as those of the Redskins.

But, with Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb playing for revenge and pride, and Eagles quarterback Michael Vick due to come back to earth, all bets could be off.

Here is a look at the teams:

Eagles' strengths

It's hard to find a weakness in any part of the Eagles' offense. The Birds rank third in the NFL in points per game (27.7), ninth in total offense (367.7 yards), seventh in rushing offense (139 yards), 14th in passing offense (228.7 yards) and 13th in third-down offense (40 percent success rate).

The play of Vick is one of the NFL's biggest stories of the season so far, and he has yet to throw an interception. The Birds have been super in the red zone, and receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are among the leaders in nearly every category in which they are listed.

Plus, Vick is sharing the success, and everyone from tight end Brent Celek to rookie wideout Riley Cooper is getting into the act. Last Sunday against the Jaguars, five Eagles caught passes, and eight had balls thrown their way.

On the ground, running back LeSean McCoy is tied for tops in the NFL with the Lions' Jahvid Best with four rushing touchdowns, and the offensive line, while still a bit worrisome, has benefited from Vick's elusiveness.

To add to the Eagles' optimism this week, the Redskins are ranked last in total defense. So look for the Birds to let Vick air it out early in the game against the weak Washngton secondary and then ask McCoy to chew up the clock and pad his rushing totals later on.

Eagles' weaknesses

Although the Eagles shut down the Jaguars last Sunday, the defense still has issues. Ranked 22d overall among the 32 NFL teams in rushing defense, the Eagles catch a break against the Redskins since the Washington run game averages just 74.3 yards per game, and Clinton Portis is not the runner he was just a few seasons ago.

Portis averaged just 46.7 rushing yards through the first three games, and the Redskins have relied on McNabb's arm to move the ball. The trouble for the Eagles - and no one knows this better than they do - could be if McNabb gets up in the pocket and finds a seam in the secondary. You know that No. 5 would like nothing better than to break off a 30-yard jaunt down the Birds' sideline.

On the other hand, McNabb has not been exceptional as a passer, and the Eagles' defense ranks second in the NFL with 12 sacks. McNabb, who did throw for 426 yards against Houston on Sept. 19, has thrown for just two touchdowns in three games and has been sacked five times.

He has not been clutch for the Redskins yet, and he may need to be against an Eagles secondary that is ranked seventh and has allowed an average of just 183.3 passing yards per games.

The Birds are likely to blitz McNabb on every series and force him to beat them with his arm. If he tries, corners Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs and safeties Nate Allen and Joselio Hanson will look to add to their interception totals.

Redskins' strengths

While McNabb has not had the success that Vick has enjoyed, he is still the Redskins' best hope to win this game. Thanks to his 426-yard game two weeks ago, the Redskins rank seventh in total passing yards and have shown the ability to move the ball up and down the field.

They just can't score. (Does that ring a bell, McNabb fans?) The offense has accounted for just 56 points, a woeful 18.7 per game, compared with the 83 total points put up by the Eagles. That won't get it done, and McNabb has just two touchdown passes.

What McNabb does do well is gain yards. He averages 8.2 yards per catch, fifth best in the NFL, and 265.7 passing yards per game, seventh best.

McNabb has 11 completions for 20 or more yards and three for 40 or more yards. But the Redskins have just five touchdowns in three games, and one was scored by the defense. They have been forced to kick seven field goals.

So the key for the Redskins will be turning those yards into scores.

To use their passing game to win this game, the Redskins are likely to try to beat the Eagles deep for the big play, using wide receiver Santana Moss or tight end Chris Cooley against the Eagles safeties. If McNabb can't make the big plays, he might need seven more field goals to win this game.

Redskins' weaknesses

The Eagles know that the Redskins rank 31st in the NFL in passing defense and will be sure to test the Washington secondary early and often. The Redskins allow an average of 325.7 yards per game and have just two interceptions.

Safety Kareem Moore and cornerback Carlos Rogers have been the only Redskins to come up with interceptions so far, so Vick and Co. will likely try to get the secondary out of position and let the receivers run wild.

The Redskins, on the other hand, have got to put some pressure on Vick, force him to make some bad decisions, and come up with some turnovers.

Contact staff writer Gary Miles

at 215-854-4487 or gmiles@phillynews.com.

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