Scouting Eagles-Redskins a sharp contrast in styles

Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman has thrown six TD passes and five interceptions. He has a reputation for being erratic.
Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman has thrown six TD passes and five interceptions. He has a reputation for being erratic. (WHITNEY CURTIS / Getty Images)
Posted: October 16, 2011

It comes down to this: If the Eagles lose Sunday in Washington, they can forget about the postseason.

They are 1-4, and no 1-5 team has made the playoffs since the NFL went to its current format in 1990.

The Eagles season hinges on a game that will feature a sharp contrast of styles. Washington coach Mike Shanahan loves to run the ball behind his zone blocking scheme, but he has an erratic quarterback in Rex Grossman. The offense has scored less than three touchdowns per game. The Redskins defense, though, is a stingy one, allowing just 15.8 points per game.

The Eagles defense, meanwhile, is porous and gallingly soft against the run. But they have a high-powered offense that is scoring 24.8 points per game and could be doing even more damage if the players stopped firing bullets into their own Nikes. The Eagles have 15 turnovers. No other team has more than 12.

As badly as the Eagles have played, a win could breathe life into their season as they head into their bye.

The Eagles' best hope would seem to be getting an early lead and making Grossman try to win the game, rather than letting Washington's stable of running backs grind down the clock.

The last time these teams met, the Eagles put on a dazzling show, winning, 59-28, on Monday Night Football. Washington, with three wins in its first four games, has a chance to issue some painful payback Sunday.

When the Eagles pass

DeSean Jackson has roared back to life, catching 11 passes for 257 yards the last two games. The Eagles have managed to get Jackson involved while keeping Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant involved, too. Michael Vick has seven interceptions against eight touchdowns this year. Some of the picks aren't his fault, but the Eagles have to cut down on turnovers, and Vick needs to lead the way.

The Redskins counter with a nasty 3-4 pass rush that has tallied 15 sacks, tied for fourth in the NFL. Linebacker Brian Orakpo (31/2 sacks) is complemented by rookie Ryan Kerrigan (two) and defensive end Adam Carriker (three).

               Edge: EAGLES

 

When the Eagles run

The Eagles rank first in the NFL in rushing, thanks to 443 yards from LeSean McCoy (fifth in the league) and 318 from Vick (17th). But Shady has been limited to 98 yards over the last two weeks, thanks to getting only 20 carries. He faces a tough defense that ranks sixth in rushing yards allowed, though only 19th in rushing yards per play - giving up 4.3 yards per pop. Linebackers Rocky McIntosh and London Fletcher are tackling machines.

                  Edge: EVEN

When the Redskins pass

Grossman has thrown six touchdowns and five interceptions while completing just 58 percent of his attempts. His primary receivers are Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney. Big tight end Fred Davis has 16 receptions. Without Trent Cole last week, the Eagles were held to just one sack - and he'll be sidelined again with a calf injury. Still, the Birds have 16 sacks on the year, among the best in the NFL. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was better against the Bills. Now the Eagles need Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to play up to their capabilities.

               Edge: EAGLES

When the Redskins run

 

 Here is where the biggest danger lies for the Eagles. Running backs have feasted on the pass-rush-at-all-times mentality of the Birds' front four and inexperienced linebackers. The Redskins have three runners to throw at Philly: Ryan Torain, who in his only game of the year gained 135 yards on 19 carries; Tim Hightower (nursing a shoulder injury); and rookie Roy Helu, who is gaining 5.3 yards per carry. Kurt Coleman will start at safety in place of Jarrad Page, hoping to use his second stint as a starter to bolster a shaky run defense.

            Edge: REDSKINS

Special teams

Neither team is explosive in the return game. Former Eagle Sav Rocca is tied for the NFL lead with 12 punts downed inside opponents' 20. Washington kicker Graham Gano has missed three kicks, all between 30 and 39 yards.

                  Edge: EVEN

Intangibles

 

 The Eagles are desperate for a win, and players said they want to rally for Andy Reid. But two consecutive opponents have called them out for giving up, an ugly charge. The Redskins are coming off a bye. Shanahan is 10-5 after a week's rest. After last year's off week, however, the Redskins got blown out by the Eagles.

               Edge: EAGLES


Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com or @JonathanTamari on Twitter.

 

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