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The Return of McNabb: Washington Redskins At Philadelphia Eagles Week Four Breakdown

Redskins @ Eagles Week 4 Preview

By Lance Epstein


Washington Redskins (1-2) At Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)

When: Sunday 4:15 p.m. est

Channel: Fox


Injuries:

Eagles: Questionable: Guard Nick Cole (knee) Probable: RB Mike Bell (Illness), TE Brent Celek (wrist), DE Brandon Graham (ankle), T Austin Howard (back) and WR Jeremy Maclin (back)

Redskins: Out: Anthony Bryant (head) Questionable: DeAngelo Hall (back), LaRon Landry (wrist), NT Albert Haynesworth (thumb), Clinton Portis (wrist), S Kareem Moore (knee), WR Anthony Armstrong (groin), Chris Horton (ankle), RB Keiland Williams (ankle), T Trent Williams (toe), Kory Lichtensteiger (knee) and P Josh Bidwell (Hip)


Quarterback:

Michael Vick vs. Donovan McNabb

Advantage: Redskins. What a difference a year makes. At the beginning of last season, Donovan McNabb was a Philadelphia Eagle and one of his backups was Michael Vick. Moreover, McNabb pressed head coach Andy Reid into bringing Vick into the fold. Now, Vick has replaced Kevin Kolb and is squaring off against his former mentor. Vick has been sensational this year, as he has gone 89 pass attempts without a turnover. Moreover, he has a passer rating of 110.2. Additionally, he can throw the ball with accuracy inside the pocket and beat you with his legs. However, his will be his first big test of the season. McNabb has history on his side. While he is only 1-2 as the Redskins starter this year, he has been a premiere quarterback in the NFL for the past 11 seasons. Furthermore, he has a chip on his shoulder coming back to Philadelphia. He has something to prove and will do anything to beat his former ball club. That includes taking off and running when he has too. This is a game where fans should expect McNabb to play at a very high level.


Running Back/Fullback:

LeSean McCoy, Owen Schmitt, Eldra Buckley, Joique Bell and Mike Bell vs. Clinton Portis, Mike Sellers, Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams

Advantage: Eagles. If the Redskins expect to beat the Eagles then they must establish their running game. So far this season, they have been unable to pound the rock and open up running lanes. Ultimately the play action that head coach Mike Shanahan loves so much has been useless. Portis appears to be on the decline as he is only averaging 46.7 rushing yards per game. Yet, he has two touchdowns in three games and has always been an Eagle killer. In his career against Philadelphia, he has rushed for 745 yards and nine touchdowns. Do not be surprised if the Redskins use more of backup running back Ryan Torain this week. Last week against the Rams, he was the better back as he rushed seven times for 46 yards (6.6 yards per carry). As for the Eagles, they have their new version of Brian Westbrook. LeSean McCoy can do it all. He might even be a better runner in between the tackles than Westbrook. Plus he is much more durable. Of course he still needs work in pass protection, but he is dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. It isn’t just McCoy for the Eagles, fullback Owen Schmitt has looked better over the past two weeks. Look for the Eagles to get him involved on some short swing passes, which is an underrated part of his game.


Wide Receiver/Tight End:

DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Brent Celek vs. Santana Moss, Joey Galloway, Anthony Armstrong, Chris Cooley and Fred Davis

Advantage: Eagles. If this were three or four years ago, the matchup would be much closer. In 2010, Eagles wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have combined for 465 yards and six touchdowns. That means 62 percent of Vick’s passing yards on the season have been to his talented duo. Certainly, Jason Avant and Brent Celek have gotten off to slow starts, but they are still very dangerous. In practice, Vick loves utilizing his soft-handed tight end Celek, but it has not carried over to the game. Eventually the receptions and yards will come for Celek like they did with Alge Crumpler who was Vick’s tight end in Atlanta. Even though the Redskins do not possess the skills position players that the Eagles do, they are still highly effective players. Galloway does not have the blazing speed he once had, but he can make cornerbacks pay for gambling. Moss has become McNabb’s go-to guy and has had some big games against the Eagles in recent memory. However, the player the Eagles have been unable to contain has been TE Chris Cooley. In nine career games against the Eagles, Cooley has recorded 491 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he has been an exceptional blocker in those games and has helped open some huge holes for his running backs. Expect McNabb to look at Cooley early and often.


Offensive line

Advantage: Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Mike McGlynn, Reggie Wells/Nick Cole and Winston Justice vs. Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Casey Rabach, Artis Hicks and Jammal Brown/Stephon Heyer

Advantage: Push. Neither one of these offensive lines has been very good early in the season, but for entirely different reasons. The Redskins have done a fairly decent job of keeping McNabb upright. They have given up only five sacks on the year (three to Texans DE Mario Williams). Nevertheless, they have been unable to open any running lanes for any of their running backs. More importantly, the lack of a true running game is hurting McNabb’s ability to run the offense efficiently. The Eagles have the opposite problem. They have given up league high 15 sacks. It might have been more if not for the elusive Vick taking over for Kolb. Without a doubt the offensive line was better with Reggie Wells starting at right guard for Nick Cole, but it was still not great. Also, the Eagles o-line has struggled in the past against 3-4 defenses. Whoever wins this matchup could win the game.


Defensive Line

Brandon Graham, Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley, Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Darryl Tapp and Trevor Laws vs. Adam Carriker, Albert Haynesworth/Maake Kemoeatu, Kendric Golston, Phillip Daniels and Vonnie Holliday

Advantage: Eagles. Albert Haynesworth is one of the toughest defensive tackles to block in the entire NFL. That is when he actually wants to play. This year he has been more concerned about fighting with his new head coach than actively playing. In fact, the Redskins have Kemoeatu as their starting nose tackle on their depth chart. Still, Haynesworth is the guy that the Eagles have to be scarred about. Mike McGlynn has not been very good at center since replacing the injured Jamaal Jackson. He has missed countless blitz pickups and whiffed on some blocks against some mediocre defensive tackles. If Haynesworth can get penetration then (DE) Adam Carriker could exploit his one-on-one matchup with Winston Justice. However, the edge still goes to the Eagles. Last time left tackle Trent Williams went up against one of the best defensive ends in the league (Mario Williams), he gave up three sacks. Trent Cole is a notch below Williams, but is still an elite defensive end that should be a thorn in McNabb’s backside. Additionally, defensive ends Juqua Parker and Brandon Graham have helped make life easier on Cole by taking some of the pressure off of his shoulders. Certainly, Jammal Brown is a very good right tackle (when healthy), but he will have his hands full with the Eagles rotating defensive line especially since he missed last week due to his hip surgery over the offseason. A player that is ignored heading into this game is Trevor Laws. He will be employed on passing downs and lately he has been a force at getting to the quarterback.


Linebackers:

Stewart Bradley, Omar Gaither, Jamar Chaney, Akeem Jordan, Ernie Sims and Moise Fokou vs. Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh, Andre Carter, H.B Blades and Lorenzo Alexander

Advantage: Redskins. Even with the return of middle linebacker Stewart Bradley (possibly the best inside linebacker in the NFC East), the Redskins have a decisive advantage at the linebacker position. Brian Orakpo is becoming one of the best young defensive players in the league. In only his second year, Orakpo has 13 sacks. In the newly implemented 3-4 defense, Orakpo is asked to cover running backs in space and get to the quarterback. Without a doubt the transition will take some time, but when fully understands the scheme and doesn’t have to think twice about it, he will star. He could be another DeMarcus Ware in the makings. While the Redskins 3-4 defense is struggling, but he has registered two sacks in three games. It is not just Orakpo that the Eagles have to be worried about. Linebackers London Fletcher and Andre Carter can create a lot of chaos in the Eagles backfield. Last year, the two combined for 25 tackles, three sacks, one interception and two pass deflections in two games against the Eagles. For the Eagles, there might not be a more important player on the defense than Stewart Bradley. Bradley is the emotional leader on the field and has the ability to cover tight ends and running backs. There is a reason why the Eagles defense held the Jaguars to three points with him starting and gave up 32 points to the Lions without him. His presence makes Akeem Jordan and Ernie Sims much better players. He could be the most irreplaceable Eagle.


Secondary

Asante Samuel, Nate Allen, Quintin Mikell, Ellis Hobbs, Jorrick Calvin and Joselio Hanson vs. Carlos Rodgers, LaRon Landry, Kareem Moore, DeAngelo Hall, Phillip Buchanon and Chris Horton.

Advantage: Redskins. The Redskins secondary seems to always give the Eagles problems. DeAngelo Hall made interesting statements as to why that is earlier this week. He claims that Maclin and Jackson do not like contact and he believes his physical style is what keeps them in check. Nonetheless, the problem could have been the accuracy problems of McNabb. Against the Redskins secondary, a quarterback must be extremely accurate to beat their corners of Hall and Rodgers. Both are very good players that can make plays with their athleticism and catch up speed. More importantly, the Redskins are finally using safety LaRon Landry the way he was supposed to be used. Since Shanahan has taken over the Redskins, he has employed his talented safety like the Eagles used to do with Brian Dawkins. Landry has been sent on more blitzes and is playing near the line of scrimmage. Over the first three games of the season, Landry has amassed 34 tackles, two pass deflections and a sack. Although, the Redskins could be missing their playmaking safety as he is questionable with a wrist injury. The Eagles secondary was much improved against the Jaguars last Sunday. Asante Samuel’s recorded his first interception of the season as he took a chance and stepped in front of a David Garrard pass intended for Mike Sims-Walker. Needless to say, Samuel and fellow cornerback Ellis Hobbs like to take gambles. McNabb who played in Philadelphia with the two corners knows they will jump the route if they read the quarterbacks eyes. That said, McNabb could counter this by using a pump fake and having his wide receivers use double moves. Samuel and Hobbs must be smart about when to take a gamble. If they choose incorrectly, then it might be a long touchdown pass for Washington. Besides the cornerback situation, the safety position will be tested. Quintin Mikell and Nate Allen have been good this year especially Allen who won the NFC’s defensive rookie of the month award. If the Eagles secondary can take away McNabb’s strength (which is the long ball) and force him to win the game by completing short passes then the Eagles could make this a blowout.


Special Teams:

Sav Rocca, David Akers, DeSean Jackson and Ellis Hobbs, Jorrick Calvin vs. Graham Gano, Josh Bidwell, Devin Thomas and Phillip Buchanon

Advantage. Eagles. The biggest question here is whether DeSean Jackson will return punts this week. Last week, he did not get all the opportunities to do so since teams have been kicking away from him. Additionally, the Eagles punt and kickoff coverage has been ordinary so the Redskins could break one to the house on Sunday. Still, Josh Bidwell is a mystery. The Redskins signed another punter, but now say Bidwell is OK. If his hip is not healthy then the Redskins could be in some trouble especially when if this game becomes a field position battle.


Coaching

Andy Reid vs. Mike Shanahan

Advantage: Push. This is one of the best coaching matchups in the NFC East and maybe the NFL. Shanahan is a two-time Super Bowl winner. Meanwhile Reid has won the division five times, gotten to five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. Both of these coaches know how to make their team play inspired football and beyond their potential. These are two of the better coaches in the business.




Intangibles

Advantage: Redskins. The Eagles will have homefield advantage and a crowd that could get into McNabb’s head. Nonetheless, McNabb has a giant chip on his shoulder. Publically he would never admit this, but McNabb is embarrassed that the Eagles though his skills diminished so much that they would trade him to a division rival. He is either going to come out with his hair on fire or he is going to have a horrible performance. He probably comes out hot like a frisky younger McNabb. More importantly, his teammates know the importance and what this game means to him. They will elevate their play and keep this game close until the very end.


Key Matchups:

Redskins TE Chris Cooley vs. SAM LB Akeem Jordan: Cooley has been a thorn in the Eagles side for much of his career. With a lack of weapons for McNabb, Cooley has become his favorite target. His athleticism and crisp routes makes it very hard on linebackers to keep up with him. Jordan has tremendous athleticism, but has struggled over the first three games of the season. Before last week’s demolition of the Jaguars, the Eagles defense had given up 155 receiving yards to tight ends in two games (72.5 yards per game average). Yet, Jordan and the linebackers did play his best game of the season once Stewart Bradley returned to the starting lineup. Look for the Eagles to have rookie safety Nate Allen roll over to Cooley’s side of the field if he goes past 10 yards on a route.

Redskins QB Donovan McNabb vs. Cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs: Everyone around the league knows that Samuel and Hobbs love to take gambles and jump routes. No one knows this better than their former teammate and friend Donovan McNabb. McNabb will use this trait against them. He is too smart and too good of a quarterback not to exploit a tendency of this magnitude. Samuel and Hobbs must be smart. They need to remember that an interception is only good if they actually make the play. However if they don’t then a long touchdown pass could ensue and it could be a momentum changer. All week you can bet that defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and secondary coach Dick Jauron have expressed this to them.

Eagles Red zone vs. Redskins Red zone: Entering the game, the Eagles are the best red zone team in the NFL. They have scored on seven of their last eight trips inside the red zone. Michael Vick is using his legs to create more time in the pocket and find open receivers. On the other end of the spectrum is the Redskins. They are ranked 31st in the NFL in red zone efficiency. Last week against the last place St. Louis Rams, the Redskins were 0-3 inside the 20s. This was a pressing issue when McNabb was in Philadelphia. His inaccuracy once the field gets smaller could be the difference in an Eagles victory or Eagles defeat.

Eagles WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin vs. Redskins Secondary: Another mindboggling statistic for the Redskins is that they are ranked 31st in the league in pass defense. They are giving up more than 325 yards per game through the air. Moreover, they allowed Rams rookie QB Sam Bradford to throw for 235 yards. That doesn’t seem like much, but it is pretty impressive considering his best weapon in (RB) Steven Jackson missed the entire second half. Vick is a much better quarterback than Braford is right now. He also has much better playmakers in Jackson and Maclin. Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg are not afraid to take shots down field. Over the past two weeks, Jackson has scored touchdowns on plays over 50 yards. Maclin also has the speed to burn the Redskins deep. Nonetheless, the Eagles excellent wide receiver tandem has struggled against Rodgers and Hall in previous matchups.

Eagles DEs Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Darryl Tapp and Brandon Graham vs. Jammal Brown and Trent Williams: In New Orleans, Jammal Brown was on his way to becoming one of the better tackles in the game. Unfortunately, he became injury prone and expendable. With the Redskins, he is looking to regain his form after he had surgery for a sports hernia and on his hip, which ended his 2009 campaign. Still, he (or Heyer if he is unable to go for the second consecutive week) has a tough assignment, as he must go up against on of the hottest players on the Eagles defense. (DE) Juqua Parker leads the team with four sacks and could have even more if not for the quarterback getting out of his grasp. If that is not bad enough, he rotates so he can stay fresh throughout the course of the game with first round pick Brandon Graham. Graham has a relentless motor as well. On the other side of the line, first round pick and Redskins starting left tackle Trent Williams has a much tougher job. He must slow down Trent Cole. Cole has two sacks and has over five tackles for loss this season. More importantly, Williams struggled against Mario Williams in week two. Cole could make it a long day for McNabb in his homecoming.

Eagles Pressure vs. QB Donovan McNabb: Not often does a player get mentioned twice in the key matchups section, but hey this is Donovan. McNabb knows the Eagles defensive scheme and where the blitz comes from due to being in Philly for so long. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will have to get pressure from his front four, because McNabb will audible and take a chance or check down if he sees a blitz called that he recognizes. It is vital for the Eagles to wreak havoc on McNabb using just their four-man front.

Eagles QB Michael Vick vs. Redskins Spy (Landry or Orakpo): The Redskins are not going to allow Vick to beat them with his legs. They are going to force Vick to throw from the pocket and prove he has become a much-improved passer. Orakpo and Landry are fast enough to be spies, keep Vick from breaking containment and prevent him from picking up huge chunks of yards on third down. However, the Redskins must worry about Vick getting off to a hot start in the passing game. If he is accurate like he has been over the past three games, then the Redskins are going to be in trouble. Vick looks like he is good enough to pick apart defenses with his arms, which ultimately might lead to him breaking off a long run.


Who To Play In Fantasy Football From The Matchup:

RB LeSean McCoy—86 yards, one rushing touchdown, four receptions for 42 yards

QB Michael Vick—22-35 for 287 yards, two passing touchdowns, six rushes for 57 yards and a touchdown

WR Jason Avant—five receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown

QB Donovan McNabb—23-40 for 279 yards and two passing touchdowns.

TE Chris Cooley—seven receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown

K Graham Gano—two field goals and two extra points


Who Not To Play in Fantasy Football In The Matchup:

Redskins Defense—They are going to give up points in this game. They might get four or five sacks, but the points they will give up will negate the sacks.

WR DeSean Jackson—Yes the Redskins defense gives up a ton of yards through the air. But you can rest assure that they are not going to allow DeSean Jackson to beat them this week.

TE Brent Celek—In his career, Brent Celek has not had very good games against the Redskins. With the pressure that the Redskins linebackers can bring, he will be asked to block much more on Sunday.





The Prediction: Eagles 28-20. Since week one the Redskins have regressed. During that same time, the Eagles have gotten much better especially Vick. This is a NFC East game, which means it should stay close until the fourth quarter. McNabb will come back and put on a show for the first three quarters. However, the emotional toll will affect McNabb in the fourth quarter of the game and he will be drained. He can continue to say it is just another game on the slate, but he will expend a lot of energy at the beginning of the game trying to prove Reid and the Eagles wrong. Also, the Eagles speed will really affect the Redskins defense. By shifting most of their focus to keeping Vick in the pocket and making sure Jackson doesn’t beat them deep, they will forget about Maclin, Avant and McCoy. The Eagles will prevail in the return of McNabb.

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