Eagles at Redskins: 10 Keys to the Game for Philadelphia
The 3-6 Philadelphia Eagles have lost five consecutive games heading into their Sunday matchup with the Washington Redskins. The losing streak equals the longest the Birds have had under Andy Reid, and the Eagles need a boost to get their season back on track.
A loss in this game would all but eliminate the Eagles from the playoffs, as no 9-7 team has ever qualified for the postseason since the expansion to the 16-game schedule back in 1978. A win means that making the playoffs would still be a ridiculously uphill battle, but it would be a start for the Eagles, who have lost their last two games, each by two scores.
The Eagles will be going with rookie third-round quarterback, Nick Foles, in a battle of first year signal-callers. Keeping Foles’ role to a minimum is just one of the many ways the Eagles can emerge as winners.
Minimize the Role of Nick Foles
Nick Foles didn’t enter last week’s game until midway through the second quarter, but he still threw the football 32 times. That projects to nearly 50 attempts for an entire game, and that’s a ridiculous number for a rookie quarterback thrust into action.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ game plan should be to minimize the importance of Foles as the quarterback. Frequent checkdowns and screen passes should suffice, as would a heavy dose of LeSean McCoy on the ground.
Start Brandon Graham
Brandon Graham has done nothing this year but generate constant pressure on the opposing quarterback. He’s still listed as a backup on the depth chart although Graham is a significantly better all-around player than Jason Babin.
Graham has registered four quarterback hits and 12 pressures in just 156 snaps. Compare that to Trent Cole (10 hits and 18 pressures in 411 snaps) or Babin (eight hits and 13 pressures in 371 snaps).
It’s time for Graham to get 50-60 snaps against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.
Give LeSean McCoy 25-30 Carries
LeSean McCoy is a tremendous running back who has played very well this season despite an awful offensive line. His head coach has underutilized him on many occasions in 2012, but look for McCoy to get more carries with Nick Foles starting at quarterback.
McCoy has the ability to handle a full workload at running back. He carried the ball 28 times in a win at Washington last year, and Andy Reid would be wise to give McCoy the ball just as many times on Sunday.
The Eagles are 3-0 this year when McCoy carries 20 or more times and 0-6 when he doesn’t. In his career, they’ve never lost a game in which he’s gotten 25 carries, and they’re 10-1 when he gets at least 20 rushes.
Contain Robert Griffin III
The Philadelphia Eagles have never faced Robert Griffin III. In fact, this defense hasn’t faced many of the league’s young, mobile quarterbacks.
The team hasn’t played Cam Newton yet. They haven’t opposed Josh Freeman since he was a rookie. And they’ve never gone up against Russell Wilson.
RGIII is the best of the bunch as a runner, and he’s extremely efficient as a passer too. RGIII could take over the game with his arms and his legs, a la Michael Vick against the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football in 2010. Realistically, RGIII probably won’t be that good, but the Eagles better keep a spy on him all game, or he could win this one himself.
Win the Turnover Battle
Since Week 1 of the 2012 season, the Philadelphia Eagles have forced a grand total of six turnovers in eight games. They’ve gone three straight contests to date (all under Todd Bowles) without an interception.
That can’t happen against Washington if the Eagles want to win the game. Robert Griffin III doesn’t turn the ball over a lot, but the Eagles need to force a couple of turnovers while protecting the ball themselves.
No Stupid Plays
Teams that are 3-6 make stupid mistakes like throwing the ball forward on a trick-play kick return. They get called for a lot of penalties, and they have to burn timeouts because the players don’t know to get on the field for the right plays.
The Philadelphia Eagles can’t afford to have any mental blunders against the Washington Redskins. The Eagles has lost five straight games, and they’re playing a quarterback with the ability to carry his team to a win.
The Eagles need to do their part and play smart, sound, fundamental football.
Win Special Teams Battle
The Philadelphia Eagles special teams can’t afford to keep playing like they did in the loss to the Dallas Cowboys loss. In that game, the Eagles were torched for a long punt return touchdown and missed an extra point.
The Eagles possess the NFL’s 28th-rated kick return unit and 26th-rated punt return team. In coverage, they’re tied for 28th and 30th, respectively.
The Eagles need to contain the Washington Redskins’ return game, convert every field goal and maybe get a nice return of their own.
A Little Bit of Luck
The Philadelphia Eagles haven’t played good football in 2012, but they also haven’t been very lucky.
Whether it’s an unfortunate bounce like the one against Arizona or a bobble right into the arms of a Dallas defensive back for a pick-six, the breaks simply haven't gone the team's way.
The Eagles are due.
They’ve forced 11 fumbles on defense this season. Conventional statistics suggest the Eagles should recover exactly half; instead they've recovered just three. On offense, they’re one of only two teams that have had two fumbles returned for scores.
It’s high time the Eagles catch a break or two.
Use an Extra Blocker Next to Demetress Bell
The Philadelphia Eagles really have no other solutions with their offensive line at this point in the season. Three expected starters are on injured reserve and right guard Danny Watkins is well on his way to being a bust.
That forces unqualified players like King Dunlap, Dallas Reynolds and Demetress Bell into the starting line. Bell, in particular, has been extremely subpar this season. He’s already one of the worst free-agent signings of the Andy Reid Era.
Bell is good for a sack or two allowed per game, as well as a couple of penalties. The Eagles have heavily utilized either Brent Celek and Clay Harbor as an extra blocker next to Bell, and it would be wise that they continue doing so against the Washington Redskins.
Convert Red-Zone Opportunities
When the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football, it was largely because of their red-zone struggles.
The Eagles offense got inside the Saints’ 20-yard line five times and came away with just a pair of field goals, no touchdowns and they turned the ball over once (a long interception return for a score).
The Eagles need to capitalize against the Redskins, as Washington has one of the worst defenses in the league, ranking 27th in scoring defense and 28th in total defense. They are also dead last in touchdown passes allowed.
It’s time that the Eagles turn the field goals into touchdowns.