Redskins vs. Eagles: Sketching out a Game Plan for Washington

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 21, 2012

Dec 16, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) before a game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Redskins won 38-21. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time all season—and in several years, really—the Washington Redskins have a lot to lose. The Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, have nothing left to lose. 

That scares me, because we've never seen this young Redskins team in a spot in which they're expected to succeed. And considering that this Philadelphia team finished last season 4-0 with essentially nothing on the line, Washington's hands could be fuller than expected Sunday.

Here's what the 'Skins have to do to win:


Let Alfred Morris set the tone

I've been beating this drum for weeks and the Redskins have been listening. Either that, or it's just a coincidence that we see eye to eye on the right way to run this offense. Even though it'll be tempting to attack Philadelphia's struggling corners through the air often, the 'Skins can't afford to expose Robert Griffin III like that.

Griffin's expected to start after missing one week due to a knee injury, but this strategy applies regardless of who quarterbacks the 'Skins in Philly. Brandon Graham is red-hot coming off the edge for the Eagles, and Washington's offensive line is in bad shape with Will Montgomery and Tyler Polumbus both banged up. They have to run first and let Morris go to work against an undersized front seven that's had tackling issues.

Philly has given up at least 123 rushing yards in eight of its last 10 games and only six defenses have surrendered more yards on the ground since Week 5. Washington has had at least 122 rushing yards in each of the last six weeks, and Morris is the league's third-leading rusher. 

Griffin attempted only 15 passes when the Redskins beat the Eagles 31-6 earlier this season, with Morris grinding out 76 yards on 20 carries. Philadelphia might be expecting that again, but that doesn't mean it has the defensive personnel to stop it.

The Redskins' primary goal should be to let Philly make mistakes on offense and avoid making their own mistakes when they possess the ball. Considering Griffin's health and his fumble habit, as well as the fact that the Eagles have nothing to lose defensively, the key to avoiding those mistakes will be to pound it with Morris.


Come at Nick Foles often

The Redskins have basically gone big rather than going home on defense. They're shorthanded and the secondary's a mess, so they've been dialing it up in new and unique ways. And while Foles has a hell of an arm, he simply doesn't have the experience or the support to burn the 'Skins consistently if they bring extra pass-rushers.

Foles was sacked six times in last week's loss to the Bengals. And while Cincinnati's pass rush has been the most productive in the league this season, the Redskins have still been able to generate a decent amount of heat during their five-game winning streak. 

Against the Cowboys in Week 12, they blitzed Tony Romo a ridiculous 26 times. And while Romo did connect on a deep ball against one of those blitzes, he was held in check while being roughed up for much of the day. The Cowboys were forced to check down a lot in that game, with Romo averaging only 5.8 yards per attempt against the blitz despite completing 66.7 percent of the passes he threw with extra rushers coming (according to Pro Football Focus).

With deep threat DeSean Jackson and both regular starting offensive tackles out for Philly, Foles won't have time to hit many home runs if the Redskins keep sending Ryan Kerrigan, Rob Jackson and Perry Riley, as well as the odd defensive back. 

Last week against the Bengals, Foles completed only 3-of-9 passes and fumbled when facing blitzes. Worst case, the Redskins get beat once or twice and force a lot of checkdowns. Best case, they force Foles and the league's turnover leader into making the types of mistakes that have killed them all season long. 

This strategy will make Washington somewhat vulnerable against the run, but when you're this unhealthy you have to pick your poison. Bryce Brown has struggled the last two weeks and LeSean McCoy is coming back from a concussion. I don't think either back will be a difference-maker.