Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins: Full Washington Game Preview
With both at 1-2, the loser of this contest will occupy the cellar of the division at the quarter pole. In the case of the Skins, such an outcome would be devastating.
Under the stewardship of general manager Scot McCloughan, Washington has looked vastly improved on the field in 2015. In the bottom third of the league in total defense a season ago, the team enters this contest with the NFL's No.2-ranked unit.
It's the standings that matter, though. Improved or not, a 1-3 start—exacerbated by the fact it had three home games—would leave the team's playoff-starved fanbase little reason to be optimistic.
While a possible fate, this outcome is not yet written in stone.
With that said, let's gauge the Redskins' chances of pulling the upset. Here is the Week 4 preview for Washington.
Location: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
Time: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday
Week 3 Results and Recap
|New York Giants||1||2||1-1||0-1||1-1||1-2||78||72||+6||W1|
Oh, what could've been. The Redskins entered Week 3 with a shot to thrust themselves into the NFC East race. A win over the New York Giants would've put the team alone in second place, with an outside shot at first had the Dallas Cowboys lost.
Dallas did its part by losing to the Atlanta Falcons, but Washington came up short in a 32-21 defeat. Kirk Cousins and the defense did particularly poorly.
With the Redskins running game struggling to get on track, the ball was placed in Cousins' hands. And as he's done throughout his time in the NFL, he shared it with the defense.
He was forced to throw 49 times, which resulted in two interceptions. Moving to Washington's own defense, it couldn't solve Eli Manning.
Manning played turnover-free football, throwing for 279 yards and two touchdowns. Unaffected by the Skins pass rush—he wasn't sacked and was hit just twice—Manning completed over 71 percent of his passes.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle stood as his main targets. The duo caught 14 balls between them for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
As a result of this defeat, in order to avoid falling to dead last in the division, the team will have to defeat an Eagles squad it's lost to in three of their past four matchups.
News and Notes
Welcome, Mason Foster
With the totality of the team's injuries taking its toll, Washington dipped into the free-agent market to reinforce its roster.
In the aftermath of Perry Riley's lingering calf injury, the team's depth at inside linebacker is shot. Will Compton, Keenan Robinson and rookie Terrance Plummer are all who remain.
Enter Foster. While his special teams experience is limited, he provides the team valuable insurance on defense. Prior to an injury-marred 2014 campaign with the Bears, Foster was a four-year starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Taking into account Riley's current injury situation, Compton's limited starting experience and Robinson's injury history, Foster is a great get for the team.
And the hits keep on coming. Just three games into the 2015 season, the Redskins have already placed nine players on injured reserve.
The new additions this week are Shawn Lauvao and Justin Rogers, per Mike Jones of the Washington Post. Merely a fourth corner now that Bashaud Breeland and Chris Culliver have returned from suspension, Rogers' place here doesn't have dire consequences for the team.
One can't say the same about Lauvao, though. He was a fixture up front along Washington's much-improved offensive line. Washington isn't short on guards with Josh LeRibeus, Spencer Long and rookie Arie Kouandjio also on the roster.
But knowing the Redskins averaged 5.1 yards per carry on runs to the left, according to ESPN Stats & Information (h/t ESPN's John Keim), it's evident his absence will be felt.
DeAngelo Hall isn't the only regular on Washington's injury report (DeSean Jackson), but his place here is the most concerning.
Coming off two surgeries on his Achilles, Hall has been hampered by lower extremity injuries since his return. The latest was a non-contact toe injury against the Giants. He'll miss the next three to four weeks.
While top heavy with Breeland and Culliver at cornerback, Washington is lacking quality depth at corner. Following the release of David Amerson and Rogers' transition to injured reserve, Will Blackmon and Quinton Dunbar are the next men up.
Considering Blackmon was signed off the street just two weeks ago, and Dunbar is new to the position (formerly a receiver), Hall's absence looms large going forward.
Washington Secondary vs. QB Sam Bradford
Consider Manning's choice of attack against the Redskins secondary as a precursor of things to come in Week 4.
While he did attack deep late in the game, Manning made his living attacking Washington's secondary with underneath routes.
Quickly releasing the football, Manning negated the Skins pass rush and made their secondary pay for playing so far off New York receivers.
Knowing Sam Bradford's history, Washington can expect much of the same this week.
With the Eagles lacking the dynamic deep threat they've possessed in years past, the Redskins secondary's best bet is to play up on Philly's receivers and dare Bradford to make plays down the field.
Redskins Defensive Line vs. Eagles Running Game
In Philly's Week 3 victory over the New York Jets, the running game was central to the team's success. This is no coincidence. By churning out 123 yards on 39 carries, the Eagles were able to wear on the Jets defense, as well as give their own time to rest.
Throughout Chip Kelly's tenure, this has been a formula for success. Kelly's teams have ranked fourth and seventh in rushing attempts his two years in charge.
It remains to be seen which running back will take center stage in this matchup (Ryan Matthews or DeMarco Murray), but stopping the running game as a whole will be Washington's chief task in this one.
Fortunately, this happens to be its defense's forte. The Redskins sport the NFL's third-ranked rushing defense. Absent a viable running game, Philly would be vulnerable to Washington's pass rush.
Down key players in the secondary, the team can't enable the Eagles to find any semblance of balance on offense.
Washington vs. RB Darren Sproles
Darren Sproles is a threat to score whenever he touches the ball—just ask the Jets. As such, it'll take a team effort from Washington to neutralize him.
Similar to the tactic used against Tavon Austin and the St. Louis Rams, it'll be important for Tress Way to limit his opportunities as a return man. With Way sacrificing distance for hang time on punts, in addition to kicking out of bounds, Austin was unable to return any punts.
Moving to defense, it'll be important for the Redskins to swarm to the football, as Sproles makes the first defender miss on the regular.
Additionally, when flexed out wide, Sproles needs to be matched up with a defensive back. Time and time again, he's exposed linebackers in one-on-one coverage.
He'll garner such matchups coming out of the backfield. But in such scenarios, it'll be important for the likes of Keenan Robinson and Will Compton to keep Sproles from getting behind the defense via wheel routes.
Redskins X-Factor: RB Matt Jones/Alfred Morris
Who drives the train among this duo is irrelevant—just as long as one of them is carrying the Washington offense.
It's something we already knew, but Week 3 further validated that in Cousins, we can't trust. Let's face it—without the aid of a strong running game, turnovers are inevitable with him.
In light of this fact, the onus will be on Alfred Morris and Matt Jones to recapture the form they displayed the first two weeks of the season, when both backs posted 100-yard outings.
Down Lauvao up front and opposed by Philly's ninth-ranked rushing defense, this won't be an easy task. What's in Washington's favor, though, is the Eagles' inclination to run an uptempo attack on offense.
Their quick-strike attack leads to glaring disparities in time of possession for their offense and defense. Knowing this full and well, it'll be important for the Redskins to stick with the running game even in the aftermath of negative gains.
The reason being, as fatigue mounts, the Eagles will be more susceptible to the run.
Prediction: Eagles 20, Redskins 16
Through three games, there's little doubt which team has looked more impressive. Even in victory, the Eagles were unable to sustain two solid halves of football together, as they were shut out in the second half.
While Washington flunked its test on the national stage, it's been by far the more consistent team in 2015.
It's also been consistently hampered by injury. With that said, consider this an instance of being at the right place at the wrong time.
Behind an overpowering offensive line and healthy defense, while at home, the Redskins win this matchup. Too bad they're missing two of the three.
The Eagles' offensive weapons have underwhelmed much of the year, but in light of Washington's injury situation in the secondary, they're bound to find a matchup to their liking.
With Bradford getting the ball out too quickly, for a second consecutive week, the Redskins pass rush won't be able to come to the back end's rescue.
Following last season's script, this game will go down to the wire, with Washington falling at home this time.