Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins: What's Washington's Game Plan?

Marcel Davis@@Mar_CelDavis24Correspondent IOctober 3, 2015

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20: Running back LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes against the Washington Redskins in the first half at FedExField on December 20, 2014 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins won, 27-24. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After falling flat on their face in front of a national audience against the New York Giants last week, the Washington Redskins will seek redemption in Week 4. 

To obtain it, they'll have to beat a Philadelphia Eagles team that's beaten them in three of the past four matchups. Making matters even more difficult, instead of getting healthier via its mini-bye week, Washington's injury tally only grew.

Going against Chip Kelly's uptempo attack, the Skins' dwindling depth couldn't have come at worst time. As we've seen early on in the 2015 campaign, though, the Eagles are more than beatable.

Question is, what game plan will Washington use to pull the upset?

Let's find out:

Offensive Game Plan

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20: Running back Alfred Morris #46 of the Washington Redskins celebrates a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first half at FedExField on December 20, 2014 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins won, 27-24. (P
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Against the Giants, Washington strayed from the run-first attack it rode to great success in Week 1 and 2. The team had 49 passes to 20 runs. As long as turnover-prone quarterback Kirk Cousins is under center, this is a recipe for disaster.

With that said, for the Redskins to avoid a similar fate in Week 4, Matt Jones and Alfred Morris will have to return to being the focal points.

On the surface, this could prove to be a difficult task for Washington.

The team will be down starting left guard Shawn Lauvao, after losing him to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 3. He played an integral part in the success Washington's had this year running up the middle. 

For the season, the team is averaging 5.3 yards a rush on runs up the middle.

Then there's the Eagles' run defense. It's holding opponents to 3.1 yards a carry. 

Fortunately, fatigue is the name of the game here. It's the weakness of every defense, especially one conjoined with Kelly's uptempo offense.

Kelly's attack not only tires out the defense of his opponent, but his own. A byproduct of Kelly's no-huddle offense, the Philly defense on average spends 35 minutes of game time on the field per game.

With the Eagles' depth dwindling behind injuries to linebackers Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks, in addition to defensive end Cedric Thornton, a Washington team fully committed to the run will find running lanes easier to come by in the latter stages of this contest.

Defensive Game Plan

Let Week 3 serve as a blueprint for what not to do on defense for the Redskins. Taking advantage of an ultra-conservative defense, Eli Manning put on an aerial show.

Attacking the large cushion Redskins defensive backs were giving his receivers, Manning, a career 59 percent passer, completed over 71 percent of his attempts. A direct result of his targets getting clean releases, Manning wasn't sacked and he was hit just twice.

With Sam Bradford rolling into D.C., this has to change. For starters, the short passing game is his comfort zone. 

According to Sporting Charts, Bradford's passes on average travel just 1.8 yards through the air. Bested only by Drew Brees, 68 percent of his passing yards are generated after the catch.

Force him to stretch the field, though, and Bradford falls to pieces. On passes thrown 10-plus yards past the line of scrimmage, per ESPN.com, he has three interceptions, zero touchdowns and completes just 35 percent of his passes.

Believe it or not, he's just as bad on third downs. Bradford has completed just 11 of 29 throws on third down in 2015.

With Bradford's ability to attack their defense downfield questionable at best, the Redskins can center their focus on stopping the run. By handcuffing the Philly running game, the team can force Bradford to beat it.

Key Players and Matchups

CB Chris Culliver vs. WR Jordan Matthews

Sep 24, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) is tackled by Washington Redskins defensive back Chris Culliver (29) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

No Justin Rogers. No DeAngelo Hall. To say Washington needs Chris Culliver would be an understatement.

In the event his knee injury keeps him from playing, the Skins will have to turn to either Will Blackmon or Quinton Dunbar to flank Bashaud Breeland.

Not very enticing, right?

Fortunately, head coach Jay Gruden is fairly optimistic Culliver will play, per ESPN's John Keim. That's just half the battle, though.

Jordan Matthews is on the docket this week, meaning Culliver will have to be on top of his game. A capable receiver on the outside and in the slot, Matthews has emerged as Bradford's favorite receiver.

He leads the team with 22 receptions, 12 of which went for first downs. While capable from a talent perspective, if you're defensive coordinator Joe Barry, the likes of Riley Cooper, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz have to beat you, not Matthews.

Washington Back Seven vs. Eagles Running Backs

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Picking up the slack of the team's underachieving receiving core, Philly's running backs have at times carried its passing attack.

Darren Sproles, DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews are second, third and fifth on the team in receptions, respectively. Overall, the trio is responsible for a cool third of Bradford's 678 passing yards.

Because these backs are used out of the backfield and flanked out wide, both Washington's defensive backs and linebackers will see time covering them.

With three of Philly's seven 20-plus yard gains in the passing game coming out of the backfield, it'll be important for the Skins to swarm to the ball to limit big plays.

WR Pierre Garcon vs. CB Byron Maxwell

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Jordan Reed without a doubt has been Cousins' most reliable weapon in the passing game. Thing is, at roughly 44 yards a game, tight ends haven't found success against the Eagles' defense in 2015, per Football Outsiders.

Taking into account his performance last year against Philly, though, 44 yards would be quite the improvement for Reed. In Week 16, he had all of five yards on two receptions. 

Keeping this in mind, the onus will be on Pierre Garcon to step up to the plate. 

While the opportunities have been there (27 targets), Garcon's production has again been middling this season. He's averaging just 9.5 yards per reception in 2015.

Lucky for him, Byron Maxwell could be the elixir to his early struggles. As SB Nation's Jacson Bevens notes, Maxwell has struggled without the backing of the Legion of Boom:

Meanwhile, in Philly, Byron Maxwell's been targeted 25 times, allowing 84% completion rate for 315 yards, 2 TDs and a passer rating of 145.4

— Jacson the Merciful (@JacsonBevens) October 2, 2015

Sure to draw one-on-one coverage as Philly concentrates on stopping the run, Garcon needs to exploit this matchup and churn out big plays. 


As NFL.com's Ian Rapoport notes, Hurricane Joaquin won't alter the schedule of this contest.

Know this, though: In the aftermath of this storm, the playoff hopes of one of these teams will be destroyed. 

And that team will be Washington. A strong defense and running game does play well in poor weather. And the Skins have that. Or, rather, they did.

Injuries along the offensive line and across the defense has the team in a weakened state. Particularly in the secondary, Washington is vulnerable. Sporting several playmakers that thrive in the open field, Philadelphia is bound to find a matchup to its liking.

Against a Redskins team that has to manufacture long drives to score, this gives the Eagles a considerable edge.

Following last season's script, this game will go down to the wire, with Washington falling at home this time.

Final Score: Eagles 20, Redskins 16


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