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Week 13 Keys to the Game: Washington Redskins vs Philadelphia Eagles

The Washington Redskins are currently on the outside looking in regarding the current NFC playoff picture as a result of their Thanksgiving Day loss to the Dallas Cowboys. That loss and another Dallas victory against the New Orleans Saints has put them in second place in the NFC East as they face the Philadelphia Eagles this week on Monday Night Football. Philadelphia is 5-6, and coming off a tough division victory against the New York Giants last week. The Eagles despite their record are still numerically alive for a NFC Wildcard spot, and with a win this week will be only one game out of the division lead with four games remaining. The Washington Redskins have lost two games in a row for the first time this season, but look to right their wrongs against the Eagles in an important divisional road game in a hostile environment.

With five games left for the Redskins, three of which being division games, they are still very much in the thick of the NFC playoff scramble. That said, the Redskins do not want to drop their third game in a row this week and create a steeper climb going down the stretch. A win this week helps them keep pace and puts them in prime position to finish strong this last quarter of the season. The Redskins will have had 11 days to prepare for this battle against the Eagles and hopefully spent some of that time going back to the drawing board. Washington also has had some time to allow a few players that have been banged up to recover and heal going into this game. They will need every available weapon offensively and defensively this week against an Eagle squad that is attempting to make a strong late season push with no room for error.

The Redskin offense this week faces an Eagles’ defense that is fairly solid across the board, and that flies to the football well. The Eagles have shown some vulnerability in the secondary, and may have some issues matching up with Redskin tight end Jordan Reed. Jordan Reed should be the focal point of the offensive game plan for the Washington Redskins. They will need to continue to move him around and target him often. Reed is a matchup nightmare for the Eagles linebackers and defensive backs because he can run routes like a receiver against linebackers, but uses his size well against defensive backs. The Redskin offense will be led once again by Colt McCoy who will have the benefit of having a full week of practice running Jay Gruden’s offense. Wide Receiver Josh Doctson has continued to improve as the season has gone on, and looks to be gaining the trust of not only his new quarterback, but of the offensive coaching staff as they are calling more plays for him, and targeting him more often. Doctson’s athleticism separates him from the rest of the wide receivers on this roster. The Redskins should look to utilize that advantage as there are few cornerbacks that can jump with him; especially in the redzone.

Running back Adrian Peterson will be Colt McCoy’s security blanket in the running game, but just like Dallas did last week, the Eagles will look to load the box and disallow any running lanes forcing McCoy to beat them throwing the football. Redskin running back Chris Thompson, who has only played in one of the Redskins last seven games, will hopefully be available this Monday night. He provides a more dynamic option on 2nd and 3rd downs in the receiving and running game. If Thompson is able to play, it will help McCoy out tremendously in situations when he may need a secondary option or needs to pick up a quick six or seven yards. Thompson is the one player on the offense that is a threat to score whenever he touches the football, so the Eagles will have to account for him at all times.

The Redskin offensive line struggled in their last outing and will look to improve off that performance. Another week playing together will hopefully help with the cohesiveness and communication up front with all the injuries they have endured. Much like last week, the Redskins may need to pass in order to run with the Eagles most likely playing the majority of their defenders close to the line of scrimmage in an effort to stop Adrian Peterson. If they are able to stretch the field early, and force the Eagles to defend sideline to sideline, there will be some natural running lanes created as a result. The Redskins can’t abandon the running game completely and expect Colt to be Aaron Rodgers, but they can call the game in a manner that keeps the Eagles honest and on their heels. Passive play calling won’t get it done offensively, and the Redskin coaching staff will have to make that adjustment if they plan on being able to score enough points to stay in this football game.

This week, the Redskin defense should be angry. They should be anxious and ready to be unleashed on Monday night. After that embarrassing performance in the second half on Thanksgiving that made Redskin fans want to regurgitate their turkey, they have a lot to prove. This defense has been inconsistent in recent weeks and has not been the dominant unit they anticipated they would become by this juncture of the season. Instead, they have regressed, and will need to figure out how to turn things around immediately because while the Redskin defense is faltering, the Eagle offense is remembering how to win football games again.

Defensively, they are not being defeated schematically, but rather by neglecting fundamentals. When you continually make a lot of mental mistakes, good teams will turn those mental errors into touchdowns and big gains. Penalties, not recognizing down and distance, not understanding your responsibility and executing it, and poor tackling will destroy you as a defensive unit, and it deflates you as a team. The Redskins hope they have gotten that out of their system going forward, and look to get back to what they do: dominate the line of scrimmage and cause turnovers. The Redskin defense are facing an offense that shouldn’t scare them personnel wise, but efficiency wise they have to be detailed in order to stop them. Eagle quarterback Carson Wentz is cerebral in his attack, and will lure you to sleep taking what the defense gives, but will then beat you right over the top when your defensive backs least expect it. The Redskin defensive line will need to spend the majority of the game in the Eagle backfield, and Wentz will need to spend the majority of the game on his back in order to prevent him from spreading the ball around establishing offensive rhythm.

The Eagles are a rhythm team, and when they get going, they are tough to stop. The Redskins will need to find an answer for tight end Zach Ertz who is on pace to exceed 100 catches and well over 1,000 yards receiving (84 catches 895 yards currently). The Redskin linebackers and safeties are not equipped to cover Ertz one on one, but defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will most likely have him bracketed all over the field. The Redskin defensive line will have a lot to say about the outcome of this game. They need to be disruptive, and make the first tackle. Linebackers, run to the football and be smart while communicating constantly; don’t over-pursue, and attack the running lanes downhill. Defensive backs, stay disciplined in your coverages, and don’t try to be a hero. Outside linebackers, set the edge and keep your outside leverage while collapsing the pocket. The Redskin defense doesn’t need to “reinvent the wheel”. If everyone defensively does THEIR JOB, the Redskin defense will be right back to their physical and free flowing play. If they understand the Eagle tendencies, and use them against them, this will be a long day for the Eagle offense.

The Redskins will need to win the field position battle this week largely based on the efforts of punter Tress Way. His ability to flip the field continues to get the Redskins out of some tough situations, and has made life on opposing offenses rough. In addition, the Redskins lost the turnover battle last week which is something they are unaccustomed to doing. They will have to protect the football against a team that would love the chance to strike quickly after turnovers. Colt McCoy will take some chances, but he needs to pick his spots accordingly. The Philadelphia Eagles are approaching this game as a must win and the Redskins should be doing the same. This game is going to come down to who is better prepared, and who is able to execute their game-plan the best. There is nothing better than an NFC East divisional game in December that means something for both teams. The Redskins walk into Philly and and leave with a 23-20 victory thanks to the defense’s ability to make some plays late in the game to close it out.

As you were...

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