Week 17 Keys to the Game: Washington Redskins vs Philadelphia Eagles
With the last game of the regular season upon them, the Washington Redskins find themselves heading into another offseason without a playoff appearance, and a plethora of off the field issues to sort out. With the release of Pro Bowl alternate safety DJ Swearinger due to his recent public criticism of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, and the arrest of safety Monte Nicholson, the Redskins find themselves down at that position. It seems like the Redskin organization just “can’t get right” when it comes to keeping business in-house, and staying drama free. I’m not going to focus on that though. I’m going to do exactly what the Redskin players and coaches should be doing and that’s focus on what they need to do in order to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles today at FedEx Field.
The Washington Redskins go into this week’s game fresh off a devastating loss to the Tennessee Titans that eliminated them from playoff contention. At 7-8, they look to salvage yet another disappointing season under Jay Gruden’s leadership by finishing with a win to go 8-8, and a chance to take some much needed positive energy into this offseason. The Redskins also have the opportunity to play spoiler as the Philadelphia Eagles still have a chance to win the last Wild Card slot with a victory over the Redskins, and a Minnesota Viking loss to the Chicago Bears. If the Redskins are able to defeat the Eagles, it will destroy any chance and effectively eliminate the Eagles from playoff consideration. The Redskins will be starting Josh Johnson at quarterback who struggled last week to close out a victory over the Titans by throwing two interceptions on his last two drives. The Eagles will once again send defending Super Bowl quarterback Nick Foles out to recreate last season’s heroics by leading them to the playoffs and providing them with a chance to defend their title.
The Washington Redskins did some good things last week offensively as far as moving the football, and controlling the pace of the game. Even in a loss, it was one of the better games I have seen Jay Gruden call from an offensive perspective. Still, they were only able to muster 16 points for the third game in a row and that’s just not enough points to win in the National Football League. This week against the Eagles, just like every other week, the Redskins will be short-handed on the offensive line, and at the skills positions. On a “high note”, they will receive the services of running back Samaje Perine as he returns from injury...for the last game...with nothing to play for (please insert sarcastic saying or emojis here). Redskin running back Adrian Peterson looks to be running with the same ferocity in week 17 as he was in week 1. The guy is a freak of nature at age 33, and if the Redskins are going to win this week, he needs to continue to be the focal point of their attack.
Last week, we saw the Redskins show some formations where Chris Thompson and Byron Marshall were on the field at the same time. This week, it would be nice to see Peterson and Thompson on the field at the same time so the defense cannot key on either one of them in first and second down situations. It only makes sense with the shortage of offensive weapons, and a quarterback still adjusting to a new system. Even with the Redskins at full strength offensively, I’m not exactly sure why they wouldn’t find ways to get their best players on the field at the same time, but I digress. Wide receiver Josh Doctson returned last week from a concussion and looks to be poised to play in the final game of this regular season as well despite not practicing due to an illness. Doctson has stayed fairly healthy this year compared to the rest of the wide receiver corps, and has seemingly continued to improve and gain confidence this season. The Redskins should look to feature him in the passing game as tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis will once again be out, and wide receiver Maurice Harris has been added to the injured list and will be unable to play.
The Redskin attack against the Eagles will need to include a heavy dose of AP, and a passing game that consist of plenty of play action and rollouts to get Josh Johnson on the edge and provide him with run/pass options. The Redskins will need to do all they can to neutralize the Eagles pass rush, and to expose their defensive backs. The Eagles are solid overall defensively if you allow them to put you in 2nd and 3rd and long situations. Their defensive line feasts off of that. It will be vital for the Redskins to be disciplined and not acquire pre-snap penalties, and holding calls to put them behind the sticks like they have done entirely too much in previous weeks. They need to run underneath routes with wide receiver Jamison Crowder and some quick outs on first down to create some 2nd and short yardage situations. This will allow the Redskins to have play-call options, and keep the defense on their heels. If the Redskins are able to use ball control, and don’t turn the football over, they will put themselves in position to win this game as they have done in the last couple of weeks. They just have to finish and hope that a little luck is on their side.
Defensively, the Washington Redskins will be without the services of their defensive leader safety DJ Swearinger as he was unceremoniously released on Christmas Eve after he publicly criticized Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky. After a meeting with head coach Jay Gruden, the Redskins decided to part ways with their best playmaker on defense. The positive thing is that the Redskins have Monte Nicholson as his backup, and he has NFL starting experience...oh wait, he was arrested so he won’t be available either. Great. Deshazor Everett, who has done some good things at times during his Redskin tenure, will most likely get the start in his place at safety alongside Ha-Ha Clinton Dix. The Philadelphia Eagles will look to attack the Redskins from every aspect by throwing screens to the wide receivers and running backs namely Darren Sproles, and they will attack the middle of the field using tight end Zack Ertz who recently broke the record for most receptions in a season by a tight end in NFL history. Look for him to have a big game as the Redskins have no one to match up with him under any circumstance especially after the departure of DJ Swearinger.
The Redskins defensively will need to play zone pretty much the entire game and just mix up the types of fronts and coverages they use in an effort to confuse quarterback Nick Foles as much as possible. If nothing else, just to make him think a little bit, and cause him to hold onto the football a little longer allowing the Redskin defensive line and linebackers to get to him. The defensive line, and blitz packages this week will dictate whether the Redskins get ran off of the field, or are able to stifle the Eagles offense. No pressure will equal no contest as the Eagles will be allowed to pick the Redskins apart in the secondary. If they can get some penetration from the defensive line, and cause a couple of turnovers, this game will get interesting down the stretch, and will be closer than most think. The important thing will be to control what they can control and that’s executing what defense is called and being fundamentally sound. Someone catches the football, tackle him. Don’t go offsides unless you see the ball move or the offensive player in front of you. Communicate in the secondary. Linebackers, understand gap responsibility and put people in the right places. If the defense was focused on football this week at practice, and not on off the field issues, they will make a great effort, and at the very least compete. If they feel sorry for themselves, best believe wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Algholor will happily take full advantage and put this Redskin season to rest emphatically.
The Washington Redskins can look at this game one of two ways: as an opportunity to win and take some positive energy into this offseason and build on it, or as a chance to get the season over with and get put out of their misery once and for all. Conventional wisdom says the latter most likely will transgress, but they have a chance to prove they aim to compete, and that they have some fortitude. If you’re a Redskins fan, you most likely have mixed emotions going into this season finale. The Redskins have a chance to send the Eagles home and destroy their playoff hopes, and you would think there wasn’t a Redskin fan in the city that would be disappointed about that. Well, not any Redskin fan except the one that doesn’t want to see former Redskin quarterback Kirk Cousins get an opportunity to play in the playoffs with his new team while the Redskins sit at home and spectate. If the Redskins control the time of possession, don’t turn the ball over, and win the field position battle, they will be there at the end with an opportunity to win. The Redskins have proven they are unable to score 20 plus points, so they will need to win this one in a low scoring affair, and they will do just that. Redskins will finish 8-8, and knock the Eagles out of the playoffs by the score of 20-17. As you were...