skins5060 Posted November 2, 2005 Share Posted November 2, 2005 http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/scouting?gameId=251106028 Why To Watch The Eagles are accustomed to being in control of the NFC East at this time of year. Instead, they find themselves in a four-way race to the playoffs that includes the Redskins. Even though it is only November, this game has playoff implications. Both teams are reeling from embarrassing losses last weekend when their usually dependable defenses were nowhere to be found. Can Donovan McNabb rebound from an awful performance in Denver? Will the Redskins come after him with the blitz and try to disrupt his timing? Will the Eagles run the ball at least a little bit? Will their defense rebound to stop Mark Brunell and company? There is a lot on the line here and both teams are concerned about where they are at -- even in November. When the Eagles have the ball Rushing: What run offense? A combination of a stout Denver run defense and an early 28-0 deficit last week led the Eagles to another lopsided day of 34 passes and only 19 runs. One thing we know by now is that if coach Andy Reid doesn't like his chances of running the ball, he is not afraid to abandon it. The Redskins were gouged by Giants RB Tiki Barber on Sunday, and their usually dependable defensive players took bad angles on run support, especially FS Sean Taylor. The Eagles offensive line does a nice job of sealing the backside, and they can exploit defenses that get caught inside and don't stay in their gaps. The challenge for the Eagles is to actually run the football enough to take advantage of this Redskins' weakness. They can run right at MLB Lemar Marshall, who struggles to get off blocks. They also can run wide with RB Brian Westbrook on some stretch and sweep plays where they attack DEs Phillip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn, who are more "chase" guys than point-of-attack run defenders. The problem for the Eagles in the run game is that because defenses don't take them seriously, they will see eight- and nine-man fronts -- not to stop the run, but instead to get pressure on QB McNabb. However, when that many guys are close to the line of scrimmage, it's tough to run the ball. Passing: The Eagles continue to utilize approximately a 70/30 pass-to-run ratio. But their passing game has become predictable and conservative. We rarely seem to see Philadelphia stretch the field. Their passing game consists of dump-offs and underneath routes, which allows defenses the luxury of sitting back and forcing the Eagles' into long drives. However, Denver used a scheme last week that we are liable to see in the future, especially from an aggressive group like Washington. The Broncos came after McNabb with an all-out blitz and played a lot of zero coverages, putting nine men in the box and playing single man-to-man coverage on the perimeter with no safety help. The Eagles could not make the adjustments and get the ball to their receivers, even though Terrell Owens had single coverage. The Washington secondary doesn't match up very well vs. the pass, and they don't' make a lot of big plays, but they are usually aggressive. McNabb must audible at the line of scrimmage and take some deep perimeter shots early vs. this defense, not only to create big plays but also to discourage the Redskins from loading up in the box and coming after him. When the Redskins have the ball Rushing: Although RB Clinton Portis struggled vs. a mediocre Giants run defense last week, this is still an effective run game. They run out of conservative formations, often featuring two tight ends and one back, and they zone block with their offensive line. Portis has really expanded his versatility in this run game. He is running more stretch plays that take advantage of his speed and explosiveness, but he also occasionally will run the counter-trey play, where he usually starts right, then cuts back left, which works well vs. aggressive and over-pursuing defenses like Philadelphia's. The key for Washington is to get MLB Jeremiah Trotter and safeties Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis either blocked or out of position. Portis has a big line to run behind, in addition to two tight ends, and this Eagles run defense gave up a whopping 255 yards on the ground vs. Denver. It's hard for the Redskins to get great blocking angles in the run game because of their conservative two-tight-end sets. Defenses can crowd the line of scrimmage and commit eight defenders to the run. That means the Eagles can play man-to-man outside vs. mostly two-receiver routes with one safety in coverage and the other safety in run support. Philadelphia will load up to take away Portis and try to force QB Mark Brunell to win the game with his arm. Passing: Although he did not look good vs. the Giants, Brunell had been very consistent before that game. Granted, he gets a lot of max-protection schemes with only two receivers running routes, which helps him avoid a lot of punishment. When Brunell does throw it, this is a safe passing game with a lot of slants and comeback routes -- and the Redskins love the "bubble screen." But all of these short passes are designed to gain yards after the catch, especially for speedster WR Santana Moss. The Redskins also use Portis as a safety valve in the passing game, but many times he is forced to stay in and pick up the blitz, a skill he is much better at than most people realize. Early success in the run game could set up good play-action opportunities, and this is an Eagles defense that bites on play fakes, takes chances and doesn't always recover. The dilemma for the Eagles is whether to come after Brunell with their patented blitz package and rattle him or to uncharacteristically sit back and force him to drive Washington the length of the field with two-man routes, which are easy to defend. Look for the Eagles to flush Brunell out of the pocket and force him to throw on the run, especially to his right. He is no longer effective when he is throwing outside the pocket. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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