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Scouts Inc. – Redskins at Philadelphia preview

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Win and in for Redskins

By Scouts, Inc.

Why To Watch

A win in Week 17 would give the Redskins their first postseason berth in six years. Standing in their way is an injury-depleted Eagles team that can't wait to put this controversy-filled and miserably disappointing 2005 season behind them. Nothing can make up for the nine losses to date, but coach Andy Reid's team would like nothing more than to enter the offseason on a positive note by keeping divisional-rival Washington out of the playoffs.

Making matters even more intriguing is the Redskins' quarterback situation. If starter Mark Brunell is unable to go, Patrick Ramsey will take over the reigns in what would be his first start since Week 1.

was_34_rf.jpgWhen the Redskins have the ball

Rushing: RB Clinton Portis has rushed for 100-plus yards in each of his last four outings. It's no coincidence that the team is undefeated during that stretch. Portis has shown terrific durability late in the season, as he has averaged nearly 26 carries during those four games. With the quarterback situation in flux, Portis will need to carry a heavy load once again this week.

The Redskins lack ideal athleticism along their offensive line, but the unit as a whole is big enough and physical enough to absolutely man-handle the Eagles' undersized and somewhat inexperienced defensive front. LDT Mike Patterson has emerged as a solid starter during his rookie campaign, but RDT Darwin Walker has not played to expectations. The unit is not getting enough penetration to disrupt the opponents' rushing attack in the backfield and also lacks the size and strength to hold its ground versus a north-south rushing attack like the Redskins'.

As such, look for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to emphasize the run early and often in this game. His massive interior trio of OC Casey Rabach and OGs Derrick Dockery and Ray Brown should be able to generate a consistent surge versus Patterson and Walker, and H-Back Chris Cooley also is an effective enough second-level blocker to help spring Portis when he gets through the line of scrimmage. In short, the closer Portis gets to 30 carries in this game, the better the Redskins' odds become of emerging victorious.

Passing: The status of Brunell is still uncertain. If Brunell doesn't play, Ramsey will take over for his first start of the year after being benched by head coach Joe Gibbs following Week 1. While the situation is not ideal in what sets up as a "must win" game for the Redskins, Ramsey's strong performance versus the Giants last week serves as a confidence builder for the fourth-year pro, his coaches and his supporting cast. Ramsey had attempted only 18 passes prior to last week's outing, but he did not look rusty. He seemed to have a solid grasp of the offense and good timing with his receivers, as he completed five of his seven attempts in the game.

Also working in Ramsey's favor is a supporting cast that should be able to consistently separate from coverage versus the Eagles' injury-riddled secondary. WR Santana Moss continues to improve as a short-to-intermediate route runner and has the speed to get over the top of LDC Sheldon Brown when left alone on an island. James Thrash and Taylor Jacobs lack similar deep-speed but are both capable of moving the chains in their matchups versus RDC Roderick Hood and nickel DC Matt Ware. The Eagles have one of the better safety tandems in the NFL with Michael Lewis and Brian Dawkins, so look for pass-catching H-Back Cooley to spend more time underneath trying to get free versus SLB Dhani Jones.

Protecting Ramsey will also be key in this game, but the Redskins are equipped to do so. The majority of Philadelphia's front-line pressure comes from the perimeter with DEs Jevon Kearse and Trent Cole, but OTs Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen should be able to hold their own in pass protection.

phi_34_rf.jpgWhen the Eagles have the ball

Rushing: The Eagles' inability to establish a consistent rushing attack is glaring. Last week seemed to be an all-time low point for this unit, as QB Mike McMahon was the leading rusher with 21 yards. The Eagles are down to rookie Ryan Moats as their starting running back, as Lamar Gordon is not expected to play again this week due to an ankle injury and both Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter are on the injured reserve list.

Moats is a short, squatty back with impressive initial burst and top-end speed. He flashed some big-play potential in two games versus the Giants and Rams, but he was completely ineffective versus a sub-par Cardinals run defense last week, when he finished with just 13 yards on nine carries. Moats' lack of size limits his ability to carry a full load, and his inexperience shows in terms of his inconsistent recognition skills and patience setting up blocks. Versus a Redskins defense that is as healthy as it has been all season and is peaking at the right time, do not expect much ground production from Moats and the Eagles.

Passing: McMahon continues to prove why he should be nothing more than a reserve quarterback in the NFL. The fifth-year pro possesses great mobility and a strong arm but is entirely too erratic as both a passer and decision maker. In six games played since he took over as a starter versus the Giants in Week 10, McMahon has completed more than 50-percent of his throws just once. He also has thrown more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (3) during that period. McMahon has a decent supporting cast with WRs Reggie Brown and Greg Lewis, RB Moats and TE L.J. Smith. However, the Redskins match up well in coverage because of the athleticism of DS Sean Taylor and the one-on-one cover skills of RDC Shawn Springs. Rookie LDC Carlos Rogers is typically the defensive back that gets targeted, but he should be able to hold up against a fellow rookie in Brown.

Overall, the Redskins pass defense has been outstanding for much of the 2005 season. The unit ranks in the bottom half of the NFL in terms of sack production (31), but it gets more pressure than the statistics would lead you to believe. DT Cornelius Griffin and DE Phillip Daniels are finally healthy at the same time and have been wreaking havoc over the last month. Against inexperienced ROG Shawn Andrews and displaced LOT Artis Hicks, respectively, expect Griffin and Daniels to provide consistent pressure in this game.

McMahon is a fine athlete who can avoid the rush and burn defenses for getting out of place. However, he also has a terrible tendency of trying to make too much happen once the initial play breaks down. If the Redskins can keep the pressure on McMahon with four- and five-man pass rushes, the erratic signal caller is destined to provide several big play opportunities for their defensive secondary.

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Well, besides the Musgrave comment, it was another solid report from the good people at Scouts.Inc.

Is Musgrave officially listed as an offensive coodinator? I know that we have created positions so Williams is the "assistant head coach" and Blanche is the "defensive coodinator". I think Buges is athe "assistant head coach", also.

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The bottom line of this assessment is that if the Redskins play the way they have for the las month (especially the last two weeks), stay focused and keep thier edge, there is no reason that they can't win this game handily.

The only intangible is QB. I feel we are better off, more stable with Brunell in there. We can still win with Ramsey, but I think it would be tougher.

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He is? He can?

Have "the Scouts" seen Mike McMahon play this year?

He is and he has. The only thing McMahon has been able to do consistently is show that he is pretty quick and can take off if you let him. It's his throwing and decisions under pressure that have been the problem.

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