The Eagles are less than 24-hours away from their first divisional showdown of the season against an Offense that could either thrive or combust against the ruthless Eagles Defense..but that’s not the only thing that the birds need to be wary of heading into tomorrow.
Tight end Jordan Reed has caused havoc for opposing Defenses this season and has continued to become a focal point of the Redskins Offense, receiving for 2 touchdowns and 316 yards. However he is officially sidelined against the Eagles, meaning it will be a massive blow to the Redskins Offense..but it doesn’t make them any less dangerous.
Filled with receiving weapons, just look at how they’re able to excel in man coverage against a very stout Ravens D. On this particular play, Cousins could have targeted any of his receivers running the vertical route with the chance of success being just as high across the board. This in itself is worrying given how one of the unified concerns in the Eagles cornerback corps is an inability to jam at the line of scrimmage.
That point in itself opens up a whole new can of worms. DeSean Jackson has proven throughout his career both in and out of Philadelphia to be a handful and the 29-year old speedster could see some more passes heading his way if Reed is out. 278 yards and a touchdown through four games is quite impressive..but being able to create so much momentum against the Ravens is just as eyebrow raising.
The Redskins Offense relies on a heavy passing attack..and for that to be successful, separation from the Washington receivers is crucial. Jackson’s lightning footwork and crisp route running caught the Ravens off-guard numerous times in zone coverage looks last week. When it comes to the more explosive receivers, the Eagles tend to lean on nickel and zone packages to have eliminate the big play..but giving DeSean Jackson room to breathe at the line can be just as damaging as it is down the field.
Jamison Crowder is another underrated weapon at Cousins’ disposal. His presence on special teams is what will draw the most attention, but the second year receiver has made life difficult for opposing corners and linebackers this season with 231 yards under his belt already. On the play below, Crowder reaps the rewards of a favorable cornerback matchup and runs a corner route over the middle into a narrow window..but one just wide enough for Cousins to sling a pass into. The focus on Garcon and Jackson often leave receivers like Crowder in extremely dangerous positions to make a play.
The Redskins are an attacking Offense in every sense of the word..deep shots and big plays are the heartbreat of the unit..but they’re not exempt from utilizing the occasional dump pass. The Ravens were expecting a big play here and left a huge pocket of space over the middle. The Eagles linebackers have come under huge fire recently, from the worrying play of Kendricks to the quieter role of Jordan Hicks..this could be a trap that the Redskins tease the Eagles into falling for with aggressive formations that look to make screen passes a replacement for an inconsistent run game that’s coming up against a stout run Defense.
Shutting down the Redskins Offense is easier said than done. Cousins has a great pocket presence and is extremely alert. His tendencies to dance around, use his legs to extend plays and get the ball out in clutch situations is impressive no matter what lens you view his play through. Here, Cousins sees pressure up the middle and takes a few steps outside, firing a pass to Garcon and more importantly moving Washington out of a sticky situation.
The way to shut it down or at least remove the spark may just be the Eagles greatest strength..rushing the passer. Suggs makes a beautiful play here to beat his man and bring Cousins down. The Redskins Offense relies on Cousins having time to scan the field and air the ball out..his rapid throwing motion almost gives him a slight advantage as he has longer to make the read. But if the Eagles can cut that time in half, collapse the pocket and force Cousins into the path of Barwin and Graham..then it takes a HUGE spark out of the Offense.
On the other hand however, the Eagles could have an offensive advantage. The Redskins Defense is split into two sections, if you will. A very stern secondary piloted by Josh Norman..and an overlooked pass rush that’s captained by Ryan Kerrigan. The West-Coast Offense thrives on short passes, which means that if the Eagles can draw pressure while eradicating Norman and company way from the middle of the field, plays just like this 15-yard to pass to Lance Dunbar.
While on the topic of schematic advantage, there are also matchup factors. 6’6 Crockett was able to make a brilliant catch inside the endzone for a Ravens touchdown last week..an Eagles receiver of a similar height is one poised for a breakout, Dorial Green-Beckham. If the Eagles are going to beat the Redskins tough Secondary, taking advantage of such expansive height advantages will be a must.
Running the ball has been a huge positive but a slight concern for the Eagles. The committee backfield has flashed at times, but is yet to be utilized fully, with Barner and Smallwood taking backseats despite a lack of consistency or efficiency on the ground from the lead backs. That might change against the Redskins, where they give up a lot of yards up the middle. A recently bulked up Kenjon Barner is averaging 6.1 yards per carry after a scintillating performance against the Steelers and his physicality may be called upon to help balance the rushing attack with the explosiveness of Ryan Mathews, causing huge problems for a Defense that concedes the 4th highest amount of rushing yards per game.
Another aspect of the Eagles Offense under the spotlight is the Offensive line. Halapoulivaati Vaitai will make his debut in place of the suspended Lane Johnson..but it’s Jason Kelce who could see the most heat. Kelce has struggled mightily so far in 2016, giving up several penalties and enduring a few miscommunications with Wentz, not to mention being beaten by much bigger Defensive tackles. The Redskins send a lot of pressure on the pass rush..and their inside linebackers are a large part of that. Kelce will have his work cut out for him on Sunday and while “Big V” will be under the microscope..it could be Kelce who has a more pivotal role to play after all.
The main factor however, will be the confidence of Carson Wentz. The rookie quarterback shouldn’t be any-less conservative against the Redskins than he was against the Lions after throwing his first interception of the season. If anything, the Eagles should be ensuring their young signal caller is more confident in taking shots down the field. While inconsistent, Nelson Agholor remains a solid route runner, while the reliability of Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz and DGB could lead to some big opportunities that Wentz shouldn’t be afraid to take. The pass below may have fallen incomplete, but the route was perfect and could have led to a huge gain for the Ravens..if the Eagles show that they aren’t afraid to air the ball out down the field, the Redskins will think carefully before stacking the box.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports