Monday Night Football is almost upon us and with it comes another divisional clash between the Eagles and Redskins. Philadelphia left FedEx Field as the victors in week one, but to do so this weekend they will need some big production from their linebackers.
Jordan Hicks suffered a calf injury in the week 6 win over Carolina which forced both Nigel Bradham and Michael Kendricks into big games. The duo combined for a total of 27 tackles and helped stagnate the Carolina rushing attack with the exception of some rogue runs from Cam Newton. This week, they face a quarterback who may not possess that mobility and an offense that has suffered some big hits on the outside…but that only adds to their task.
The two leading Redskins receivers are running back Chris Thompson and veteran tight end Vernon Davis. Terrelle Pryor has been explosive in doses, but the star of the show has been the team’s leading rusher.
Last week, Thompson only rushed for 33 yards, but turned four receptions into 105 yards. Over the last few seasons, one of Philly’s biggest defensive weaknesses has been their ability to cover running backs out of the backfield. With Thompson’s role increasing as more than just a third-down back, it is vital the Eagles’ linebackers stay disciplined in coverage on him. It’s something Jim Schwartz isn’t taking lightly either.
“But whether it’s off coverage or zone or man, run after the catch is such a big deal in this league, not only your receivers and tight ends and running backs really talented, and speaking of that, this week with [Redskins RB Chris] Thompson, he’s playing at a ridiculous level, and a lot of that is coming from run after the catch. He did it to us in the opener.” Schwartz told the media earlier this week.
Thompson may have 175 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns on the season, but his 340 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns show just how dominant he can be. Against the Eagles in week one, Thompson amassed just four yards on the ground and 52 through the air. If Hicks is unable to go come gameday, it will fall on the shoulders of Nigel Bradham and Michael Kendricks to be at their best in coverage situations. But this in itself is nothing new.
“Well, I think both of the — not only Mychal but [LB] Nigel Bradham also played a big role a couple times this year that they’ve had to step up for [LB] Jordan [Hicks].” Schwartz explained. “Both of those guys have stepped in and tackled well and been active and done a lot of things for us. Mych has also been a good blitzer for us.”
“However we get it done, that’s our objective. But those guys — and it’s no different, maybe, than some of the other injuries that guys have had to cover up for and they’ve had to go in and play. We need to keep our standard play, and those guys have kept our standard high.”
The Redskins have been marginalized in recent weeks and forced into an offense very similar to the Eagles last year. Dual threat running backs and tight ends/slot receivers steal the show, while the occasional mismatch on the outside is taken advantage of. Kirk Cousins has been surgical this season, turning the ball over just twice all year and scoring nine touchdowns. If the front four struggle to get pressure against an offensive line that like Phialdelphia’s, has been impressive all season, then it’s going to be down to the linebackers to get the job done.
Bradham and Kendricks lead the team in tackles and combine for 72 tackles this year. Linebacker depth may be running thin which is something that may have prompted the Eagles to call up Nate Gerry from the practice squad…making another impressive display even more imperative for a unit where even the slightest error could result in a home run.
Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports