As the Eagles prepare for their second meeting with the Redskins, a coaching chess match builds between Andy Reid and Mike Shanahan. Will they or won’t they change up their game plans from the first meeting, in which Washington grabbed a 17-12 win by running the ball early and often and taking away the deep ball from Philadelphia’s offense.
The Redskins spent the vast majority of the game in a Cover-2 defense, playing two safeties deep and forcing the Eagles to throw the ball underneath, limiting the explosiveness of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. It also didn’t help that the Eagles lost Michael Vick to his rib injury, forcing adjustments to their game plan with Kevin Kolb taking over.
Looking back, Shanahan views it as one of their best performances of the season.
“I think that was one of our better games,” Shanahan said. We played well relative to slowing down their wide receivers because they’ve got a great group when you take a look at their skill – running backs, tight ends, wide receivers, quarterbacks – they’ve got it all.”
But now that the Eagles expect that defensive approach from Redskins coordinator Jim Haslett, how much will the Redskins change a style that worked so well?
“I think everybody adjusts their game plan a little bit from the first game to the second game, like most teams do within a division, you know it’s part of your game plan,” Shanahan said. “I’m sure they’ll have a few adjustments for us and we’ll have a few adjustments for them.”
His counterpart echoed his sentiments, but said that a lot of the core of the game plan doesn’t change.
“That’s part of the deal when you play a NFC East team,” Reid said. “Sometimes you’re close date wise, the games. So listen, you mix and match there and change some things up, keep some things the same. But I think you come down to doing what you feel you can do best and go out and play the game.”
For what it’s worth, Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg divulged a little tidbit of the offensive philosophy if the Redskins play a similar defensive scheme to the first meeting.
“Challenge it, but you do have to be precise and efficient,” Mornhinweg said. “Look, we’ve had great success against some of these teams that try and do that.”
The presence of Michael Vick, and the additional film of the vastly improved quarterback, could alter things a bit. Washington has to decide whether or not to spy the speedy quarterback or worry more about defending him through the air, as Vick leads the league with a quarterback rating above 105.
When the two teams first met, the jury was still out on Vick’s passing skills as he had only played two and a half games against questionable competition. Now, the Redskins have a bigger sample size to go along with an extra week thanks to a bye to figure out how to best defend the Eagles offense.
Last time, Philadelphia admitted to being caught a bit off-guard by the Cover-2 approach. Will Washington be able to dial up some surprising schemes again, or will Philadelphia be well prepared for whatever comes its way?