Staff writer Steve Fini breaks down today’s game against Washington.
All week, I have been calling for someone to step up as a leader on this team. Since the defense has newer and younger parts, the burden is on the offense. To be blunt, it should be and almost has to be Michael Vick.
Through all the ups and downs, releases and signings, one player had the microphone to his mouth the most and speaking on behalf of the Eagles-–Michael Vick. Whether it was offensively or defensively, talking about last year or the upcoming year, even through all the “Dream Team” bull, he took the brunt of it and had only one answer…that the only thing that matters is a Lombardi Trophy.
Now, they are 1-4, going up against a good Redskins team, and it’s time for him to back those words up. Physically, we all know he can do it this week. He torched the Redskins last year even when they had the same “underrated” defense. He’s put up great numbers in most games this year. But the real question will be what will Vick do in moments of adversity. Can he grab a guy by the collar, get in his face, and keep the Eagles on track? That’s the only thing that really matters in this game.
LeSean McCoy continues to have a great season. Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan even said McCoy is “probably the best back in the league”. From people who haven’t watched McCoy this year that may seem like a stretch or an opposing coach trying to fire up his team. But McCoy has really flourished. Don’t look for that to continue this week, however. The Redskins actually do have an underrated defense. They are one of the best in the league at stopping the run. Add to it that McCoy has gotten his fair share of carries this year (for an Eagles running back), and the coaches might be trying to trim down his touches between the tackles. The Redskins defensive front is solid, and their linebackers are stout. London Fletcher, their middle linebacker, has been in the league forever and continues to play at a high level. Coaches in the NFL usually try to stop one aspect of an opposing team on either side of the ball. Coaches that are as successful as Mike Shanahan has been win this battle more so than not.
I expect the Redskins to eliminate McCoy, much like the 49ers did two weeks ago.
This could mean a huge day for Michael Vick and the Eagles’ receivers. If the Redskins are so concerned with stopping McCoy, they might be committing their safeties to stopping the run. That leaves Desean Jackson open on his favorite “go” route. Redskins’ cornerback DeAngelo Hall (who may not play) loves to jump routes and take chances for interceptions. Given the chance, he can take it to the house. If the Eagles can utilize multiple receivers early and keep the Redskins in their nickel package, that opens up the middle of the field for big runs by McCoy and Vick. It would also cut down on the great pass rush by the Redskins from their rush backers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.
The success of the offense, as it usually does, hinges upon the offensive line.
King Dunlap started at left tackle last week for the Eagles and played well. Now, he has a back injury and could be out this week. Winston Justice was practicing at right tackle while they moved Todd Herremans to left. All this shuffling isn’t a great sign going into a game as important as this one. Whoever is starting at the tackle positions will have their hands full with Orakpo and Kerrigan. Both players are young and physical with extremely high motors. Dunlap did a good job against a player with a high motor last week in Shawne Merriman, but Orakpo is an entirely different animal.
Kerrigan flashed his high potential for the Redskins when they played the Giants, scoring a touchdown and wreaking havoc. Let’s also not forget about Lorenzo Alexander, their other pass rusher. He’s one of the best athletes on their team and, while not having great stats this year, can break out at any moment.
We should remember how much this Eagles team loves to let lesser known players explode against them. If the Eagles really want to cut down on their turnovers and be as productive on offense as they can be, they’re going to have to protect up the middle. Jason Kelce got tormented on a lot of pass plays last week for the Eagles. Danny Watkins played surprisingly well for his first start, keeping third overall pick Marcell Dareus in check. Eagles fans might not realize it, but left guard Evan Mathis is having a very good year; according to ProFootballFocus.com.
They rated Mathis as their second best left guard this season behind Logan Mankins. The Redskins defensive front is solid. Adam Carriker is a former first-round pick of the Rams who has played well in Washington’s 3-4 defense. Add in Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen, and the Redskins field solid run-stopping personnel. The Eagles’ ability to handle this the Washington front seven is going to determine who wins this game.