Cheat Sheet: Eagles Offense Vs. Redskins Defense

DeSean JacksonHere are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Redskins’ defense. If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.

1. There’s been a lot of talk this week about how much Chip Kelly has shown in the preseason. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett told reporters he watched tape of 23 or 24 Oregon games, along with all of the Birds’ preseason contests.

“If they can do anything else, God bless ‘em,” Haslett said.

The guess here is that Haslett is on point. I’m not expecting any big reveal from Kelly on Monday night. I think you’ll see some zone-read, some three tight-end packages and plenty of run/pass packaged plays (all things we saw in the preseason). Will there be a few wrinkles here and there? Sure. But the foundation of this offense will be what Kelly and the Eagles practiced all summer long.

The one exception could be tempo. The Eagles went no-huddle for most of the preseason, but I could see them taking the pace to another level now that the real games are starting.

2. The Redskins ranked 17th in overall defense last year (14th against the pass, 22nd against the run), according to Football Outsiders. The Eagles will face a 3-4, heavy-blitzing scheme that gets a boost with the return of two-time Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo. Up front, the names are familiar. Nose tackle Barry Cofield is coming off a strong 2012 campaign where he led the team with 13 QB hits and ranked second with 19 hurries, per Football Outsiders. He injured his right hand in the preseason, but is expected to play. Veteran Stephen Bowen has started all 32 games for Washington the past two seasons. And Kedric Golston begins his eighth season with the team.

3. When the Eagles and Redskins first squared off last year, the Birds had Evan Mathis and Jake Scott at the two guard spots, along with Dallas Reynolds at center. This year, it’s Todd Herremans at right guard, Jason Kelce at center and Mathis once again at left guard. Kelce is one of the most valuable players on offense. He has Pro Bowl upside and is in charge of setting the protection pre-snap. The drop-off from Kelce to Julian Vandervelde (or another veteran the team could potentially sign) would be considerable.

Mathis has been the Eagles’ most consistent lineman the past two seasons. And then there’s Herremans. T-Mac has predicted that the soon-to-be 31-year-old could struggle in 2013. And he makes a reasonable argument. It’s been awhile (2011) since Herremans played at a high level, and that was at tackle. He’s now moving back inside where he had success earlier in his career. Herremans is coming off a foot injury and being counted on to not miss a beat. He’s got a track record with 100 starts under his belt. So if we’re going with the “back of the baseball card” theory, he should be fine. But I agree with Tim that Herremans is someone to keep an eye on early in the season.

4. The Eagles have a chance to boast one of the best sets of tackles in the NFL. First-round pick Lane Johnson looked like a beast in the run game during the preseason and was OK in pass protection. Coming off an Achilles’ injury, Jason Peters only played in one preseason game. He looked a little rusty in the run game, but was outstanding in pass pro. Peters sounds motivated and hungry to prove he’s still a Pro Bowl player.

Both Johnson and Peters will be tested by a pair of young, talented outside linebackers. Orakpo suffered a pectoral injury in the Redskins’ second game in 2012 and had to miss the rest of the season. But he averaged 9.5 sacks in his first three years in the league.

The Eagles will have to deal with Ryan Kerrigan as well. The former first-round pick has 16 sacks in his first two seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2012. He led the team with 8.5 sacks, 27 hurries and six tipped passes, per Football Outsiders. Kerrigan rushed 81.1 percent of the time and dropped 18.9 percent of the time on pass plays last year, per Pro Football Focus. Orakpo, in 2011, rushed 72.6 percent of the time and dropped 27.4 percent of the time.

5. The Redskins go with London Fletcher and Perry Riley as their inside linebackers. In one of the more incredible streaks you’ll see, Fletcher has played in 240 straight games – every one since he entered the league in 1998. Fletcher had five interceptions last year, but if the Eagles want to get Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and James Casey involved, they should have a chance to do so Monday night. Football Outsiders ranked the Redskins 27th against tight ends a year ago. Look for Celek to play the most snaps, followed by Ertz and then Casey. Ertz, specifically, could be a target in the red zone.

6. The foundation for the Eagles’ defense will be the run game. Kelly’s basic philosophy is: Run the football until the opponent forces you to do something else. LeSean McCoy is primed for a monster season after playing behind a makeshift offensive line in 2012. Bryce Brown flashes his talent every time he’s in the game, but will need to fix his fumbling issues. And a lighter, quicker Chris Polk could see the first offensive snaps of his career.

7. The Redskins’ secondary is a question mark. DeAngelo Hall gave up 869 yards when targeted last year, according to Football Outsiders. That was the highest number of any cornerback in the NFL. He gave up 41 touchdowns/first downs, tied for third-most. Per Pro Football Focus, opposing QBs completed 67 percent of their passes when targeting Hall. In other words, look for the Eagles to challenge him all night long in the passing game. The Redskins’ better corner is Josh Wilson, and they drafted David Amerson in the second round of April’s draft.

8. Many of the decisions Michael Vick will have to make at the line of scrimmage will be based on where the Redskins’ safeties are located. Washington is expected to go with Brandon Meriweather, a former first-round pick (2007) who battled knee injuries last season and has only started five games since the start of 2011. Rookie Bacarri Rambo gets the nod at the other spot. For the Eagles, DeSean Jackson is primed for a career year. He’s locked in and essentially playing on a one-year deal because of the way his contract is set up. The Eagles’ plan is to run the ball, force defenses to bring their safeties up and then burn them over the top with Jackson, who can still be one of the league’s top vertical threats. Look for him to line up in a variety of places and get plenty of touches on bubble screens. In the preseason, when teams played Jackson with a big cushion, he found success on intermediate comeback routes too.

Riley Cooper will get the start opposite Jackson. His goals should be to become one of the best blocking receivers in the NFL and a contributor in the red zone. Jason Avant had a strong preseason and continues to be a reliable option in the slot. And Damaris Johnson will see the field too.

9. What to expect from Vick? That’ll be the story of the season. He looked good in the Eagles’ first two preseason games before some bad habits re-emerged against Jacksonville. Vick will get more opportunities as a runner in this offense, but will once again have to show that he can take care of the football and take care of his body. Given the tempo, play-calls are short and decisions need to be made quickly. Vick’s QB rating last year when blitzed (85.4) was actually higher than his overall rating (78.1). The Redskins rushed five 29.2 percent of the time last year, seventh-most in the NFL, per Football Outsiders. And they sent a DB 16 percent of the time, sixth-most. In other words, Vick will have to deal with pressure at times. How he responds will go a long way in determining the success of the offense.

10. The Eagles ranked 28th in red-zone efficiency last year, scoring touchdowns 44 percent of the time. …The Eagles have turned it over 75 times the past two season, tops in the NFC. …Haslett said he’s comfortable going with his base defense “all day, against everything.” … Allen Barbre will likely be the Eagles’ first backup at every offensive line spot except for center. … Look for Johnson to be the primary punt returner, although Jackson could get a shot in crucial situations.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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