Here 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. The Redskins rank 27th in scoring defense, allowing 27.6 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 23rd – 24th against the pass and 17th against the run. The Eagles continue to perform like one of the worst offensive teams in the league. They’re averaging 17.3 points per game (29th) and have failed to score more than 24 in any single game. Football Outsiders has the Eagles’ offense ranked 24th – 25th in passing and 24th in rushing. The Eagles have turned it over 21 times – second-most in the league. They are 29th in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns 40 percent of the time.
2. The spotlight will be on rookie Nick Foles, who is making his first start. Against the Cowboys, he completed 22 of 32 passes, but 16 of those completions were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Foles did a good job of keeping his eyes downfield and showed good athleticism, but he made a few questionable decisions (All-22 breakdown here), which were expected. He will face a shaky Redskins defense on Sunday. Opponents are completing 63.8 percent of their passes against Washington (22nd), and the Redskins are allowing 7.9 yards per attempt (27th).
3. Without Brian Orakpo (out for the season with a pectoral injury), the Redskins have not been able to generate much of a pass-rush. Ryan Kerrigan, a first-round pick in 2011, has 4.5 sacks. As a team, the Redskins have 14 sacks (tied for 28th). The Eagles have allowed 29 sacks, tied for second-most. Danny Watkins is questionable. If he can’t go, newcomer Jake Scott or rookie Dennis Kelly would get the nod at right guard. If Watkins plays, Kelly is expected to line up at right tackle, and King Dunlap will play left tackle. If Kelly plays guard, Demetress Bell, who has struggled all season, would be forced into action. Dunlap had a disastrous game last week against the Cowboys. And Kelly has struggled at guard.
4. I write this every week, but DeSean Jackson is quietly having a really good year. He’s 12th in the league, averaging 76.2 yards per game. Only five receivers are averaging at least 75 yards per game and 16 yards per reception: Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Vincent Jackson, Julio Jones and DeSean Jackson. The Eagles need to continue to find ways to get Jackson the ball. Jeremy Maclin was a favorite target of Foles’ last week, finishing with eight catches for 93 yards. Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson figure to see extended action with Jason Avant out of the lineup. Cooper made a great play on the fade in the end zone vs. Dallas.
5. Brent Celek could be a factor vs. the Redskins. Football Outsiders has Washington ranked 24th in covering tight ends. Celek has had 50 yards or fewer in five straight games. The Redskins’ inside linebackers are Perry Riley, a 2010 fourth-round pick, and 37-year-old London Fletcher. Clay Harbor played just 18 snaps last week. You’d think that with Avant out and the Redskins having a weakness against tight ends that this would be a good opportunity for him to get on the field.
6. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is in a tough spot. He doesn’t have the pass-rushers to rely on pressure without blitzing. And he doesn’t have the secondary to cover when he does dial up extra pressure. You’ll definitely see Foles get blitzed in this one, but that means there will be opportunities for (relatively) easy completions.
For example, here, the Redskins come with a seven-man pressure against Carolina. That means one defender is going to be unblocked. It’s on the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly.
Cam Newton finds tight end Greg Olsen open for an 8-yard completion. He’s also got a receiver wide-open in the middle of the field.
7. Another example on a 19-yard touchdown to Steve Smith. This time, the Redskins rush six. The key is Jonathan Stewart coming across the formation to pick up the blitzer.
As you can see below, he does an outstanding job. And check out the pocket for Newton. Even though the Redskins sent six, no one is near him.
He has his option of three different receivers. Newton goes to Smith (bottom of the screen), who is actually covered. But Smith does what he’s done all his career and fights for the ball, coming down with the 19-yard touchdown.
8. On the ground, LeSean McCoy has been really good the last two weeks, averaging 5.7 yards per carry on 35 attempts. Washington is allowing 4.2 yards per carry. McCoy is averaging 5.5 yards per carry out of two tight-end sets. But he’s had nowhere to go in the red zone. McCoy has 20 carries for 24 yards inside the opponents’ 20. Inside the opponents’ 10, he has 13 carries for 2 yards and two touchdowns.
9. We’ve talked about the punt return the Eagles allowed last week, but their return units continue to be a complete disaster as well. On average, the Eagles’ offense is beginning drives at its own 24-yard-line, per Football Outsiders. That’s the third-worst mark in the league. The Eagles are one of three teams without a kickoff return of at least 35 yards this season. They are the only team without a kickoff return of at least 35 yards in the past two seasons.
10. Leftovers: The Redskins are 22nd in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 57.6 percent of the time. The Eagles are 29th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 40 percent of the time. …The Eagles are 15th in third-down offense, converting 38.9 percent of the time. The Redskins are 29th in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 43.8 percent of the time.