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NFL Preview - Philadelphia (3-2) at Washington (2-4)
By Tony Moss, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - From the perspective of an outsider, the Washington Redskins look like a dysfunctional mess.
If Jim Zorn's team wishes to reverse that perception, a nationally-televised Monday night tilt against the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles would be the perfect opportunity to prove those observers wrong.
The Redskins will head into their Week 7 tilt just eight days removed from a 14-6 home loss to the formerly winless Kansas City Chiefs, a defeat that seemed to loosen Zorn's already-tenuous grip on his job as head coach.
Following that contest, in which Washington could muster only seven first downs and held the ball for just 22:50, Zorn was stripped of play-calling duties. On Monday, recently-hired offensive consultant Sherm Lewis was named play-caller in Zorn's stead.
The 67-year-old Lewis, who had been out of the NFL for more than four years, was previously the offensive coordinator of the Lions (2003-04), Vikings (2000-01), and Packers (1992-99).
Lewis' job will be breathing life into a Redskins offense that has scored 17 points or fewer in each of its first six games of this season. Washington was 29th in the league in scoring offense (13.2 points per game) as Week 7 began, yet the team seems intent on sticking with starting quarterback Jason Campbell.
Campbell was benched at halftime against the Chiefs, after failing to lead a scoring drive in what was the a 3-0 game, but replacement Todd Collins wasn't much more effective. Collins led field goal drives on his first two series, but finished just 6-of-14 for 75 yards with two sacks absorbed, including one for a fourth-quarter safety.
Since a 6-2 start last season, the Redskins are just 4-10 in their last 14 games under Zorn.
Against that backdrop, the problems of the Philadelphia Eagles seem minor.
That said, the Eagles do head into Monday night with a bitter taste in their mouths after suffering a stunning 13-9 upset at the Oakland Raiders last week.
Philadelphia, a double-digit favorite in Oakland, couldn't even muster a double-digit scoring total. Quarterback Donovan McNabb was a subpar 22-of-46 for 269 yards while suffering six sacks during a game in which he was under near-constant duress.
Part of the team's protection problems stemmed from a knee injury suffered by left tackle Jason Peters in the first quarter, which kept the former Buffalo Bills Pro Bowler out of the lineup for the majority of the game. Peters' inexperienced understudy, second-year-man King Dunlap, struggled in relief of Peters.
Peters is expected to be back in the lineup on Monday night, however.
The Redskins hold a 77-65-5 lead in their all-time series with the Eagles, including a home-and-home sweep of their longtime NFC East rival last season. Washington picked up a 23-17 road win when the teams met in Week 5 of 2008, and took out Philly by a 10-3 count at FedEx Field in Week 16. The sweep was the Redskins' first over the Eagles since 2005. Philadelphia's most recent win over Washington came at FedEx Field in 2007.
In addition to their regular season advantage, the Redskins won the only postseason meeting between the clubs, a 20-6 road triumph in a 1990 NFC First- Round Playoff.
Eagles head coach Andy Reid is 12-8 versus the Redskins since taking over in 1999, while Washington's Zorn is 2-0 against both Reid and the Eagles as a head coach.
WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL
After last week's debacle in Oakland, the Eagles figure to place particular emphasis on their ability to protect McNabb (612 passing yards, 5 TD, 1 INT). The return of Peters should help in that area, and top Eagles targets DeSean Jackson (19 receptions, 2 TD), Jeremy Maclin (13 receptions, 2 TD), and tight end Brent Celek (30 receptions, 2 TD) will need to do a better job of getting open against the Redskins. Jackson had six catches for a team-best 94 yards against the Raiders, while Celek pulled in four balls for 75 yards, but the rookie Maclin came up small with just one catch for six yards. Running back Brian Westbrook (184 rushing yards, 17 receptions, 2 TD) added a game-high nine catches totaling 91 yards in the loss, but the Eagles' inability, or perhaps unwillingness, to run the football is something that will have to be addressed going forward. The Birds enter Week 7 ranked just 20th in NFL rushing offense (100 yards per game), and neither Westbrook nor rookie LeSean McCoy (175 rushing yards, 1 TD) have been consistent ground-gainers. Michael Vick has not been a factor in three games as an Eagle, and had just one touch against the Raiders.
Given the state of the Redskins offense, Washington is going to count on dominating efforts from its defense until further notice. And the Redskins have played generally well on that side of the ball, ranking third in the league against the pass (169 yards per game) and surrendering just 3.8 yards per rush on the ground, though the team has not forced many turnovers on the year. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall (27 tackles) has all three of Washington's interceptions on the season to date, and the club needs more big plays out of safeties LaRon Landry (36 tackles) and Reed Doughty (35 tackles), among others. The pass rush has been a credit to the cause this year, as rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo (20 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and holdover end Andre Carter (28 tackles, 5.5 sacks) have each found their way into opposing backfields. Carter had two of the team's five sacks of Kansas City's Matt Cassel last Sunday. Up front, Albert Haynesworth (17 tackles, 2 sacks) has quietly done a nice job setting the tone, and linebackers London Fletcher (65 tackles, 1 sack) and Rocky McIntosh (35 tackles) have cleaned up behind the highly-paid defensive tackle.
WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL
Though many have focused on the limitations of Zorn as a play-caller, Campbell as a quarterback, and even Clinton Portis as a rusher, the biggest problem with Washington's sputtering offense is a young line that could be without its best player, left tackle Chris Samuels (neck) for the rest of the year. Washington tried to remedy the struggles of the line in part earlier this week, when it signed ex-Bengals starter and free agent Levi Jones to hold down one of the tackle spots. Jones opened 89 games with Cincinnati from 2002 through 2008. Jones will have to help give Campbell (1197 passing yards, 6 TD, 6 INT) more time to look downfield to a mediocre receiving group led by Santana Moss (22 receptions, 2 TD) and Antwaan Randle El (18 receptions) along with tight end Chris Cooley (27 receptions, 2 TD). Moss had just one catch last week, a 42- yarder from Collins, Randle El had two catches, and Cooley posted team-highs with five catches for 57 yards. Portis (447 rushing yards, 9 receptions, 2 TD) rushed for 109 yards on just 15 carries last week, but also lost a fumble in the game that helped wipe out a Washington drive. The Skins are averaging four yards per rush but the line has surrendered 17 sacks on the year.
Campbell and company will be going up against an Eagles defense that is going through something of a transition. The linebacking corps has a much different look than the one that took the field against the Panthers in Week 1, as the team added free agent middle backer Jeremiah Trotter (4 tackles) a couple of weeks ago, and dealt for Rams weak side linebacker Will Witherspoon (33 tackles with St. Louis) on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the team placed LB Omar Gaither on season-ending injured reserve on Thursday with a Lisfranc sprain in his foot that will require surgery. The mainstay of the LB group is strong side man Chris Gocong (21 tackles, 1 sack), who had a team-high 10 tackles last week. Defensive tackles Mike Patterson (14 tackles) and Brodrick Bunkley (13 tackles) combined for eight tackles in the loss. Philadelphia enters Week 7 ranked fifth in NFL passing defense (179 yards per game), with cornerbacks Asante Samuel (14 tackles, 4 INT) and Sheldon Brown (15 tackles, 3 INT) making frequent plays in the secondary, and ends Trent Cole (24 tackles, 4.5 sacks) and Juqua Parker (10 tackles, 3 sacks) notching exactly half of the Birds' 15 sacks on the year. Samuel and safety Quintin Mikell (27 tackles, 1 INT) both had interceptions of Oakland's JaMarcus Russell last Sunday.
The Eagles have not been a terrific team from a fantasy perspective this season, as the team's inconsistency on offense and affinity for spreading the football around have hurt their totals in that regard. That said, McNabb and Celek are still solid plays at their positions, and Westbrook is getting enough touches to merit starting status as well. Also a great week to start the Eagles defense, thanks to the continued struggles of the Washington attack.
The Redskins have made this Eagles team look like the 1999 Rams from an offensive standpoint, though Cooley and Portis remain OK plays. Though Portis has been a major part of Washington's struggles, he's been right around 10 points in most leagues over each of the past three weeks.
Though the Redskins have tried a number of fixes to their struggling offense this season, their problems are much deeper than just a play-caller or a quarterback. Washington is untalented on offense all-around, beginning with the beleaguered line, and this attack isn't going to get better until it is completely blown up all-around. The problems within the Philadelphia attack, meanwhile, simply require a couple of tweaks, and Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have been at this long enough to find some solutions. Look for the Eagles to get into gear on Monday, for the Redskins to remain stuck in neutral, and for Philadelphia to earn a decisive win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eagles 27, Redskins 10
10/22 17:20:25 ET