NFL Preview - Washington (8-6) at Philadelphia (4-10)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - No RG3, no problem.
That was the case for the surging Washington Redskins in last week's
dismantling of the Cleveland Browns under fellow rookie quarterback Kirk
The Redskins will take their season-high five-game winning streak to the road
once again Sunday against the NFC East-rival Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln
Financial Field. Robert Griffin III is ready to play and was back at practice
this week, but no official word has been made even though all signs point to
the Rookie of the Year candidate going back under center.
"I'm ready to play whenever they want me to play. If it's this week, next
week, couple weeks, whatever they say goes so I'll be ready," Griffin said
after Wednesday's practice. "I think I just have to prove it to them on the
(practice) field. It's just up to them to decide. I always expect to play."
Head coach Mike Shanahan said RG3 will be evaluated Thursday to see if there's
any swelling of the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. If doctors
give Shanahan the heads-up to start the young QB then he will announce it at
the proper time.
Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick back in April's draft, has taken the NFL by
storm and was stopped in his tracks in an overtime win versus the Baltimore
Ravens two weeks ago. His knee was bent awkwardly on a scramble and he was
removed from the game in favor of Cousins, who preserved the 31-28 victory.
Griffin was able to practice sparingly leading up to the Cleveland game and
was informed of Shanahan's decision to sit out Saturday night. Griffin wasn't
too pleased with the choice and watched Cousins complete 26-of-37 passes for
329 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in his first start.
"(Cousins) did a good job staying poised and staying confident in there,"
Griffin said. "I couldn't be any happier for this team or for Kirk."
RG3 said he was able to get "healthier by not playing" in the Browns game and
will most likely get back to work against an Eagles team he dismantled in a
31-6 victory back on Nov. 18. Griffin completed 14-of-15 passes for 200 yards
and four touchdowns for a 158.3 rating -- the only rookie in NFL history with
a rating that high. Cousins, of course, will handle snaps if RG3 doesn't.
Because of Griffin, who has an NFL rookie record 748 rushing yards, the
Redskins have the best ground attack in the NFL with 164.8 yards per game. But
another rookie has made a significant impact for the Redskins as running back
Alfred Morris seems to have secured the job for years to come. Morris is third
in the NFL and first among first-year players with 1,322 yards on 280 carries,
and should take great pleasure in facing Philadelphia's 20th-rated run
defense, which is giving up 122.0 yards per game.
Morris holds Redskins rookie records for carries (280), rushing yards (1,322)
and rushing touchdowns (nine).
Washington controls its own destiny for its first NFC East title since 1999
and hasn't won six in a row in the regular season since a seven-game run back
in 1996. The Redskins won five in a row to close out the 2005 campaign, then
defeated Tampa Bay in the playoffs.
The Redskins are tied with New York and Dallas atop the division standings,
and have the best division mark at 3-1. They can clinch their first playoff
berth since 2007 with a win combined with losses by the Bears, Giants and
Vikings. Washington closes out the regular season at home versus the Cowboys.
Sunday's game could potentially be Andy Reid's last at home as Eagles head
coach as rumors continue to swirl that the longest-tenured coach in the league
will be given his walking papers.
Reid, who is in his 14th season with the organization and has the highest win
total of any coach in club history, has compiled a 140-100-1 (.583) record in
his time with Philadelphia. He has battled through adversity both on and off
the field as well, which has put a cloud over the twilight of his tenure. His
son, Garrett, passed away during training camp due to a heroin overdose and
authorities recently announced there were several vials of steroids found in
his dorm room.
To make matters worse, the Eagles haven't been able to stay healthy with
concussions to quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy, a rib
injury to wide receiver DeSean Jackson and injuries across the offensive line.
There was a spectrum of positive light cast upon the Eagles when it was
learned that McCoy will return to the starting lineup Sunday. McCoy suffered a
concussion in the first meeting with the Redskins in garbage time when the
game was out of reach.
"I'm going to keep a close eye on him," Reid said of McCoy. "It won't be a
normal workload like you'd see during the season. He's coming off an injury, I
understand that, so I'll keep a close eye on it. He'll work in as the starter
and then Bryce (Brown) has some valuable experience that he's gained over the
last few games here so he'll be in there."
The Eagles are just 4-10 on the season and suffered a 34-13 loss to Cincinnati
last Thursday in a game that was mired by turnovers. Rookie quarterback Nick
Foles, who's played admirably this season in place of Vick, was intercepted
once for an Eagles team that lost all four of their fumbles. Brown did not
lose the football versus the Bengals, but has coughed it up four times already
this season, losing three of them.
Philadelphia hopes a few extra days of rest will help in trying to spoil
Washington's chances of a division title. Although the Redskins trounced the
Eagles a few weeks ago at FedEx Field, Philly has won five of the past seven
meetings dating back to 2009. These two NFC East rivals have split the
previous seven encounters at the Linc.
Washington hasn't swept the Eagles in a season since 2008.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Redskins racked up nearly 400 yards (361) of offense in the first meeting
with Philadelphia and did it mainly on the ground (169 yards). RG3 was able to
keep a handful of drives alive with scrambles on third down and ran for a
game-best 84 yards. As previously mentioned, Griffin threw four touchdown
passes to four different receivers.
Philadelphia has played average pass defense, sitting 13th in the league
(219.5 ypg), but had trouble stopping Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-
Ellis, who reeled off 106 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. The Eagles were
able to hold Morris to 76 yards on 20 carries and are just 20th in run
defense, giving up 122.0 rushing yards per game. Morris, though, has been on a
mission and will probably crack the 100-yard mark again on Sunday. The sixth-
round draft is also making a case for Rookie of the Year.
Another reason Morris could go off is that Philadelphia did not surrender a
100-yard rusher for the first 12 games of the season, but has allowed one in
each of the past two. The Redskins, who lead the NFL with 164.8 rushing yards
per game, are fourth in total yards (389.8) and fifth in points (27.2).
If the Eagles can protect the football Sunday they might have a chance to
spoil Washington's hopes for a division title. That means Foles has to play
smart, make the correct reads and give his receivers a chance to make plays.
Foles made his first NFL start against the 'Skins and went 21-of-46 for 204
yards and two interceptions. The Eagles are tied for 31st in the NFL in both
turnovers (34) and turnover differential (-22).
Quarterbacks, such as Griffin, can get by smoothly with a talented backfield
and a stingy defense. The Eagles have one of those and the return of McCoy
this week should take a big load off of Foles' shoulders. Foles, though, has
been improving each week.
Save a loss to the top-rated run defense in Tampa Bay, Brown actually has
turned heads with his limited experience in both college and in the pros. He
has been working diligently on holding onto the football and the Eagles are
hoping it pays off.
Philadelphia's defense has been the Achilles' heel all season. From the hiring
and firing of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo down to the ineptitude of
the wide-nine defense, the Eagles have one of the more inconsistent stop units
in the NFL. Philadelphia did see a bright spot in safety Colt Anderson and
he's expected to start for a third straight week. Anderson is a special teams
stud and has no fear in throwing his body into a ball carrier. He will start
alongside Kurt Coleman, who is back from injury.
"Colt came in and we asked him to fill in at the line of scrimmage and be a
physical player there and he did a nice job of that," Reid said. "Right now
Kurt is a little bit more stout in there (than Nate Allen) and we need that.
We need that this week."
Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans leads the team with 107 tackles, while rookie
defensive tackle Fletcher Cox needs to plug some gaps to slow down Morris. Cox
also leads all rookie DTs with 5 1/2 sacks and aims for a third straight game
with a sack. When defensive end Jason Babin was waived, Brandon Graham had to
prove he was not a bust a few years ago. Graham has stepped up his play and
posted 2 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble versus Cincinnati.
The Eagles could use some pressure up front with Griffin back in the fold and
rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks played well as a spy in the last meeting.
The Redskins haven't won five road games in a season since winning seven back
in 1991, when they won Super Bowl XXVI. It's not a guarantee the Redskins will
make another run to greatness, but getting that fifth win away from home on
Sunday is. Morris has been a load for opposing defenses and the Eagles' season
couldn't end any sooner. With all the distractions with Reid, injuries, a
paltry secondary and a QB change, another loss for the Eagles will make their
2013 draft pick that much better.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Redskins 31, Eagles 21
12/20 15:17:41 ET
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