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Eagles Insider: Looking Yourself In The Mirror

Posted Nov 16, 2012

After failing to meet lofty expectations in the first nine games, the Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles have more in common than meets the eye.

A bitter division rivalry and 130 miles of I-95 may separate the Redskins and Eagles, but the similarities between the two teams may never be closer in the lead up to today's game at FedExField.

Each squad enters Week 11 at 3-6, tied for third place in the NFC East, and feeling frustrated after lofty preseason expectations. 

For Washington, 2012 marked the start of the RG3 Era, as Robert Griffin III delivered with a spectacular NFL debut in New Orleans in Week 1.

But with the defense weathering injury and inconsistency, the Redskins have declared the final seven weeks "playoff football" in an effort to make the postseason for the first time since 2007.

For Philadelphia, it was year two of "The Dream Team"; a phrase coined by 2011 backup quarterback Vince Young to describe the all-star qualities of the talent-laden team.

But with Michael Vick and Jason Avant ruled out with a concussion suffered in Week 10, the Eagles are on the brink of postseason elimination for the second-straight season.

"Listen, that's part of this league," Eagles head coach Andy Reid told the Washington media this week.  "This year is not over.  You keep trying to get better and that's what we're doing.

"You just keep battling. You have an opportunity and that's how you look at it."

Following Vick's concussion, both teams will be starting rookies at quarterback, with Nick Foles suiting up for the Eagles.  In three quarters last week against the Cowboys, Foles orchestrated three scoring drives, throwing 22-for-32 with 219 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Known for his strong arm, Foles hit receiver Jeremy Maclin with a 44-yard touchdown pass to start the second half.

"We really have only seen three quarters on him in the real football part of it," Reid reasoned.  "I can tell you he's smart kid and a tough kid and he has a good arm.

"The players have respect for him."

Eagles defensive end Trent Cole echoed his coach's sentiment on Foles, expressing faith in the rookie leader on offense.

"We're behind anybody that steps up," he told the Washington media. "It's not something we're suspect about.  Whoever is in there, they will get the job done.

"We're all for it, and it is what it is."

Foles (6-5, 243 pounds) was coached by the Redskins' coaching staff during the 2012 Senior Bowl.  Although head coach Mike Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett downplayed the importance of the time together, the Redskins have an idea of what he brings to the table.

"He’s a good football player and actually runs the offense very well," Haslett said.  "There’s no pitfalls. We had him at the Senior Bowl so we know a little bit about him. He’s a big guy with a good arm. He can make all the throws."

Foles is countered by Griffin III, whose biggest mystery is what highlight play he will make next.  The Redskins rank sixth in the NFL in yards per play (7.7), and Griffin III is responsible for three touchdowns of 68 yards or longer.

But for an Eagles defense used to practicing against Vick, Griffin III will need to choose his spots his carefully.

"We know we can't let him out of the pocket," Cole explained.  "Wehave to keep a tight pocket as a whole defensive unit. He can get the ball downfield to his receivers too. It's getting that pressure on him. That's the key."

The game will also feature two running backs, as rookie sensation Alfred Morris squares off against All-Pro Eagles back LeSean McCoy.

After nine games, Morris ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing yards with 793, and is on pace for the most by a Redskins running back since Clinton Portis rushed for 1,487 in 2008.

In five career games against the Redskins, McCoy has 346 rushing yards, 229 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Eagles are 4-1 in those games.

"He’s so shifty," Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said of McCoy.  "He can take a play that’s going all the way outside to the right and bounce it all the way to the left and still get positive yards.

"That’s what makes him so tough is you got to be in your gap and on your assignment at all times."

Today's game will likely boil down to defensive performance, where the Redskins enter with the 30th ranked defense, eighth against the run.  The Eagles counter with the 12th ranked defense, 15th against the run.

The Redskins look to be buoyed by the return of injured safety Brandon Meriweather, who has yet to make his 2012 debut.

“Hopefully, we can get him back," Haslett said.  "He brings leadership. He’s got great ball skills. He’s a guy that loves football. He studies the game. He spends a lot of time.

"He’s a guy that can make plays."

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