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Redskins-Eagles: 4 Keys To the Game

Posted Dec 29, 2011

Redskins.com's Gary Fitzgerald breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Redskins.com's Gary Fitzgerald breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Saturday's Redskins-Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field.

“Redskins-Eagles: 4 Keys To the Game” is presented by Papa John’s.

Every Monday, fans can order a large cheese pizza for only $9.99, plus for each touchdown that the Redskins score, fans get one free topping. And with a Redskins victory, fans get double the toppings.


The Redskins’ future at running back appears set with rookies Roy Helu and Evan Royster both posting 100-yard games in the second half of the season. Helu leads the offense with 635 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 147 carries. Royster has 215 yards on 36 carries.

If Helu is at full health, he should get the bulk of carries. Royster was impressive last week vs. Minnesota, though. He rushed for 132 yards on just 19 carries – a 6.9 yards-per-carry average – and seemed to get stronger in the second half. Both backs seem to excel in the Redskins’ one-cut blocking scheme.

The Eagles’ run defense struggled early in the season, but they were sound in the Week 6 matchup against Washington, yielding just 42 yards on 14 carries. Helu had just two carries in that game and Royster was on the practice squad, so the Redskins’ offense should give the Eagles a new look this Sunday.

In the Eagles’ last three games – all wins -- they have yielded 94.7 rushing yards, eighth best in that span. Overall, they are ranked 14th against the run. Linebacker Jamar Chaney, a second-year player, leads the defense with 103 tackles, but defensive tackles Mike Patterson (66 tackles), Cullen Jenkins (56 tackles) and Derek Landri (40 tackles) are the primary run-stoppers.


The Redskins’ offensive tackles – Willie Smith at left tackle and either Jammal Brown or Tyler Polumbus at right tackle – each draw tough assignments against Philadelphia’s aggressive defensive line. Protection will be key for Rex Grossman, who tossed four interceptions in the first Redskins-Eagles game in Week 6.

Smith, an undrafted rookie, has already had to compete against the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul and Jared Allen in his first two starts. He has been beaten at times – Allen bulldozed past him for a sack last week – but he has for the most part held his own.

On Sunday, Smith competes against another elite pass rusher in two-time Pro Bowler Trent Cole. He gets a strong burst off the edge thanks to Philly’s “wide nine” scheme and Smith will need to use his long arms and match his speed.

Brown’s status For Sunday’s season finale is uncertain. he was slowed in practice this week due to a hip injury. If he can’t play, then Polumbus would draw the start. They match up against Jason Babin, another high motor pass rusher. He leads the NFL with 18 sacks this season. Overall, the Eagles lead the NFL with 49 sacks this season.


From Cam Newton running wild to Tony Romo sidestepping the pass rush, mobile quarterbacks have given the Redskins fits this season. Last Sunday, Minnesota quarterback Joe Webb used his arm to throw for 84 yards and his legs to rush for 34 yards as he led the Vikings to a 33-26 win.

It’s always a tough challenge facing off against Eagles QB Michael Vick. The Redskins’ front seven must try to force him into a pocket so that his mobility is minimized. The secondary must stay with receivers longer because Vick’s mobility can extend plays outside of the pocket.

When Vick does move out of the pocket, it’s important for the Redskins’ tacklers to get a hard, legal hit on him. His effectiveness running and throwing the ball could be impacted as a result. He has been sacked 21 times in 12 games played this season.

In the Redskins’ 20-13 loss to the Eagles in Week 6, Vick rushed for 54 yards on seven carries, including a 25-yard run and a 31-yard run. For the season, Vick has 586 rushing yards and one touchdown on 75 carries.


The Redskins’ run defense had improved dramatically in the latter half of the season, but the unit took a step back last Sunday vs. Minnesota. They yieldeded a season-worst 241 rushing yards to the Vikings and – perhaps most surprising of all – backup running back Toby Gerhart seemed to out-physical Redskins tacklers in the second half.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, a 2011 Pro Bowler, has emerged as one of the league’s top rushers. His 1,309 yards through 15 games is second in the NFL and he has 17 rushing touchdowns to lead the league. McCoy is also a threat in the passing game, with 48 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns.

McCoy, who rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown in the Week 6 game vs. Washington, is quick and elusive. He could be slowed by an ankle injury in Sunday's game so Redskins tacklers must swarm to him when he has the ball. He finds a lot of running room behind Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters.

London Fletcher, of course, is the league’s top tackler with 163 heading into the final game of the season. Perhaps Fletcher will use his Pro Bowl snub to make a statement on Sunday? He had a team-high 12 tackles – including six on McCoy – in the Week 6 contest.



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