The Washington Redskins lost to a divisional opponent last week and face yet another tough, NFCE test this week against the Eagles. Two of the major differences this week are that we're the home team and we've had ample time to prepare. It will be interesting to watch in the coming days to see if the game will actually happen on Sunday or not. There's been talk that the NFL could reschedule for week eight on account of the impending hurricane Joaquin. Conveniently, both the Redskins and the Eagles have their bye weeks scheduled for week eight, so a reschedule could be done with minimal difficulty. We'll see. Regardless, I reached out to Bleeding Green Nation to get their perspective on the game. Brandon Gowton was kind enough to answer a few questions I had for him.
1. The Eagles defense has become a surprising force this season. Who/what is responsible? How should the Redskins attack? Also, how should the Redskins game-plan for the Eagles offense?
Philadelphia's defense is really good at stopping the run, which is by design. The team uses a two-gapping 3-4 defense because they don't want teams to run on them. The Eagles have a very strong front seven loaded with run stoppers. Though the pass rush hasn't caught fire yet, they also have some talented rushers in players like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, and Connor Barwin. Rookie inside linebacker Jordan Hicks is emerging as a playmaker in the middle. On top of this, the Eagles' secondary has looked a lot better than it has in the past. Safeties Walter Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins are playing at a very high level in both pass coverage and run support. Jenkins has also doubled as the team's reliable nickel cornerback. Outside cornerback Nolan Carroll has been quietly solid.
The only weakness has been Byron Maxwell, whom the Eagles spent a lot of money on in the offseason. Go figure. With Maxwell struggling, the Redskins should really be planning to target the guy he's covering. He's been vulnerable through the first three games.
2. What's your take on Sam Bradford's play so far? How confident is the fan-base in this guy?
Sam Bradford hasn't been good enough. He's especially struggled with accuracy and he's not seeing the field well when it comes to deep passes. His 5.8 yards per attempt ranks at the bottom of the league. He needs to be more aggressive and more accurate with his throws. Part of Bradford's struggles include the fact he's had to deal with 11 drops, which is the most in the league. So even when he is making good throws, his wide receivers haven't been helping him. Still, drops or no drops, he needs to be better.
Due to Bradford's struggles, the fan-base is not very confident in him. I do think there is some hope he can turn things around. Based on watching this guy in training camp and preseason, I know he doesn't lack the talent to throw deep and accurate passes. He has the skill. It's just about execution right now and for whatever reason he's simply not doing it. For now, it's hard to count on him improving until he actually does it.
3. How's the injury situation affecting you guys? You lost Parkey and had to replace him, Kiko Alonso is hurt again, starting G Andrew Gardner is now done for the season, and DeMarco Murray is hurt. What can the team do to compensate?
The Eagles have been really banged up recently.
Cody Parkey tore three muscles in his groin (ouch!) and the Eagles replaced him with Caleb Sturgis. Sturgis was a disappointment with Miami, so expectations are low.
Kiko Alonso is out for at least a couple more weeks but a lot of people were expecting him to be lost for the season so the fact he's going to return now is great news for him and the team. As I mentioned earlier, Hicks has looked really good in his absence so the Eagles might just be OK without him.
Gardner is an underrated loss. He seemed to struggle in pass protection but he was a decent run blocker at right guard. Now it's up to Matt Tobin to step up. Tobin was benched in favor of Gardner last season.
The Eagles' running game was better with Ryan Mathews than it has been with DeMarco Murray so far, so that might not be a huge absence. Murray is limited in practice this week with a hamstring injury so it remains to be seen if he'll play. Either way, Mathews deserves more touches than he was getting in the first two weeks.
4. The Eagles were under a lot of outside pressure/scrutiny after starting the season 0-2. With the win last week, it would seem that pressure has been at least temporarily relieved. Do you think having that pressure reduced is a good thing for the Eagles heading into this week? Or does it perhaps make them more susceptible to relaxing a bit and possibly having a let-down?
I think the pressure is still pretty high considering the Eagles' first two losses were to NFC teams, including a division rival, and the first win was a non-conference victory. Philadelphia can't really afford to go down to 1-3 while being 0-3 in the conference and 0-2 in the division. I think the Eagles showed some signs of progress in Week 3 that can be built on. It was an ugly win and I doubt they'll be overconfident considering there are still a lot of offensive issues to work on.
5. If you could take one player from the Redskins roster and put him on yours, who would it be and why?
If Trent Williams can play guard, that would be an ideal addition. The Eagles are set at tackle with Jason Peters and Lane Johnson but Williams could boost the interior. Otherwise, I've always liked Ryan Kerrigan a lot. The Eagles are pretty set with Barwin and Graham as their starting outside linebackers but adding Kerrigan into the mix could help improve their pass rush even more.