Five weeks ago at this time the Phillies were the best team in baseball and the Eagles were 1-0 and well on their way to what was supposed to be a dream season. Now just a few weeks later the Phillies are enjoying the golf course and the Eagles dream has become a nightmare. The Bills game last week serves as a microcosm of why the Eagles season has been a disappointment to this point. Short passes went for long yardage as tackle after tackle was missed, Fred Jackson ran for over 100 yards against an Eagles defense that has allowed over 140 yards a game, and Michael Vick turned the ball over four times on interceptions.
When the Eagles acquired Nnamdi Asomugha this off-season it was thought to be the final piece to turn a defense that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in passing touchdowns allowed in 2010 into a well above average defense. As Redskins fans have learned in recent years one big free agent signing cannot on its own turn a weakness into a strength, and the Eagles defense this season ranks second in the NFL in most passing touchdowns allowed. It is a good thing for the Eagles then that passing is not the Redskins strength, but the Eagles have allowed an average of 140.2 rushing yards a game while the Redskins have rushed for an average of 126.8 yards a game. It appears that the Redskins offensive strength matches up well with the Eagles defensive weakness.
The reverse of this statement is true as well though. The Redskins have been able to limit rushing yards against them by holding teams to a low number of attempts, but in those attempts teams are averaging 4.3 yards a carry against the Redskins and the Eagles have the two best rushers in the league in that category. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is the top running back in the league averaging 5.8 yards a carry, but he is not the top rusher in that category as teammate Michael Vick leads the NFL with 8.6 yards a carry.
Michael Vicks ability to rush the ball has always made him a difficult quarterback to defend. If a play breaks down or Vick is chased from the pocket he can make a big play happen. When Vick scrambles he doesn’t have to rush the football. He can by time for his receivers to get open as well, and DeSean Jackson is one of the best deep threats in the game averaging 19.5 yards a catch. When Vick scrambles Lodon Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, and Ryan Kerrigan are going to have to do there best to contain them. Fletcher has spied Vick in the past and done a good job in stopping his big play ability.
The Redskins plan needs to be to get pressure on Michael Vick. Against the Bills he was constantly getting hurried and knocked down even when getting rid of the ball. The pressure the Bills put on him is one of the reasons he had four interceptions in that game, and the relative youth of the Eagles offensive line is one of the reasons that a scrambling quarterback like Vick has been sacked 8 times. The Eagles lead all the NFL in interceptions thrown and are fifth in fumbles. If the Redskins defense can get into the Eagles backfield they will make mistakes and turn the ball over, and so far in 2011 the Redskins have been good at getting into opponents backfields.
The Eagles expected to be 1-4 as much as most people expected the Redskins to be 3-1. Desperate teams are dangerous teams and when in a fight for ones life sometimes instincts previously unknown to exist can manifest themselves. The Eagles entered the season not just favored to win the NFC East, but were expected to go deep in the playoffs and were preseason favorites to win the Super Bowl as well. The Eagles are either going to come into this game and play with desperation and emotion and show that they are the team they were expected to be, or they will play tight, make mistakes, and prove that the dream has ended.