Jay Gruden is a brutally honest man, coaching a team that seems to mire itself in a different turmoil each year. Aside from this year's renewed controversy over the Redskins name itself, Gruden's been adamant that Robert Griffin III isn't his guy, that DeSean Jackson is wholly worthless as a blocker, and so forth. Eagles fans are used to Andy Reid's self-blame/coddling mechanism, and now Chip Kelly's cautious optimism. Gruden's a different animal, one ill-fit for a team that all-too-easily undoes itself.
The Redskins have been held to 13 or less points in four of their last five games, and have not won since inexplicably beating the Cowboys on Monday Night Football on October 27. This is far from the same team that took the Eagles to the limit back in September.
Robert Griffin III
Griffin's taken part in seven games and has credit for just one win, the victory over the Jaguars in which he busted his ankle early and Kirk Cousins finished. The RG3 that struck fear into the hearts of defenses through a Rookie of the Year campaign has all but vanished, limping (quite literally) toward injuries and less-playing time with lost faith. It's likely Griffin sees a change of scenery next season.
KEY STAT: In 2012, RG3 was sacked 30 times in 15 games; this year, he's been dropped 28 times in parts of seven games.
Morris has seen his own drop-off from a brilliant rookie run, although without the arrow-slinging seen in Griffin's fall from grace. Morris is still playing mostly fine; he's only 52 yards away from his third-straight 1000-yard season, but deference to other backs like Silas Redd have dipped his numbers. Morris sits barely over four yards a carry, down from 4.8 as a rookie, but he's still playing at a high-enough level. He's no Trent Richardson.
KEY STAT: Morris has only cleared 100 rushing yards once this season, running for 125 on the 49ers.
Jeremy Maclin sits 200 yards and five touchdowns ahead of his ex-teammate, whose absence couldn't be blamed for any struggles the Eagles have had. Jackson's 957 yards and five touchdowns don't indicate any sort of decline, but you'd have to think he misses Philadelphia a little bit, in spite of what he may claim. I'm sure if the Eagles miss the playoffs, he'll sleep a little bit better at night.
KEY STAT: Jackson has cleared 100 receiving yards five times this season, but hasn't done so since November 2.
One of the weaker pass-blockers on Washington's line, Lauvao has struggled over the latter half of the season in protection. The left guard has been especially weak in run blocking, but it's in keeping the quarterback safe that he's had his issues. Lauvao has allowed 19 hurries, and with all three of his quarterbacks being right-handed, that plants uneasiness in their minds, with pressure coming from behind.
KEY STAT: Of those 19 hurries, 12 have come in the last five games.
Go figure: the Birds do a bang-up job hemming in DeMarco Murray, and all of those efforts are undone by Bradley Fletcher lagging so far behind Dez Bryant, he'd have needed a rowing oar to make contact with him. The game wasn't indicative of how bad the Eagles defense generally is, but rather how awful the defense can be at their absolute worst.
If the Eagles struggle against the Redskins on defense, not only will their playoff hopes pretty much be dead, but they won't deserve to be in anyway. A team that could play so badly when it matters most wouldn't have much hope in Hell of running to the Super Bowl anyhow. Chin up: at least the core pieces of the unit are young and powerful.
Case in point. If Cox doesn't make the Pro Bowl, it'll be an absolute crime. Next to J.J. Watt and Jurrell Casey, Cox is the best 3-4 defensive end in football today. Nobody disrupts offensive line continuity and shuts down the run with his level of consistency. Cox is unquestionably the defensive MVP of this team, and at 24 years of age, he can only get better.
KEY STAT: Cox is the only 30-30 player on the Eagles defense, with 38 run stops and 33 quarterback hurries.
Kendricks may end up making DeMeco Ryans expendable. He can do all of the tasks asked of a middle linebacker, including blowing up the run and providing at least adequate coverage of tight ends, while playing with the self-assured intensity that the position lacked before Chip Kelly switched to the 3-4. If Kendricks can develop better penetration in the rush, he'll be a complete player.
KEY STAT: Kendricks' 36 run-stops are second most on the team, despite missing four games.
Fletcher's undoubtedly down to his last two games as an Eagle, with an expiring contract and that Cowboys game hanging over his head like an ACME safe. Take away his brilliant game against the Panthers in November, and his pass coverage has been virtually non-existent all year. Looking ahead to 2015, draft 'experts' are mining for corners for the Eagles to take. Gee, I wonder why?
KEY STAT: Since the Eagles bye, the passer rating against Fletcher is 114.1, with six touchdowns and just one pick.
Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used to write this story.
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