Premium Preview: Eagles / Redskins

The Eagles are seeing another young quarterback and facing a pretty good Redskins ground game. Even though the Eagles romped over Washington in their first meeting, there are reasons for concern in round two.

Philadelphia Eagles (6-6) at Washington Redskins (4-8)

KEYS TO THE GAME:
QB Jason Campbell's mobility has provided the expected help for the Redskins' pass protection, with Campbell getting sacked just three times in 98 dropbacks. That, combined with the sagging Eagles' pass rush should give Campbell plenty of time to find his receivers and make things happen. But Campbell is still prone to the mistakes of a first-year starter, and the Redskins don't have a chance in most games unless RB Ladell Betts is able to have a big game on the ground. The good news for Washington is that Philadelphia's undersized front seven is vulnerable to the run, although the insertion of LB Omar Gaither into the starting lineup helped the Eagles' run defense against Carolina on Monday night.

The biggest factor for Philadelphia is if QB Jeff Garcia continues to feel increasingly comfortable in the offense. He produced several big plays while on the move against the Panthers and will need to find similar success with the Redskins likely to focus on neutralizing RB Brian Westbrook until Garcia proves he can hurt them downfield.

Inside The Skins:
Until he was lost for the season on November 12 in Philadelphia, running back Clinton Portis had been Washington's offensive focal point for three years. Ladell Betts was considered a solid backup, but not in Portis' league.

However, after rushing for just 18 yards on seven carries at Tampa Bay in his first post-Portis start, Betts has run wild since. The fifth-year man from Iowa ran for 104 yards on 24 carries against Carolina and followed with a career-high 155 yards on 28 carries (also a personal best) last week against Atlanta.

Not only did Betts overtake Portis for the team lead with 643 rushing yards, but he raised his average to 4.6 yards per carry, a half-yard better than his much-hyped teammate.

"When I first came here (in 2004), I thought Ladell was the classic halfback that you play on passing downs and third downs," coach Joe Gibbs said. "I found out right away that he runs very forceful. We have seen him run back kickoffs. If you want to check someone's heart, just have them run a kickoff back because not many people can do that. He is captain of the punt team sometimes. He can do anything for you on the football team. I'm thrilled for Ladell and that he got his opportunity and showed this is what he's capable of doing."

Portis went over 100 yards in each of the final five games of 2005 en route to a franchise-record 1,516 yards, but Betts' back-to-back 100-yard days are the only other such performances by a Redskin since Stephen Davis accomplished the feat in the final two games of 2001. Betts has averaged 92 yards since taking over for Portis. If he averages 90 yards over the final four games, he'll join Portis, Davis, Terry Allen, Reggie Brooks, Earnest Byner, George Rogers, John Riggins, Mike Thomas and Larry Brown as the only Redskins to ever gain 1,000 yards in a season. Pretty impressive for a guy who didn't start seven of the first nine games.

"Ladell's a guy that never says a word," Gibbs said. "You have to go and ask him how he is doing because he's not saying anything. He's a real pro."

Betts could have been a free agent in March, but the Redskins acted fast and signed him to a long-term deal to keep him from ever hitting the free agent market. With his new contract in hand, Portis' hold on the number one spot is in serious jeopardy, but that's something that will have to play out after the season. Betts had 99 touches to 382 for Portis in 2005. The ratio was a more balanced 144-72 (2-1 in Portis' favor) when they were both in the lineup this season. With Portis' injury issues, the Skins may be banking on keeping both to give them fresh legs later in games.


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