assumption by the players that this is the start of the same stretch they've gone through the past two years, when the running game takes off. But until the attack is more balanced, I'm not confident that will happen.
2. Where should the Redskins try to run vs. the Eagles? Cleary, despite the above answer, they must establish the run. This team is not built to pass-first. My concern is the Eagles' ends seem to do a good job sealing the ends, which means more power runs up the gut, or stretch and cutback runs, will take priority.
3. Once more we have to ask: what about the injuries at receiver? Lord, is anyone else tired of this topic? I love Santana Moss, but the Redskins need to find a dependable No. 1 wideout. Moss was that guy for his first season, but since then he's been nothing close to that. Now he's questionable with a bruised heel. He'll likely be a game time decision, but the way things have gone, it seems as if he's questionable and has not practiced all week, then he probably won't play.
4. What will the impact be if Moss doesn't play? Well, the Redskins need to attack this secondary. He and Antwaan Randle El combined for 10 catches in the first game, so it's clearly something they can accomplish. The Eagles have a new strong safety, a free safety who still might not be 100 percent and a corner who also is banged up. Get the picture? But even if Moss doesn't play, the route-running of Keenan McCardell should be a help in this game. And they'll need to work a little harder to get Randle El into man situations. They did that against Detroit by lining up he and Chris Cooley on the same side against a Cover 2, with the safety paying more attention to Cooley. Moss was just starting to look a little like his old self last week. This is a setback, not only for this game but for the rest of the season.
5. Are the Eagles done? Does anyone really trust that they are? They have a number of problems and it's not just Donovan McNabb. A franchise that seemed to be built well has hurt itself with what they've done in terms of personnel the past few years. Of course, a healthy McNabb cures some of that. But when he's not himself, the other sins are magnfied, like the need for a power back and elite receiver among other things. But here's the thing, a couple weeks ago McNabb was hailed for looking more like himself. Then he got pummeled against the Cowboys. So where is he at? Our guess is that if he gets time and hits a few throws early, he's capable of doing what he's always done. The key is to get him early and disrupt that rhythm. Despite their problems, if he gets hot they can win. They did drive the ball against Washington in the first game; they just settled for field goals.
6. What about Westbrook? Clearly the Redskins must do a good job against the one guy on their offense who can scare a defense. But he had a good game in the first meeting and the Eagles only scored 12 points. Look for Philly to test Washington over the middle, particularly whereever Rocky McIntosh is settled into coverage. McIntosh plays well when he can be instinctive and physical. Playing in zone coverage requires a different mentality and he clearly doesn't have it yet.
7. What other concerns do you have about the Eagles offense? Kevin Curtis is a decent receiver and can hurt them. But my No. 1 concern remains the health of the defense. Is anyone confident that Fred Smoot will play all game? I'm not. How about Cornelius Griffin? Marcus Washington? That's a lot of talent that could possibly be forced out during the game. Each one has injury issues. Losing Smoot or Griffin would be a big blow. Again, I think they're better able to sustain the loss of Washington.
8. What's the concern with the Eagles' D? They do apply decent pressure on the quarterback with end Trent Cole, who has nine sacks. But Chris Samuels shut him down in the first meeting. Also, the Eagles will blitz off the edge with their linebackers. If the Redskins want Jason Campbell to take more shots, then they have to pick up these blitzes regularly. Can they do so?
9. Will the Redskins blitz as they did last Sunday? I doubt it. The Redskins did that last week because they faced a young quarterback who clearly did not know how to read these blitzes. The Jets spread the formation and the Redskins would overload sides and get to the QB. It was too easy, but it was a plan that developed within the game. My guess is that they will have to blitz on occasion, but they don't want McNabb getting out of the pocket too much and allowing him to create big plays. They need the front four to pressure more than in recent weeks.
10. Who will win? This game also seems as much about the Eagles as anything. Are they done? If they lose, they can practically kiss the playoffs goodbye, which means no more Donovan after this season. As for the Redskins, I think they've done well to get to 5-3 at the midway point, but does anyone really think they're headed for a 10-win season? I'm not. They haven't shown any offensive consistency and the inability to get the receivers more involved is troubling. Is that playcalling or talent? Probably both. And remember, they ran the ball well at the end of last year and still didn't score much. I think they have too many issues. Maybe we're foolish -- and it wouldn't be the first time -- but I just don't like them this week. And maybe I'm giving Donovan and the Eagles too much credit and living in the past just a bit. I can tell you, one prominent player has a bad feeling this week as well. Eagles 24, Redskins 21.
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