1. Can the Redskins handle success?
Sounds like a silly question, but there's no doubt some teams start to win a few games and suddenly overestimate themselves. Next thing you know a losing streak occurs. Or they lack chemistry, so when they're first punched they don't strike back. But this team is loaded with veterans who understand how to prepare for games. They also have excellent chemistry. If they lose, it's not because they can't handle prosperity, it'll be because the other team was better that day.
2. Will Shawn Springs play?
The Redskins must be slightly optimistic or else he would have been ruled out Friday. After all, coach Jim Zorn said Thursday that's what would happen if he didn't practice Friday. The problem is, with all the explosive movements a corner must make, even if he is able to start it's hard to imagine him lasting the whole game. They're lucky that Philly lacks big-time receivers, though it does have a good passing game. This is a game the safeties must shine more than the corners. And don't forget: DeSean Jackson is the type of receiver whom Springs has more problems with anyway. So he likely would not have been on him that much.
3. What impact will Brian Westbrook have?
As good as Donovan McNabb is, Westbrook is the guy who consistently hurts the Redskins. So if he's healthy, it's a big boost for the Eagles. It could be the difference in the game. With Westbrook, the Eagles can spread defenses and hurt them more. It gives the shifty runner more lanes and space to maneuver. That's dangerous. Fortunately for Washington, its safety depth will play a key role in handling him. The one concern I do have is Chris Horton's tendency to make mistakes and get away with them; if he makes a mistake against Westbrook, it's a touchdown.
4. How dangerous is Jackson?
Very. Ignore the knucklehead aspects of his game and focus on the facts: the guy has 22 receptions and a touchdown (should be two) already. What he does is open up the underneath for Westbrook. The safeties must worry about him going deep. What does help is having tight end L.J. Smith sidelined. Also, wideout Hank Baskett plays off the attention Jackson receives. He has just 13 catches, but averages 15.9 yards per catch.
5. What must the Redskins' defense do?
Limit Westbrook and pressure McNabb. Simplistic plan, right? Yes, it is. The problem is that they did not apply enough pressure on Tony Romo last week and McNabb can hurt them more because he's just more patient. Romo did a good job eluding some pressure; McNabb will do a better job. And if Westbrook is back, it makes McNabb more dangerous. Makes it harder to put a spy on him. McNabb's arm strength remains excellent and he's accurate (65.1 percent). Thing is, he doesn0t just throw short. But it's an indication that he will take what's available yet stay aggressive.
6. Can they pressure McNabb?
That will be difficult. Jason Taylor wasn't playing at a high level, but he is more of a threat than Chris Wilson. And Wilson has no chance if they run in passing situations (when he's in the game). But it helps that Demetric Evans is starting because he's more able to anchor. The Redskins also buy more time for pressure by disguising coverages so well. Their safeties constantly provide different looks, more so than most teams. You also wonder what Andre Carter will be able to provide after missing a couple practices this week to tend to a family issue.
7. Can they stop Philly's blitzes?
The backs do a good job picking up the blitz, but Philly often sends so many guys to a side that it makes it hard to account for all. So it's imperative that Jason Campbell reads the blitz and knows who will come unblocked. That makes the short passes of the West Coast a must, especially early. But Jim Zorn has done a good job of calling plays against teams that can and want to pressure aggressively.
8. What's the concern?
Turnovers. The Eagles have caused nine thus far. The Redskins haven't turned it over once on offense. How long can that last. The Eagles will get to Campbell at some point; he must make sure he doesn't make a mistake when they do. This is where the play calls must bail him out. Also, Campbell has to be patient. I like how he's kept his eyes down field against pressure and is able to elude a rusher. But he'll have to sidestep a few Sunday.
9. Can they run the ball against the Eagles?
That will be difficult considering no one else has. The Eagles will run blitz a lot as well and their safeties are good in support. But the West Coast is designed to serve as a de facto running game, with some of the safe quick tosses. So the Redskins can win if Clinton Portis averages only three yards a carry or has a tough day. It's more about possessing the ball and thus far Campbell seems to have grasped that concept. They will also have to take a couple shots downfield. Opposing wideouts average 12.3 yards per catch with six touchdowns. The Redskins will have an opportunity for big plays – if they pick up the blitz.
10. Will they win?
I like this team. I want to like it even more. But can they really emerge from this stretch with a 4-1 record? Do you know what that means if they do? It's hard to imagine them having such a good start. But the other factor is this: Philly HAS to win this game if it wants to keep pace in the brutal NFC East. They're at home; they have Westbrook back and they're desperate. Not to mention they are two plays from 4-0. Looks like a close Eagles win: 23-21.
John Keim covers the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and is a contributing editor for Warpathinsiders.com. He has covered the team since 1994. Some of his other stories can be found at dcexaminer.com
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