The Philadelphia Eagles 2015 regular season football schedule continues this week with a must-win game. The Eagles are set to take on the Washington Redskins on Sunday, Oct. 4 at FedEx Field. In preparation for the game, I reached out to our acquaintances over at Hogs Haven. Alex Rowsey kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming contest.
Let's take a look at the answers.
1) Kirk Cousins has now thrown 23 career interceptions, which is the same amount as Robert Griffin III except in 600 less attempts. Should Cousins still be starting for Washington? What’s the confidence level in him moving forward?
I do think Kirk should still be the starting QB for the Redskins. Yes, he throws a bunch of INTs. It sucks. Right now, it's what's holding him back from becoming a good QB. But I still think he's the best QB on the roster. It's unfortunate that we don't have someone better, but I believe Kirk can still improve. Sure, RGIII doesn't throw INTs at nearly the rate that Cousins does. But RGIII has a whole different set of problems. He holds the ball for entirely too long and takes way too many sacks. He is worse at reading a defense. He completely misses more throws. He doesn't throw with anticipation. Kirk has a lot of good skills and one very bad one. He simply must get better at not throwing the INTs. He's decent at most everything else, though (which is better than our other QBs).
I'd say the confidence level in Kirk moving forward is pretty low, though. Some, like myself, still believe that Kirk can develop into at least an average starting QB. He hasn't played in a lot of games. He needs more experience. He has so many positives to build on that make you think that if he could just stop throwing the INTs, he'd be alright. Unfortunately, he hasn't stopped throwing the INTs yet and there's no guarantee that he ever will. I'd say a majority of fans agree that he simply is what he is and we've seen it. Regardless of whether he's the best QB on the roster right now or not, they're convinced that we'll need a new one next year who's better (or at least has the potential to be better) than anyone we currently have. We'll see.
2) Philadelphia arguably has the best run defense in the NFL. They only allow 3.1 yards per rush attempt, which ranks first. How concerning is that for a run-oriented team like Washington?
It's definitely a concern. Our team is built around the run. So far this year, it's what we do and who we are. We were successful running the ball the first two weeks and played a couple of decent games. Last week against the Giants, our running game was garbage and we lost big. We kind of go as the running game goes right now. If the Eagles can slow down or stop our running game, that causes a host of problems. For one thing, we just lost our starting LG for the season and will have an untested, unproven guy filling in. Obviously that hurts in all phases of the offense, but even more so in pass protection. If we can't run, then that means we have to pass. When Kirk passes a lot, he throws a lot of INTs. We try to minimize his passing attempts, but that might not be feasible if the running game doesn't get going. Additionally, we may still be without DeSean Jackson. You all know what a weapon he is and without him, our passing game isn't nearly as dynamic. At least when he's healthy, if we're forced to pass, it's a much better option with Jackson out there. We'll see if he's ready to play this week or not. Finally, the weather. If the weather is going to be bad without a lot of rain and wind, we want to run the ball even more and throwing becomes even more difficult. If the run game can't get going and we're forced to pass in that mess... all the worse.
However, we also have reason to not be so greatly concerned. Though the Eagles run defense is great, so is the Washington run offense. We currently have the #4 rushing offense (in ypg) and have reason to think we have the ability to run on anyone. You all already know about Alfred Morris, but now we've added Matt Jones and both of those guys are in the top 12 in rushing in the league right now. It'll be fun to watch our run game against your run defense. Both units will definitely be tested.
3) Washington is also pretty good at stopping the run. The Eagles got their running game back on track in Week 3 with Ryan Mathews but it’s still a work in progress. If the Eagles have to abandon their run game and rely on the passing attack, how confident are you in Washington’s secondary to handle a struggling Sam Bradford?
At the moment (again in ypg), the Redskins have the #2 defense overall (#3 vs the run and #7 vs the pass). The strength of our defense is definitely the front seven. Our secondary was never going to be our strength this year to begin with, but it's been made worse by taking several hits due to injury. We lost our starting SS early in the season, are without DeAngelo Hall at the moment, and just lost our #4 CB (and arguably our best slot/nickel CB) for the season. Our #3 CB for this week has only been with the team for a couple of weeks and our #4 CB for this week was an undrafted rookie WR who we converted to CB in training camp and just signed off the PS yesterday. So we're stretched pretty thin there.
I feel confident in the Redskins ability to contain the Eagles run game. If that can/does happen and the Eagles are forced to be one-dimensional, that obviously plays into the Redskins favor. Any time a team has to abandon the run, I think they're in trouble (except for maybe Green Bay and/or New England). Redskins fans are very happy to see Sam Bradford struggling so far this year. Still, it's hard to feel confident in our secondary against any QB. If the threat of the run is basically nonexistent and the Eagles are forced to pass, I feel confident in our defense. However, I feel confident more so because of our front seven and the ability to get pressure on Bradford than because our secondary is so great.
4) What is Washington’s biggest weakness and how can it be exploited?
We have three: passing offense, secondary, and special teams (particularly coverage/kicking units). The passing offense can be exploited by shutting down the run. If you can stymie our run, you'll force Kirk to pass a lot which likely means an INT or two (or three, or... you get it). The passing offense is significantly worse if Jackson can't go too, so keep that in mind. The secondary is best exploited by the quick passing game. Our front seven can bring pressure and with the way your OL looks and the way Bradford has been playing, I wouldn't want to take a ton of time and risk the long developing deep passing game. But quick passes kill us. The Giants did it last week to perfection. Getting the ball into the hands of your play-makers before our front seven can apply pressure is the best you can do. It would stress our already weak secondary. Also keep in mind that our secondary is extremely thin at the moment. So something as simple as keeping a fast tempo and really wearing guys out would be an even better idea this week (realizing that that's kind of y'all's game, anyway). Going with four and five WR sets and picking on our inexperienced secondary depth would be terrible for us. Exploiting the special teams is easy. Just play well there (which you guys already do). We had a punt blocked last week and returners routinely kill us. Force us to punt a lot and give Sproles chances. He won't need a lot to make something happen.
5) Who wins this game and why? Score prediction?
I'm going to say the Redskins win the game and here's why. It starts with defense. Sam Bradford has struggled this year and really, your entire offense hasn't looked good. Even last week, I don't think the Eagle offense looked great like we'd feared before the season began. Add on top of all that losing Andrew Gardner and the issues with Murray (him looking terrible and being hurt) and I really like our defense's chances this week. Our DL is very good and I think Bradford is going to be under siege. We're a very difficult team to run on and if Bradford has to stand behind that OL with our defense knowing only passes are coming, I think he's going to feel a lot of pressure. I know the Redskins defense has sucked for a long time, but I'm warning you know, don't sleep on them this year. Our defense is somehow legitimately better.
Offensively, I think the weather could play into our hands in that we want to run, run, and run some more. On special teams, I seriously think we'll just punt it away from Sproles like every single time. That's as good as our STs can do. Even if it means short punts, I think they'll just keep it out of his hands and go ahead and get rid of any risk. We're also at home. I'll say the Redskins will win 25-21. I expect it'll be a close, good game. NFCE games are crap shoots.