The Washington Redskins are reeling, and now they face a division foe in hostile territory.

The team will take on the Philadelphia Eagles tomorrow in a game that is vital for both organizations. A win would allow each program to hold on to a sliver of hope for a playoff opportunity, and in the Redskins case, a shot at a division title. A loss will have the losing team reflecting on whether they should “shut it down” for the season. It’s safe to say, that this game will dictate the trajectory of the Redskins season.

To add further insult, the ‘Skins must perform on a platform in which they have routinely struggled–Monday Night Football. Since 2001, the Redskins have a putrid win-loss record of 4-19 on America’s stage. The team must come prepared, or the season will be lost.

Will they be able to overcome? Will they give fans something to be proud of Tuesday morning? Take a look at my keys of the game and let me know what you think.

The Real McCoy

This game is an indictment on Colt McCoy and will set the tone for our foreseeable future. The Redskins offense struggled for most of the season under the guidance of Alex Smith, but somehow found opportunities to win.  The offense struggled so bad under Smith, that many questioned if McCoy was a better option for our offense, considering his familiarity with it and relationship with Coach Jay Gruden. However, it was safe to say that last week’s performance surely disappointed the fan base.

Colt McCoy (12) had a poor performance against the Dallas Cowboys last week. Can he recover this week against the Eagles? (Albright/GETTY)

McCoy produced a stat line of 24/38 for 268 yards with 2 TD’s and 3 interceptions. His QBR was also a below-average 73.9.

Although there were things to like, such as a more explosive passing offense (as was seen with Vernon Davis’ 51 yard touchdown reception), there were plenty of negatives that should have fans at the very least concerned.

In addition to his three interceptions, Colt fumbled the ball once and had several errant throws that could have easily been taken away. A break here or there, and a five interception game could have easily happened. Ouch.

If the Redskins are to win tomorrow, fans should hope for a clean sheet from McCoy (no turnovers) and over 250 yards passing. That would appease much of the fan base and give confidence in the signal caller.

Tomorrow provides a prime opportunity. Consider that the Eagles pass defense ranks 28th in the league in yards allowed per game (304). They also struggle to produce turnovers as well, only producing eight interceptions on the season (29th in the league). So considering Colt can air it out, and the Eagles rarely produce picks, he may have a great game tomorrow.

Hence, the debate. Who is the real McCoy? The answer will have ramifications this season and maybe the next. McCoy struggled against a strong Cowboys defense, but he should be given a pass considering the quick turnaround and a lack of repetition with the first team offense.

But Colt now will have had 10 days to prepare for this game both physically and mentally. If he completely bottoms out, he may not be the answer for this team. Which is worrisome, considering Alex Smith may not be ready to start the season in 2019.

Stopping the Dynamic Duo

The Eagles offense runs through two people: Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz. If the Redskins can contain these two standouts, they will be well on their way to a win.

Wentz has returned to form after sitting the first two games of the season to recover from ACL surgery. He has bounced back admirably to a stat line of 2,540 yards, 16 TD’s and 6 Interceptions. His QBR for the season is a respectable, if not spectacular, 100.8.

On paper, the Eagles’ offense may not be imposing, considering they are only 23rd in the leagues in points scored (230). However, there have been games in which they have clicked. And considering that they are eighth in the league in pass attempts, we can expect a heavy barrage from Wentz this week. Against the Cowboys, the team produced 421 yards of offense, including 350 yards passing. This is something to note considering how that Dallas has been playing well on defense as of late. See the Saints game.

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Jan 21, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (86) avoids tackle by Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (22) and strong safety Andrew Sendejo (34) during the second quarter in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (86) avoids tackle by Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (22) and strong safety Andrew Sendejo (34) during the second quarter in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Our biggest threat tomorrow will be Zach Ertz, who on the season has 111 targets, 84 receptions with 895 yards. He averages 81.4 yards per game and has chipped in six touchdowns this season.

It will be intriguing on how the Redskins cover Ertz. You’d assume that Josh Norman will cover Alshon Jeffrey, so that leaves Ertz paired up on our linebackers or hopefully DJ Swearinger. Will Josh Harvey-Clemons have a larger role this game? That may be a wise move.

Regardless, Ertz should be a priority and if the Redskins limit his ability to move the chains, it would significantly increase their chance to win. He’s a third-down conversion monster, and that’s something we have been struggling with as of late.

Can the Defense Bounce Back?

Throughout the season we have heard of many monikers attributed to the Redskins defense. Flight Marshals. Alabama Wall. DC Gridlock. Well, the starting defense better lay off of Google Search and get back into the classroom. Their tackling was horrendous last week and it cost us the game. I think Amari Cooper is still running last time I checked.

Nov 11, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber (25) runs with the ball as Washington Redskins inside linebacker Zach Brown (53) and Washington Redskins nose tackle Da’Ron Payne (95) tackle during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If the Redskins expect to win, they need to revert to the beginning of the season in which the fans were proud of the team. Over the last four games, the defense has allowed opponents to accumulate over 400 yards in three of those games. Including a 501 yard performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a 491 yard performance from the Atlanta Falcons.

Last week, the Redskins allowed the Cowboys to rush for 146 yards, which was the second highest total of the season (154, Falcons). Let’s get back on track and be the bully on the defensive line.

In my opinion, the ideal game plan would be to play a cover 3 defense and not allow the Eagles to take shots deep against us. Harvey-Clemons would cover Ertz and extra attention would be shaded his direction when play-calling allows. If our linebackers play their proper run-fits, I’m not too worried about the Eagles run game.

Prediction

The Redskins have lost three of four and appear to be a team on the decline as opposed to a team primed for a sharp playoff run. I think the loss of Alex Smith is a larger issue than most realize, and McCoy’s volatility concerns me. Especially on Monday night. Considering this, the Redskins fall 27-24 to the Eagles. And things will get interesting in DC.

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Redskins Notes: After a Loss in Dallas, is it Time To Panic?

 

 

 

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