The Eagles look to even their record at 2-2 against division foes the Redskins Sunday (1 p.m. on FOX). And assuming the game goes off without a hitch — and Hurricane Joaquin doesn’t cause a change of venue or postponement –Philadelphia will face a bigger test than many might think.
Washington’s offense has been spectacular early, contrary to their 1-2 early-season record.
But after getting, as quarterback Sam Bradford said “the monkey off our backs” with win No. 1 in New York last week, the Eagles are excited to get back in the field and see if they can build off some big positives.
“The hard part is this, practice,” Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham said.”In the game, it’s fun. You can be relaxed and let loose.”
Here are three keys for the Eagles in Week 4:
Stop the run
Well, stop the run might be too ambitions. The Redskins have two of the top 12 running backs in the NFL in Alfred Morris (199 yards, 4.1 yards per carry)and Matt Jones (189 yards, 5.3 yards per carry).
Washington leads the entire NFL in yardage differential (+94.3), time of possession (34:43), plays per scoring drive (11) and time per scoring drive (5:34). What does that mean? Well, the Redskins can control the ball.
Pair that with the Eagles’ hurry-up offense and the defense will certainly be spending some time on the field.
“We probably have our biggest challenge this week — going up against the fourth best rushing team in the league,” Connor Barwin, another Eagles linebacker said.”They have two of the best backs in the league.They split the reps, they are always fresh and always running really hard.”
Move the ball
The Eagles are usually concerned with their drives being stymied by turnovers. This season, it’s not turnovers but three-and-outs that are devastatingthe no-huddle offense.
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“Usually with this group, you get one first down and that leads to more first downs,” Chip Kelly said. “It’s really those opening first three plays and within there, there can’t be any inconsistency on those three plays.”
Philly leads the league in three-and-outs and it isn’t even close. They have gone three-and-out on 14 of 40 drives this season, a 35 percent clip, six points higher than the second-worst offender the Browns. In contrast, the 49ers, Saints and Patriots have just two three-and-outs apiece all season long. The small sample size doesn’t condemn three-and-outs as a decisive stat in the NFL yet, but it is certainly not a good place to start.
Run the ball
The Eagles finally eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground last week, interestingly without highly-paid back DeMarco Murray. Murray has been practicing this week but his status for Sunday is yet unknown.
It seems that Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews are more than capable of picking up the slack if the Eagles can handle the Redskins talented front seven.
“They’re a good defense,” Bradford said.”I think they’re second now in total defense, their front is active, they get their hands on a lot of balls. Their scheme is simple but they do a good job.”
Establishing the run could be even more important if the D.C. area is flushed with bad weather, as is expected due to Joaquin this weekend.