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October 17, 2017

Eagles vs. Redskins: 5 matchups to watch

Eagles NFL

In Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles broke a five-game losing streak to the Washington Redskins, beating them on the road, 30-17. In that game, the Eagles won a number of keys matchups.

Here are five matchups to watch six weeks later:

1) DE Brandon Graham and DT Fletcher Cox vs. RT Morgan Moses and RG Brandon Scherff

In the first matchup this season, Graham absolutely owned Moses all day long, collecting two sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, and two additional hits on the quarterback. Those stats don't even tell the whole story of how badly Graham dominated Moses, which we showed in gif form after that game.

Similarly, Cox got the best of Scherff that afternoon, as he chipped in a sack, a tackle for loss, a pair of hits on the quarterback, and the game-sealing fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown. Here's Graham and Cox both destroying their blocks on that play:

"I think the Redskins have a fine offensive line," said Jim Schwartz. "It's going to be one of our biggest challenges. I think where our success came was in those last couple drives when we really could pin our ears back. That game was tight throughout the game, and all of a sudden those last couple drives we could really get back and pin our ears back and be able to rush, and I think you saw some of those things particularly with Brandon."

Moses and Scherff are good players, and have both played much better since Week 1.

2) The Redskins' depth at corner vs. the Eagles' receivers

In the Week 1 matchup, Josh Norman followed Alshon Jeffrey all over the field, and held him to 3 catches for 38 yards on 7 targets. This time around, Norman likely won't play (though that's not a certainty), as he fractured a rib Week 4 against the Chiefs.

Additionally, the Redskins could be without their other starting corner Bashaud Breeland, who sprained his knee Week 6 against the 49ers.

"I always anticipate the best players are going to play," said Frank Reich. "You always know what the adjustments are. You have to have your answers. We talked about this before: there's, quote-unquote, answer sheets to what they do schematically. There's answer sheets to what you do personnel wise and how you take advantage of certain things."

If Norman and/or Breeland can't go, they'll have to rely on Quinton Dunbar, Kendall Fuller, Fabian Moreau, and Joshua Hosley to cover Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins. In that event, you may see Doug Pederson try to spread the Redskins' defense out with some more empty backfield sets than normal.

3) The Redskins' rushing offense vs. the Eagles' run defense

In the first matchup, the Eagles shut down the Redskins' rushing attack, as their backs carried the ball 13 times for 34 yards. (Kirk Cousins had 30 yards on 4 scrambles.)

Meanwhile, Cousins threw 40 times that day. That is a pass:run ratio that is not ideal. Since then, the Redskins have run it much better, as they are now 10th in the NFL, with 122.8 rushing yards per game. The Redskins have also found more balance offensively, as they have run it on 47.3 percent of their snaps this season, which is the fifth-highest run percentage in the NFL.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have the best run defense in the NFL, as they allow just 65.7 rushing yards per game.

The Redskins, as well as Kirk Cousins, are in a much better comfort zone offensively when they are running the ball effectively, like any other offense. 

"We let the quarterback loose a few too many times in quarterback scrambles and designed runs," said Schwartz. "We haven't been exactly top-notch on those. But it's part of what we want to do. If you can get the run stopped, that allows you to rush, and we're a rush team. So you can't put the cart before the horse, chicken before the egg, whatever analogy that is, you can't rush the quarterback if the offense has confidence in being able to run the ball."

While the Skins do not have a top every down type of running back, their offensive line is a great run blocking group. The challenge for the Eagles will be to continue their run stopping excellence and make the Redskins' offense one-dimensional.

4) RB Chris Thompson vs. the Eagles' linebackers

Here are the Redskins' leading receivers so far this season:

Redskins receiving leaders Rec Yards YPC TD 
 Chris Thompson18 340 18.9 2 
 Vernon Davis11 225 20.5 
 Terrelle Pryor16 209 13.1 
 Ryan Grant13 158 12.2 
 Jordan Reed18 142 7.9 
 Jamison Crowder17 121 7.1 
 Josh Doctson90 22.5 


While the Redskins' receivers – and TE Jordan Reed – have been major disappointments, Thompson has picked up the slack, and then some, catching passes out of the backfield and making plays with the ball in his hands. An 18.9-yards-per catch average from the running back position is nuts.

"This week with Thompson, he's playing at a ridiculous level, and a lot of that is coming from run after the catch," said Schwartz. "He did it to us in the opener."

This is what Schwartz is referring to:

Thompson is also the Redskins' leading rusher, by the way. He's certainly not a workhorse by any stretch, but he has 36 carries for 175 yards (4.9 YPC) and 2 TDs.

5) OLB Ryan Kerrigan vs. RT Lane Johnson

Johnson suffered a concussion Week 5 against the Cardinals and missed the Eagles' Thursday night win against the Panthers in Carolina. He has since passed through the concussion protocol, and has been cleared to play.

Kerrigan has killed the Eagles over the years. In 10 career games heading into this season, Kerrigan had 9 sacks and 5 forced fumbles against Philly. Last season, Kerrigan feasted on rookie (at the time) Halapoulivaati Vaitai in his starting debut, and then later Matt Tobin. 

In Week 1 against the Eagles, Johnson kept Kerrigan in check, though he did register a half sack. While he was comparatively quiet rushing the passer, Kerrigan still managed to make a huge play, when he picked off Carson Wentz on a deflection and returned it for a touchdown. 

In the first four weeks, Johnson faced Kerrigan, Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Joey Bosa. As usual, he'll have yet another tough matchup in Kerrigan once again Monday night.


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