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News & Notes: 'D' Looks to Keep Eagles Off Balance


Let's face it: the Redskins' defense has not exactly faced any offensive juggernauts this season.

The St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs are all in the bottom third of the NFL in offensive rankings.

On Monday night, the Redskins' defense gets its first significant test against an explosive Philadelphia Eagles offense. Three times this season the Eagles have posted 30 points in a game.

Led by veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb, the Eagles boast diverse weapons in running back Brian Westbrook, wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and tight end Brent Celek.

Redskins coaches are looking closely at the film of last week's Philadelphia-Oakland game. The Raiders handcuffed the Eagles offense and held on for a 13-9 win.

"You have to change up some things defensively [against the Eagles]," Redskins secondary-cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray said. "I thought the Oakland Raiders did an excellent job of keeping them off balance and not just going out playing what they call 'old Raider football,' straight man to man.

"They mixed up some Cover 2, some zone, and even a little cover seven. They did a lot and they kept them off balance."

The confusion, as well as breakdowns along the offensive line, allowed the Raiders to sack McNabb six times.

That's a source of hope for the Redskins.

Pressuring quarterbacks has long been a problem for the Redskins, but this year they are tied for sixth in the NFL in sacks with 15. (Last year, the Redskins were 28th in the NFL with just 24 sacks.)

Andre Carter leads with 5.5 sacks and rookie Brian Orakpo has 3.5 in the last four games.

And Albert Haynesworth is well aware that two of the Raiders' sacks against Philadelphia last week came from Pro Bowl defensive tackle Richard Seymour.

If McNabb has time in the pocket, then he can throw deep to a pair of dynamic wide receivers in Jackson and Maclin.

Jackson, a second-year wide out, is averaging 18.6 yards per catch and Maclin, a rookie, is averaging 14.8 yards per catch. They both have two touchdowns in the early going this season.


Jerry Gray (Ned Dishman Photo)

The Redskins' secondary did a solid job against Jackson last year, holding him to three catches for 22 yards in two games. He did have a 68-yard punt return against the Redskins, though.

Jackson and Maclin have helped open up the middle of the field to Celek, a 6-4, 255-pounder who leads the Eagles with 30 catches for 378 yards and two touchdowns.

"When you have Maclin, Jackson, Westbrook and McNabb, you can't double everyone," Gray said. "Then all of a sudden the tight end has big numbers and he has a lot of catches. Those guys are really good around him.

"The big thing is you have to minimize what the other guys do and make [Celek] beat you. If that is the case, then fine, but you can't let Maclin, Jackson and Westbrook beat you."

For years, Westbrook was the Eagles' primary offensive weapon.

Now in his eighth season, Westbrook has been rotating with rookie LeSean McCoy.

Gray hasn't noticed any decline in Westbrook's skills.

"Trust me, you don't want him with the ball in his hands," Gray said. "All of a sudden he catches the ball on the check down and the next thing you know he is gone."

The Redskins are wary of Westbrook based on personal experience.

In a 2007 game, Westbrook rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown and caught 5 passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Eagles to a 33-25 win at FedExField.

Last year, the Redskins held Westbrook in check, holding him to 78 rushing yards and one touchdown in two games. He still was effective in the passing game, grabbing 12 passes for 122 yards.


In his ninth NFL season, Santana Moss has played for a variety of offensive coordinators and play callers.

He is used to change--and he knows how to adapt to the insertion of Sherman Lewis as the Redskins' new play caller.

"We're running the same plays, it's just somebody else is calling them," Moss said. "He is just going to call them in an orderly fashion that he sees fit. Here and there, he might change up things depending on how he wants to run something. But I don't that it's going to be a problem."

Moss remains an integral part of the passing offense, but getting him the ball has not always been easy against Philadelphia.

Moss was held without a catch in the Week 5 game against the Eagles. In the rematch in Week 16, Moss had five catches for just 28 yards.

The Eagles' secondary may be without Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins, who has moved on to Denver, but they have two of the best cornerbacks in the league in Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown. They have combined for seven interceptions this season.

"Everyone knows about Asante, he's a Pro Bowl guy and he reads the route pretty well," Moss said. "Brown has good hands, too. They're very disciplined when it comes to watching the quarterback and watching you on your route. They watch and they figure it out, 'I'm going to jump this ball.'

"Just like they get picks, they can get beat also. They know that and I know that."


Clinton Portis and Albert Haynesworth sat out practice on Friday but are expected to be available to play in Monday night's game against Philadelphia.

Portis and Haynesworth are slowed by ankle injuriess.

"I believe they will both participate in the game," Zorn said.

Since the Redskins play on Monday night instead of Sunday, Zorn believes the extra day of rest is benefiting both players.

Meantime, Cornelius Griffin took part in practice on a limited basis due to an elbow injury.

Hunter Smith punted for the first time in two weeks on Friday and it appears he is healthy enough to play.

Chris Horton and Kareem Moore returned to practice after a bout with the flu.

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