When the Redskins face the Philadelphia Eagles in recent years, the Chris Samuels-Trent Cole matchup was always one to watch as the game unfolded.
Samuels' is an elite left tackle, a six-time Pro Bowler for the Redskins. With 33.5 career sacks in four seasons, Cole is the Eagles' top pass rusher.
Samuels has really handled Cole through the years, though.
Cole has just one sack in seven games against the Redskins. In Week 5 earlier this year, Cole posted four tackles in the Redskins' 23-17 win over the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Samuels, of course, is on injured reserve with a triceps injury.
So it's up to his replacement, second-year tackle Stephon Heyer, to get the job done against Cole.
Heyer, the second-year lineman out of Maryland, makes his third start at left tackle this season. He opened the season at right tackle, but suffered a shoulder injury and lost his starting job.
Cole is a 6-3, 270-pound speed rusher. He made the Pro Bowl last year.
"He's a relentless player," Heyer said of Cole. "He plays hard and he plays low. He's an all-down player. You have to be ready for him."
For Heyer, that means maintaining his leverage and making sure he has proper footwork to keep Cole in front of him.
Heyer has watched Cole on film--and specifically watched how Samuels blocks Cole--so he feels ready for the young, emerging pass rusher.
"We've seen some of the best pass rushing defenses in the league this year, and we know it's going to be more of the same against Philly," Heyer said. "We'll key in on some things that they do well and try to pick it up on Sunday."
-- WASHINGTON PICKS UP PACE
For the first time in four weeks, Marcus Washington increased his practice workload on Thursday.
Washington has been slowed by a high ankle sprain and has missed the last four games.
"He's hopefully going to play on Sunday [against Philadelphia]," Greg Blache said. "I think he was surprised at how well he moved."
Meantime, London Fletcher was limited in practice on Thursday.
Blache said Thursday's practice was the first time that he had his entire defense on the field "in months." From Fletcher to Shawn Springs to Jason Taylor, it seems like there has always been someone sitting out practice to rest an injury.
"I couldn't believe it," Blache said. "It was great. The tempo and the spirit was great."
The Redskins' only injury concern remains Jon Jansen, who sat out practice again on Thursday to rest a knee injury.
-- DAVIS IMPROVING
Rookie tight end Fred Davis played in last Sunday's game in Cincinnati, his first action since Nov. 16.
Davis caught a 15-yard pass from Jason Campbell to help set a field goal late in the first half.
"When he caught the ball, he did some good things with it," Zorn said. "He is going to continue to be involved now. I thought he graded out well in desire. In the limited reps he had, there were no problems on the field."
Zorn said Davis has been quietly earning his way into more playing time.
He was deactivated several times this season due to his inexperience on special teams. Backup tight ends are usually needed to play a role on kick return units.
"Fred is coming along well and he is playing fast," Zorn said. "I think he has more confidence because he knows what he is doing now and it is making a difference for him. He is getting better and better knowing his assignments.
"Danny [Smith] trusts him more and I trust him more."
-- MITCHELL ON USA FOOTBALL'S BOARD
Former Redskins running back Brian Mitchell was recently named to USA Football's Board of Directors.
USA Football is the sport's national governing body on youth and amateur levels. An independent non-profit, its office is located just outside the Washington, D.C. area in Virginia.
Mitchell will help steer USA Football's programs to foster positive football experiences on the grassroots level.
"I played this game for more than half of my life," Mitchell said. "I know how it opens doors for young people. It engenders friendships and opportunities. Football's values and lessons are just as much a part of this sport as blocking and tackling."
Mitchell played for the Redskins from 1990-99. He also played for the Philadelphia Eagles (2000-02) and New York Giants (2003). He currently is a radio personality in Washington, D.C.
With the Redskins dropping to 7-7, there is a resignation among coaches and players that a playoff berth is not in the cards this year.
The Redskins are still mathematically alive for the postseason, though.
Jim Zorn addressed the matter after Thursday's practice.
"We have to take care of business, but I'm not counting on [a playoff berth]," he said. "It would be like buying a lottery ticket. The odds are against you. A lot of things would have to happen for us to earn the right. Again, the first thing we have to do is win this weekend."