Redskins.com's Andrew Walker breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Eagles 2014 Week 3 showdown in Philadelphia.
"Redskins-Eagles:4 Keys To The Game" is presented by Papa John's. Every Monday, fans can order a large cheese pizza for only $9.99, plus for each touchdown that the Redskins score, fans get one free topping. And with a Redskins victory, fans get double the toppings.
CONTINUE THE MOMENTUMThe Washington Redskins are coming off a 41-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in which they were able to dominate and control all three phases of the game. Despite quarterback Robert Griffin III and wide
receiver DeSean Jackson each being knocked out of the game with injuries in the first quarter, the Redskins didn't miss a beat with backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, who completed 22-of-33 passes for 250 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The defense, meanwhile, collected a franchise record-tying 10 sacks, four of which coming from outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan – also tying a franchise record. So after bringing their record back to 1-1, the Redskins begin divisional play Sunday against the Eagles in Philadelphia hoping to continue the momentum from their Week 2 victory. The Redskins also hope to benefit from the return of safety Brandon Meriweather, who was suspended the first two games of the season.
STOP McCOY AND SPROLES
LeSean McCoy has been one of the best running backs in the NFL the past few years, and the Redskins, unfortunately, have fallen victim to some of his better performances. Last year, McCoy piled up 184 yards on 31 carries, along with a touchdown, in Philadelphia's 33-27 Week 1 win over Washington. He added another 77 rushing yards, 73 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles' 24-16 Week 11 victory over the Redskins.
Then there's Philadelphia offseason acquisition Darren Sproles, who has been electric in the Eagles' first two games of the season. In wins over Jacksonville and Indianapolis, Sproles ran the ball 15 times for 97 yards (6.5 YPC) with two touchdowns and has caught 11 passes for 166 yards. The Eagles will likely try to use screen plays to help neutralize the Redskins' potent pass rush, something they've already executed eight times for 152 yards so far this season.
The Redskins' defense has, through the first two weeks of the season, been the No. 1 unit in the entire NFL, holding opponents to a league-best 234.5 yards per game, including just 70 yards per game on the ground. They're going to hope they can find a balance both getting to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and plugging up the holes and stopping the run and the screen plays Sunday in Philadelphia.
If DeSean Jackson is able to overcome a sprained left shoulder and play in Sunday's game – which he believes will be the case – it will be the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver's first game in Philadelphia as a member of the divisional rival Redskins. Despite coming off a career year, Jackson was released by the Eagles in March, who have since said the move was completely football related. So the Redskins were more-than-happy to sign a guy coming off a Pro Bowl year in which he established career highs in receptions (82), yards (1,332), touchdowns (nine) and 100-yard games (five).
If he plays, Jackson will probably be in Cousins' ear all game, telling him to find him deep down the field – and often. Jackson has said he wants to get a little revenge against the Eagles, and Sunday's game is his first shot. Earning the Redskins' first NFC East game, meanwhile, would be the overall goal.
"My focus is more here, on this locker room, doing what we need to do to win a football game," Jackson said. "I'm not here to be buddy-buddy, and I want to win games for this football team here. Once game time comes, I could care less about anything else. Burgundy and gold are my colors now, and that's all I'm going to focus on, that's all I'm going to worry about."
As for his reception in Philadelphia – the City of Brotherly Love – Jackson said Wednesday he's not quite sure what to expect. ""I felt I put it out on the line for them when I played there and I've done what I've done to help that organization win games, so as far as if they congratulate me, if they boo me -- whatever the case may be -- I'm ready for whatever it is," he said.
With Cousins under center and starting a game for the first time all season, look for the Redskins to continue to rely on third-year running back Alfred Morris to carry the offense against the Eagles. Morris – who was elected to his first Pro Bowl last season – last Sunday became the fastest Redskins running back to reach 3,000 career rushing yards, and has been a model of consistency since becoming the team's starter Week 1 of the 2012 season. Against the Jaguars, Morris carried the ball 22 times for 85 yards and two touchdowns, and, because the Redskins had the game in hand, watched most of the fourth quarter from the sidelines, when rookie Silas Redd contributed 41 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Go behind the scenes as Redskins running back Alfred Morris goes in front of the camera for his 2014 photo shoot.
Gruden talked Wednesday about the importance of having Morris, despite an injury forcing a change at quarterback. "You know, if things don't go right in the passing game, if you're worried about a pass rusher here or there, it's nice to turn and hand it off a guy you know is going to get some chunks of yards for you and run through tackles and make positive plays and not complain if he doesn't get the ball and all that good stuff," Gruden said. "He's a class act. He's a good, hard runner, great zone runner. He has great vision and obviously, the best part of Alfred is No. 1) he's very durable, and No. 2) he makes yards after contact. He's always falling forward which gets you from second-and-nine, instead of second-and-nine, you get second-and-seven, second-and-six, which those are huge yards. They really are."