Posted by Andy Benoit
Obviously on Sunday the focus in Philadelphia will be on Donovan McNabb. But what about the rest of the other 21 players on the field? The 1-2 Redskins are dangerously thin – emaciated, even – at the skill positions. Wideout Santana Moss can stretch the field. Fellow wideout Joey Galloway can stretch the field only theoretically. The 16th-year veteran has just three catches on the season.
You can’t count on Galloway or any of the backup wide receivers to provide much. Thus, one key for Washington will be finding ways to avoid a Moss-on-Asante Samuel matchup. Moss’ game is predicated on speed and quickness. Samuel’s off-ball style of coverage naturally neutralizes these elements.
Chris Cooley is often Washington’s X-factor. In this game, he’s a XX-factor. The Eagles struggled mightily last season in covering tight ends. Hence, the trade for speedy underneath outside linebacker Ernie Sims. By using Cooley in motion and aligning him in a variety of areas (the slot, backfield, etc.), Washington can force Sims – or, ideally, strong safety Quintin Mikell – to react presnap. This will make Philadelphia’s blitz schemes easier to diagnose.
A key factor will be whether rookie left tackle Trent Williams is healthy enough to block Trent Cole one-on-one (Williams was inactive in Week 3 but returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to play.) The Redskins would hate to have to keep Cooley in as an extra pass-blocker. In fact, they’d probably use Cooley as a de factor receiver and refer to second tight end Fred Davis for blocking duties. In that case, fullback Mike Sellers might off the field, which could dilute the play-action threat.
The Redskins must incorporate their run game to avoid getting into a shootout. Running will be tough given the issues at left guard (incumbent starter Derrick Dockery has fallen into a serious job competition with Kory Lichtensteiger). Philly’s Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley form one of the more vociferous defensive tackle tandems in the league. Plus, backup Trevor Laws is coming off one of his best games as a pro.
And let’s not forget, Clinton Portis is nearing the point where he’s only effective as a fourth quarter closer (assuming he’s still fresh in the fourth quarter). Plus, Portis’ bruising style won’t be as impactful against 258-pound middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. Ryan Torain is Washington’s best runner – especially in Mike Shanahan’s zone scheme. Don’t be surprised if Torain wears the hat on Sunday.
Ron Jaworski thought McNabb had perhaps the best game of his career against the Texans in Week 2. That still came in a losing effort. McNabb’s return trip to the City of Brotherly Love could be a reminder that talent is important, but equally as important is the talent around you.
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