Out of the Box: The rivalry is back as the Washington Redskins travel up the road a piece to play the Philadelphia Eagles, 4:15 pm ET on FOX, a quarter of the way through the season and the outcome of this game determines the NFC Beast leader.
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The Story So Far: Oh mercy. We went from hope inspiring win to productive loss to the wheels are falling off in the span of three weeks, although totally predictable, any thought that Redskins fans may have a season's worth of patience for a team under new management is out the window. At least for crappy losses like last week's against the Rams.
Behind that worthless loss is the real concern Redskins fans have, that even after an entire offseason to plan, acquire and strategize, through the organized team activities and minicamps, training camp and four preseason games, that the coaches still do not really have a handle on what they have, what they want to do and are acting with no sense of urgency.
Redskins fans would have and still will continue to be patient with productive losses, those on the road to a persistently better football team. This crap with juggling positions and personalities and favoring the passing game over the running game does not qualify for the Football Amnesty program. Thus endeth the sermon, on to the week's news.
After getting shredded for thirty points in each of the last two games, head coach Mike Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett reiterated their commitment to the 3-4 defense despite some glaring personnel deficiencies, perhaps best typified by watching linebacker slash defensive end Andre Carter struggle in pass coverage. Analysis: Redskins need a season or two in order to put solid 3-4 personnel in place.
After the Dive Heard Round the Beltway in the first quarter of the Rams game tailback Clinton Portis only had two carries, practice squad promotee Ryan Torain had most of the rest of the work. Clinton claimed he was falling to protect the ball, that the extra yards would not have mattered and that he has been coached to place a premium on ball safety. He blamed his wrist which he then claimed was actually hurt in the Dallas game two weeks earlier now even though Clinton will start there is some question as to what his exact role will be in the offense going forward. I have lost the plot with this guy. Analysis: Redskins need a season or two to identify a long term solution at tailback.
Looks like Kory Lichtensteiger is going to get a second straight start at left guard over Derrick Dockery (op. cit.) whose name is much easier to type. It is becoming apparent that coaches think of Kory as a better fit in their schemes than Derrick, Kory played the entire game at left guard last week at the Rams, a notion I am still a little confused about, I will be watching that position carefully in this game to see if I can make some sense of it. Analysis: Redskins need a season or two to lock down a steady starter at left guard.
The issue of age came back into focus this week with the perennially youthful Eagles on the schedule, for the second season in a row the Redskins have the oldest roster in the league, the Eagles have one of the youngest. The underlying issue is not the quality of play of Washington's veterans, it is that there is little quality depth and few up and coming players to challenge for playing time and make us feel good about the future. We all know how this happened, from years of ignoring key positions, signing the wrong free agents and wasting draft picks. Analysis: Redskins need a season or two to build depth and find the next generation of young and inexpensive players.
Speaking of those Eagles, our quarterback played there for eleven quote great unquote years and no matter what he thinks he will tell you he loved every minute of it. Donovan McNabb's emotional and football state will be on display tomorrow, his prediction and mine is they cheer for him.
And while we are in the topic of Donovan McNabb, I find it amusing that one of the criticisms of Dono during his eleven years in Philadelphia was that Donovan seems imperturbable, that he greets all turns of events with a smile and in so doing may have made Eagles fans to feel has had no emotion for the game, a critical component of personal success in that town. Amusing it is to me because that was a chief complaint about Jason Campbell when he was quarterbacking the team, never raging in the huddle, always keeping it medium. Will Redskins fans make this a double standard or is Donovan simply different, therefore requiring different assessment measures?
Finally, the Real roster continues to shape up, after being released to make room for tailback Ryan Torain who I thought was better than tailback Keiland Williams in camp, receiver slash returner Brandon Banks was signed back to the active roster, to make room for Brandon, Keiland was released. The wheels of football justice sometimes move slowly. Hopefully we will see Brandon in the game this week though his first three weeks in the league the team was hesitant to use him so I wonder what has changed.
For those keeping score at home, this makes eight straight Redskins games this season, four preseason and four regular season, without a 1:00 pm game, we still must wait another week for our first.
Curly R Aside: This game marks the start of my twelfth year attending Redskins-Eagles rivalry games with college friend, lifetime Eagles fan, season ticket holder and Curly R reader/lurker Wilbert Montgomery, today is our 22nd of the past 23 games, and my twentieth straight game without a miss, our overall streak goes back to 1999, which just coincidentally happens to be Donovan McNabb's rookie year with the Eagles. Hot weather, cold weather, rain, snow, dead car batteries, day games, night games, I have seen everything this rivalry has to give for more than a decade.
Today the ritual expands for the first time to include the next generation of Redskins fans, eight year olds Josh and Will Folsom, often mentioned and last seen here on Fan Appreciation Day of 2007 training camp, Wilbert Montgomery, who also happens to be their godfather, was gracious enough to extend a personal invitation to them for this game. They fully get the meaning of it all, they know our ritual goes back to before they were born. They could not be more excited. Of course there is the small matter of bringing eight year olds in Redskins jerseys to Eagles Stadium, a horrorshow I visited six times before finally mustering the courage to don colors for the first time in 2006.
We will have a good long talk in the car on the way there about personal safety and how to root in Philadelphia for the Redskins -- on the inside.
Oppo Research: Cannot talk about these Eagles without talking about quarterback Michael Vick who through three games is really playing the position at a higher level than he did before taking a two year leave of absence to serve time in jail for his dogfighting crimes, Donovan was an early post smaller proponent of Michael and even now says the guy was constantly working to make himself a better person and a better football player. I really do think Michael is a changed guy, not a saint, he realizes he only gets one shot at this stuff. In case you have forgotten about the sideshow that was Michael Vick, he was in the news so often that Curly R has a Michael Vick category.
There is a lot of talent on this Eagles team and they are dangerous with anyone under center, the way they are playing now, the entire offense is going through Michael Vick, get him off his game and you get the team off theirs.
Michael Vick though is not the only player excelling this year for the Eagles, one player in particular I have observed is LeSean aka Shady McCoy, with the release of Brian Westbrook in the offeseason LeSean has become the man in Philadelphia and he has proven to be most of what Brian was in the passing game and maybe even better in the running game. LeSean will be actively testing the middle of the Redskins defense today.
On defense the Jim Johnson legacy continues with defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, the Eagles are blitz happy and can come at you from multiple directions, they know Donovan McNabb's tendencies better than any team in the league which gives the Philadelphia defense a distinct advantage here, one outweighing any knowledge Dono may have of Eagles defensive habits.
As a matter of NFC Beast politics we may never really know a) Why the Eagles let Donovan go when and how they did, or b) Why they let him go a a division rival. The best I can figure is the Eagles did not want to pay what he would command as a veteran free agent after 2010 and assumed he did not have enough left in the tank to be a threat. Whatever the case, Eagles head coach Andy Reid says it was a tough decision. Read: Save his job.
Trainer's Table: Rookie left tackle Trent Williams missed last week's game, giving fourth year veteran Stephon Heyer his first start of the season (op. cit.), Trent's knee and toe were healed up enough that Trent returned to practice Wednesday, Thursday Trent was hopeful though we still did not know if he could go, Friday Trent was announced as a game time decision, and appeared in the Questionable category of the mandatory Friday injury report. Before the game Trent was declared inactive, this is his second straight game out.
Punter Josh Bidwell had to be helped off the field in pregame warmups last week against the Rams and was unable to punt in the game though he was able to hold on kicks, at first there was uncertainty, turns out the pain and the tweak he felt was scar tissue tearing off his surgically repaired hip, this has left him happy and more flexible than before, while this is good news for Josh I am still a bit leery about all this.
Gameplan: The Washington defense needs to get back where it was against Dallas and Houston, though without the scoring of Houston, the Redskins got to Matt Schaub all day, he was just able to find an outlet. If the team sits back and lets Michael Vick dictate the pace of the game then we might as well just call it for the Eagles now. Only an aggressive strategy to neutralize Michael will give the Redskins any chance to succeed, the team plans to have a defensive back spy Michael at all time, this is de rigeur for any team that has ever strategized against Michael and has not always been an effective tack. Is it even relevant to say at least one Redskins secondary player would rather face Kevin Kolb?
On offense, we are getting into goes without saying but bears repeating territory: Donovan's arm and Santana Moss' legs alone cannot win the game, there has to be something happening on the ground. Get out of last in red zone offense.
My Take in 60 Words or Less: An emotional day for Donovan and Eagles fans, and the NFC Beast lead on the line, let's go smashmouth.
Redskins inactives: left tackle Trent Williams, defensive linemen Vonnie Holliday, Anthony Bryant and Jeremy Jarmon, cornerback Kevin Barnes, linebacker Perry Riley and tight end Logan Paulsen. John Beck is the inactive emergency third quarterback.
Broadcast coverage, holy shit look at that coverage, this is late national game, we will be treated to Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
Enjoy the game, I will be there, at the game with my kids, my longtime game partner Wilbert Montgomery and a camera to document the game for posterity, look for the game journal at some point.
This is a gameday open thread.
NFL helmet logos from here.