Sunday, September 8th at 1 p.m. EDT, the Washington Redskins travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles. According to Vegas, the Redskins are 10-point underdogs. It seems that the Redskins, to quote WWE CEO Vincent Kennedy McMahon, “have no chance in hell.” Yet, there is always a chance for victory. It’s all about having the correct game plan.
The Eagles are a talented football team. Offensively, they have players like quarterback Carson Wentz, wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, and all pro tight end Zach Ertz. The Redskins defense will have to be special to contain this offense, which they do. The defense must put pressure on the Wentz. A way to do that is for the interior defensive to get pressure on the quarterback. 3-4 defensive linemen, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Matt Ioannidis combined for 20.5 sacks last season. It’s essential for the trio to own the Eagles offensive line. Last season, in two games against the Eagles’ center Jason Kelce and the rest of their interior offensive line, the trio registered zero sacks. That will not cut it Sunday. Allen, Payne, and Ioannidis must dominate this game. The less time Wentz has in the pocket, the better their chances are to avoid explosive plays by players like Jackson and Ertz. In 12 games against the Redskins, Jackson has had 37 catches for 639 yards with five touchdowns. Also, in 12 games against the Redskins, Ertz had 71 receptions for 718 yards with one touchdown. The trio can’t allow Wentz to extend plays to find these Redskins killers. They will also need help from their outside linebackers to bottle up Wentz in the pocket.
Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is second all-time among Redskins sack leaders with 84.5 sacks. He will have to put that on display against one of the best tackle tandems in football—in Jason Peters and Lane Johnson. This will be a challenge for Kerrigan. Last year against the Eagles, Kerrigan only recorded a sack in two games. He will have to do better against the nine-time pro bowler Peters, or the two-time pro bowler Johnson. Yet, Johnson isn’t looking forward to Kerrigan’s relentless pressure. “It sucks,” Johnson told reporters in Philadelphia. He added “[Kerrigan is] just a guy that’s relentless. He doesn’t stop and that’s the mentality I’m going against.” Providing outside pressure doesn’t only fall on Kerrigan.
In April, the Redskins drafted edge rusher Montez Sweat with the 26th pick overall for games like this. The team needed a fast and strong edge rusher to provide fear to opposing offensive tackles. The rookie out of Mississippi State University could be a matchup nightmare for Peters or Johnson, especially Peters. At 36, Peters has dealt with several leg injuries—from rupturing his Achilles tendon and tearing his ACL. This is an example of survival of the fittest; Peters could be fresh meat for a young lion like Sweat. Sweat’s speed could be too much for the aging Peters. If that match up happens on passing downs combined with the possible inside push of Allen, Payne, and Ioannidis, then the Redskins could put Wentz in uncomfortable situations— creating sacks, fumbles and interceptions. The Redskins can shock the world if their edge rushers and the interior defensive lineman win the battle of the line of scrimmage. Not only will they have to come up with a strong defensive performance, but their offensive game plan must be methodical.
In the glory days, under hall of fame coach Joe Gibbs, the Redskins ran the football and controlled the time of possession. That is the game plan that this team should implore Sunday. If it worked for a three-time Super Bowl winning coach, then it should work for current Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. Coach Gibbs in 1991 (Superbowl winning year) utilized three running backs—Earnest Byner, Ricky Ervins, and Gerald Riggs. Byner ran for 1,048 yards, Ervins for 680 yards, and Riggs for 248 yards with 11 rushing TDs. The current Redskins have three studs at running back with Derrius Guice, future hall of famer Adrian Peterson, and Chris Thompson. Guice, who missed all last season with a torn ACL, has looked healthy and doesn’t look bothered by the knee. Coach Gruden named Guice the starter and is ready to give him the “motherload” share of carries. It’s a luxury to have a hall of famer as a backup. It’s important for the Redskins running game to ware down the Eagles defensive line. While Guice is resting, Peterson allows the Redskins to continue to put pressure on the Eagles defense. Last season in Philadelphia, as the starting running back, Peterson ripped off a 90- yard touchdown run. Don’t’ forget in that same season, when many thought he was done, Peterson ran for 1,042 yards and was named the team’s offensive player of the year. If Guice gets the “motherload of carries” then Peterson should get 10-15 carries. It would be beneficial for this team to utilize him Sunday. This is a similar formula, which Gibbs used to win games. In 1991, the Redskins lead the NFL in rushing attempts. Now, it’s a different NFL, but when a team doesn’t have an elite quarterback or any known commodities at wide receiver then they must play to their strength. The running backs on the roster, should keep the Redskins competitive Sunday.
Thompson, the swiss army knife of the running backfield, should get five or more carries and multiple passes out of the backfield. Thompson gives the Redskins an advantage over the Eagles linebackers on passing plays. Gruden and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell should find ways to isolate Thompson on linebackers Zach Brown, Nigel Bradham, and Nate Gerry. Thompson is a real threat to move the chains on the ground and in the passing game.
It’s important for the running game to lead the way. This can open-up the passing game and make play action a serious threat. Gruden must be stubborn to run the football and shorten the game. If he can do that, the team has a good chance to upset the 2017-18 Super Bowl champs. Most importantly, this will have to be won in the trenches. The most physical team will win this game. The Redskins defensive line must play like wild fiery animals— and the running backs must have a tapeworm mentality (they must eat up the Eagles Defense). Referring to his team’s overall makeup Gruden said, “if we have to win 17-13, we’ll win 17-13 with a great defense.” For the team to win on Sunday, the running game and the defensive line must dominate.
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