Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Keys to Beating Washington Redskins
Philadelphia Eagles: Five Keys To The Game Against Washington Redskins
Around these parts, there probably hasn't been this much excitement or intrigue about the start of the football season since 2004.
Yes, that was the season the Philadelphia Eagles cracked through the glass ceiling and delivered on a "Super Bowl or bust" promise for the first time in 24 years, and no, there are not those kinds of expectations in the City of Brotherly Love this time around.
However, as Chip Kelly makes his NFL head coaching debut tonight against the Washington Redskins, the eyes of the nation will be on whether or not his uptempo, sometimes unorthodox methods on offense will translate at the pro level.
For Kelly, this is not exactly the ideal opponent for opening night of the season.
In 2012, the Redskins swept the Eagles by a combined score of 58-26 in the teams' two meetings. Washington was buoyed by Robert Griffin III, who makes his return from a re-torn ruptured ACL and LCL tonight, passing for a combined 398 yards and six touchdowns while adding 88 rushing yards.
The Eagles' defense will certainly be tested by Griffin III, but must also worry about Alfred Morris and the league's no. 1 rushing attack of a year ago. Morris was held to under 100 yards in each of the teams' matchups last season, but this is an Eagles defense still trying to get it's footing in a 3-4, which was gashed against the run during the preseason.
Here's a look at five keys to the Eagles starting Kelly's coaching career with a win over an NFC east divisional foe.
1. Establish The Run Early and Often with LeSean McCoy
For all of the bells and whistles in Chip Kelly's offense, it's all predicated on a successful rushing attack. It's difficult to envision the Eagles swinging that drastically from a pass first offense to a run-oriented attack, but it is evident that LeSean McCoy will be a focal point.
McCoy ran for just 45 yards against the Redskins on November 18 last season before leaving with a concussion. He'd later match that total in the team's second meeting of the year on December 23. For the Eagles to be successful tonight, especially in keeping the Redskins' offense off the field, McCoy must touch the ball upwards of 25 times and allow the offensive line to set the tone up front against a physical Washington front seven.
2. Win The Turnover Battle
To say this team struggled to create turnovers in 2012 would be a monumental understatement.
Last season, the Eagles forced a league-worst 13 turnovers on offense while coughing up the ball a league-worst 37 times.
In his last 31 starts, Michael Vick has only had a turnover-free game four times and has turned the ball over 33 times in his last 22 starts. Defensively, this team must attack the football and establish the ability to create takeaways beginning tonight.
3. Michael Vick's Effeciveness Must Be At All-Time High
It's safe to say the Michael Vick Experience hit it's peak during an eight-game stretch in 2010.
On November 10, 2010, Vick had one of the greatest single-game performances of his career. The 33-year old quarterback led the Eagles to touchdowns on each of their first five possessions en route to finishing with a career-best passer rating of 150.7.
After beating out second-year signal caller Nick Foles for the starting job this summer, It's tantamount that Vick returns to that level this season.
Kelly's offense is most functional when the ball is out of the quarterback's hands quickly and in the grasp of the team's playmakers in open space. Can Vick be cerebral enough to execute the scheme at a high rate of speed? Will his instincts to tuck the ball and run lose out to a new way of thinking in terms of getting rid of it quickly? Only Seattle's Russell Wilson held onto the ball longer than Vick in 2012, and that must change under Kelly.
Vick won the starting job in training camp, and he must establish that he can succeed in this scheme, protect the football and stay healthy.
4. Stop The Run
The Redskins finished last season with the league's best rushing offense, thanks in large part to Alfred Morris.
Morris was held below the century mark in both games against the Eagles in 2012, and this year's incarnation of the defense must accomplish the same feat in order to be successful tonight.
Mike Shanahan is likely to attempt to establish the run game early on to take pressure off of Griffin III's knee, but the Birds must be more competent than they showed to be in the preseason where they allowed big touchdown runs early and often.
If Morris gets into a groove early, it could be a long night for this defense.
5. Limit Robert Griffin III's Effectiveness In The Pocket
If there is any aspect of Robert Griffin III's game that is underrated, it is his ability to pick apart a defense while in the pocket.
For all of the fanfare about Griffin's ability to beat a team on the ground (deservedly so after rushing for 815 yards as a rookie), not enough attention is paid to his ability to engineer an offense from the pocket. Last season, Griffin completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Griffin hasn't played in a preseason game this summer while recovering from a re-torn ACL and LCL, but for the Eagles to have any chance against this team tonight, they must bring heavy pressure on the Baylor product while not over pursuing and allowing him to make plays with his legs.