Before getting to the game preview, let me just say, I hate that song. I like the traditional MNF music. Why can’t we keep that? And they’ve brought like a million c-list musicians in to the credits to perform the song now. Every time I watch the opener, I get distracted by thinking, “who is that? I know I knew them before they got old and fat.” Brian Setzer is also front and center. The Stray Cats were kinda cool, and that brief swing movement from out of nowhere like 10 years ago was fun. But what does this guy do to get featured every week on one of the most important sports shows in the country?
OK, anyway, Monday night. It rocks. Tailgating for a night game is infinitely better than a day game. There’s a little nip in the air. People are extra excited because they snuck out of work early. Later in the year, when it is dark sooner, you get the cool glow of charcoal all over the parking lot. Its like Halloween and Christmas rolled up into one. Except everyone is wearing the same costume and there’s only one carrol to sing.
Unfortunately, tonight’s tailgating is being done mostly be Eagles fans. The few lucky Redskins fans who will be there are probably safer staying very quiet since Eagles fans are drunken, violent morons.
Let’s look at the keys to game provided by both the official site and the Post. Both sites, as well as the Rag agree that the Redskins running game is the first key to the game. Astute readers will respond with a resounding duh. But here is the interesting stat, the Eagles gave up 171 yards to Ladell Betts in week 14 last year, but they only gave up 46 yards to the Pack last week. The Pack was using two rookies at RB last week, so hopefully it isn’t a sign of an improved defense. We need to move the ball on the ground to take the pressure off Jason Campbell.
On defense, the Skin’s website has the optimistic view that the slower McNabb will be ripe for our blitz packages and should be an easy target. I wish. But McNabb is actually still very quick. He is less of a threat to take off and run down the field, but he still eludes the rush very well. I hope they’re right, but I think we’ll still have to be careful. The Post offers the cheery thought that the Eagles might take advantage of Fred Smoot. Certainly that happened last week. But with Shawn Springs likely playing full time this week, Smoot will be covering the likes of Jason Avant or Hank Baskett. I think we’ll be ok.
I’m shocked that the official website never mentioned Brian Westbrook and the Post saved it for 4th. Westbrook is a matchup nightmare. When he line’s up as a receiver, he’s too fast for a LB to cover him and too big for a CB to cover him. I’m expecting Sean Taylor to be used on him a lot, except in the past we’ve often used Taylor to shadow McNabb. This provides a problem as we don’t really have a Lavar Arrington-type LB we can use to mirror McNabb. Westbrook is also very good at the screen play and we are vulnerable to screens. They slow down the blitz and if they catch the wrong blitz they go for big plays. Look for the Eagles to blitz away from Shawn Springs who is very good at breaking them up. Let’s hope we can stay disciplined and handle Westbrook, and especially the screens.
Redskins.com also mentions the trouble the Eagles special teams had last week. Don’t count on it happening again. The Eagles have been known for having good special teams through the whole Reid era. The Packers got lucky.
The 3rd key the Post mentions is mixing in the pass, particularly the deep pass. Right on. Campbell looked very sharp on the deep pass last week, and I hope we take our shots. The Eagles blitz a fair amount (more in the red zone, but a fair amount everywhere). I’m hoping the hot routes on blitzes will be long routes. I think we can catch the Eagles in some single coverages deep and make them pay. This will help Campbell a lot because when you hit one big one, you slow the blitz down.
The Eagles are perhaps the best in the league at blitzing in the red zone. This is obviously a good time to blitz, because it leaves less ground for the remaining secondary players to cover. We can counter this by sending RBs in the flats. Look for Mike Sellers to have another of his patented goal line days.
The official site leaves us on this happy note. They highlight the Todd Wade vs Jevon Kearse matchup. This frightens me, folks. I’ll be honest. It is possible, considering how little Wade has played that Kearse, even in his diminshed state, could own Wade and the Eagles won’t even have to blitz to pressure us. There are two things we can do to stop this. 1) Mix in a little Stephon Heyer to keep Wade fresh. 2) Run right at him all day long. Kearse is small and if we run at him, we can hopefully wear him down. Let’s hope Wade can still fire off the ball and knock Kearse around so that when we need to protect Campbell Kearse won’t be able to answer the bell. Look for the Eagles to counter this by rotating Kearse out more often on 1st and 2nd down.
In addition to the above, I’d like to mention one more potential key to the game– Donovan McNabb vs. his own head. Let’s face it, McNabb’s biggest enemies to a Hall of Fame career have been his fragile body and his fragile head. He’s a whiner. He whined when the Eagles did the smart thing and drafted a young QB for the post-McNabb era. He whined about TO. He whined about Garcia. He whines. And Philly can’t stand a whiner. In general, they can’t stand McNabb. If the Redskins D can start fast, force a couple of 3 and outs, maybe a turn over, the crowd and McNabb’s own head will do the rest. We will win this game because McNabb won’t have the resilience to stand up to the booing and his own lack of confidence. A slow start, and the crowd will be behind him and he will build confidence. The first couple of series are crucial for our defense.
On that note, let’s call it a day. 8 hours to kick off. Fire up the BBQ on the deck. Kick your feet up and watch more pregame than any human should. Sing “Hail to the Redskins” in your living room, and enjoy our 23-9 victory!