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Need to Know: Key to the game—Redskins need to slow Eagles’ sack attack

Oct 14, 2016, 6:04 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 14, two days before the Washington Redskins host the Philadelphia Eagles.


Today’s schedule: Practice 12:00; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30 p.m.

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 2; Redskins @ Lions 9; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 16

Around Redskins Park

Kirk Cousins has had success in his three career starts against the Eagles. The Redskins are 2-1 in those games and Cousins has thrown for an average of 360 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception and a passer rating of 105.1.

But those were different Eagles teams, especially defensively. It looks like defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has the Philly D going very well. They have gone from the middle of the pack in terms of pass defense to near the top of the heap.

There are many reasons why the Eagles are better against the pass but you really don’t need to look much further than their pass rush. Pass defense starts with pass pressure and the Eagles are one of two teams in the league who have sacked the quarterback on more than 10 percent of opponents’ pass attempts. The scary part for the Redskins is that they didn’t have one big game that inflated their pass rush stats. They have 14 sacks in four games and have three sacks in each of two games and four in each of the other two.

Fortunately for the Redskins, keeping Cousins upright is one of the strengths of the offense. They are third in the NFL when it comes to pass protection, allowing sacks on just 4.0 percent of pass plays. Part of this is an offensive line that is built for pass protection and part is Cousins’ ability to get rid of the ball quickly.

The line that will start on Sunday has been charged with just four sacks in five games, per Pro Football Focus. Morgan Moses has two on his ledger and Shawn Lauvao and Trent Williams have one each. Spencer Long has started two games and played half of a third and has not allowed a sack while Brandon Scherff has played every snap this year and has zero sacks.

It should be noted here that the Redskins have not faced the toughest of pass rushes so far this year. The highest ranked team in defensive sack percentage they have faced is the Ravens, who are 16th. They have also faced the Cowboys (21st), Browns (27th), Steelers (29th), and Giants (32nd). (Yes, Redskins fans are allowed to snicker at the non-performance of the Giants defense after they loaded up on free agents in the spring.)

One thing that Cousins needs to be careful of is ball protection. The Eagles have recovered four fumbles this year and three of them have come on sack and strip plays.

The key matchups will come on the offensive left side, the quarterback’s blind side. Half of the Eagles’ 14 sacks have come left DE Brandon Graham (3 sacks) and left DT Fletcher Cox (4). They likely will more around and stunt some so LT Williams and LG Lauvao will have their hands full.

I think that they key number here is three. If Philly gets fewer than three sacks of Cousins the Redskins have a good chance of winning. If they get more than three the home team probably is in trouble.

Tandler on Instagram

Good defensive play by Whitner. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

In case you missed it

  1. colorofmyskinz - Oct 14, 2016 at 6:43 AM

    LOL. LG Brandon Scherff??? Come on Rich. People here have nipped at you about typos and grammar (I could care less), but the entire purpose of the article about the pressure on the left side of the line from the Eagles and to say Trent and Brandon will have their hands full? Lol. Must have been a staffer. Because you know this team too well. (You know I am kidding in fun, I love your stuff)

    The article points out the key to this game, protection of Kirk. The entire offensive line will be challenged. Thank god we have Happy-Feet-Spency at center vs blow-back-Kory. That will make a huge difference in Cox. Trent will do fine with his challenge.

    We will see how good our line is and how good Kirk is on reading coverage. It will only take a few gashes of Kirk feeling the pressure and dropping a rainbow over the pressure to either Jones or Thompson that completely gash the second and third levels to dial back the heat. This will be a chess match.

    But don’t forget the impact we can have with our defense dialing up the heat on a rookie. We might just rock the rookie boat this week.


    • redskins12thman - Oct 14, 2016 at 7:31 AM

      Yeah, Rich did you mean Shawn Lauvao at LG or are they switching Scheff from RG to LG for this game?

    • snyderisanidiot - Oct 14, 2016 at 6:10 PM

      I would of never noticed because I do not actually read the articles. I am more interested in the Blog Comments.
      Similar to the the famous Redskins Blog HogsHaven. The comments on HogsHaven are much better than the actual site content. I like the comments on this blog better than anything.

      • lezziemcdykerson - Oct 14, 2016 at 7:18 PM

        guilty on occasions* Snyder. I go on CSN to read the articles.

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 15, 2016 at 2:56 AM

          I like the comments too. But Rich does a great job and I like reading his articles first.

  2. redskins12thman - Oct 14, 2016 at 7:42 AM

    After strong showing of Redskins defense against the Ravens, I have renewed hope that the team can continue to get wins. No assurance problems are solved, but there’s at least a glimmer of hope we’ve started to correct course and head in the right direction. The Eagles will be a tough test, including their pass rush, but if Redskins prepare well, they will have opportunities against the Eagles, both on offense and defense.

    On offense, the Redskins need to run wide and have pass / run balance and some predictability. The Redskins running game has been a little too predictable so that should be addressed; they need more varied formations, motions (50% of time) and shifts (25% of time). Eagles like to have 10 defenders near LOS. WR who is up against CB Nolan Carroll (#22) needs to go deep against him with one other deep route. Eagles secondary definitely can be tested on short / intermediate too: slants, etc. with players on move.

    On defense. I would make Eagles beat us with long throws to WRs, instead of anything to RBs and TEs and short throws to WRs.

    The Eagles are doing well on special teams too.
    1. They have a blocked field goal attempt (Bennie Logan)
    2. Eagles also ran into a punter so they are aggressive; we have had trouble preventing penetration on punts (Spaight most recently)… time to shore up line blocking again
    3. Sturgis is reliable so keeping Eagles out of field goal range is preferable
    4. Eagles seem to defend kick-off returns very well; they don’t allow a lot of punt returns, but hopefully Crowder will be able to try his hot hand again; Sproles can be dangerous in the open field when Eagles are returning so best to keep it out of his hands

    Redskins fans should be loud to create delay of game penalties against Eagles (there were at least a couple in Lions game) — They said noise was not a factor but let’s not make life easy for them; let’s create a home field advantage and be loud when our defense is on the field!

    It looks like Breeland is a go; hopefully two players on concussion protocol (Cravens and Reed) get cleared but it looks as if only Cravens will be available.

    • redskins12thman - Oct 14, 2016 at 8:19 AM

      predictability should be unpredictability.

  3. redskins12thman - Oct 14, 2016 at 7:46 AM

    And if the Eagles have three sacks….?

    • ET - Oct 14, 2016 at 2:53 PM


      • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 3:03 PM

        I think we can take 3 sacks and squeak by if we don’t turn the ball over. Or more specifically finish with a positive turnover differential.

        If you think of 3 sacks as 3 punts then that’s not looking great for us. But maybe he takes a sack on 1st or 2nd and still gets the first down. Or maybe he takes a sack on 3rd and goal and we still get a FG. Or maybe they get 3 sacks and force 3 punts but so do we. So there’s some wiggle room.

        • snyderisanidiot - Oct 14, 2016 at 6:33 PM

          There is absolutely no wiggle room. There are some major malfunctions in Kirk Cousins game. Kirk does not know how to beat zone coverage. Leaves the man clueless. What is happening here is that Cousins is typically a one read QB. He very often follows and stares at only 1 guy. The defense is cheating up to the line and then dropping back into zone coverage which has led to Kirk throwing the same INT over and over again.
          He has literally thrown the same INT 5 times on separate occasions. He is bad at reading the defense, he is bad at working through his progressions, and he is easy to fool.
          I have all the faith in the world in Kirk and he is better than anything we have had in a long time but I thought he would be MUCH further along with his mental game this season. Cousins has never responded well to taking sacks. That man never takes a sack on 2nd down and gets back up and moves the chains on 3rd and long.
          I think the Eagles game will be HUGE as far as the future of Kirk Cousins and his contract negotiations. We are going to find out what type of guy Kirk is on Sunday and whether he can deliver or not. Because so far he has been bad.

  4. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Oct 14, 2016 at 9:49 AM

    Love to see the Redskins running lots of hurry-up.

    Kirk seems to handle things better when he doesn’t think so much, and it would help beat that pass rush.

  5. renhoekk2 - Oct 14, 2016 at 10:04 AM

    One of the best tools to counter a good pass rush is the quick passing game and the screen game. Redskins do both pretty well. Theo Riddick out of the backfield was a big part of the Lions success against them last week. Jones and Thompson are both good receivers. Jordan Reed killed them last season so TE might be a big part of the gameplan again.

  6. smotion55 - Oct 14, 2016 at 11:54 AM

    This is the biggest test so far this year. I would start Rob Kelley and it sets up well for quick passes to Crowder and Jackson. This O-Line might be really good as is and the defense gives me hope for getting better as the year goes on. The difference most likely be how well Cousins plays

  7. lezziemcdykerson - Oct 14, 2016 at 12:10 PM

    Niles Paul 😂😂

    • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 12:58 PM

      You’re going to love him after this game if Reed can’t play. He’s going to have 20 receptions on only 10 targets.

      • lezziemcdykerson - Oct 14, 2016 at 1:30 PM

        If there’s anyone that can do it, it’d be him.

      • snyderisanidiot - Oct 15, 2016 at 12:56 AM

        Vernon Davis has been Wide Open on several occasions this season. Vernon is open for business. Since Cousins only looks at one side of the field on several occasions Vernon Davis has been left completely uncovered on the other side of the field for what would have been easy pitch and catch TD’s
        Niles is good but Vernon has been awesome just Cousins is not getting the ball to him

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 15, 2016 at 2:24 AM

          I don’t disagree. Cousins doesn’t appear to be scanning the field and I think he’s going to keep throwing picks until he looks guys off.

  8. lezziemcdykerson - Oct 14, 2016 at 12:11 PM

    Hey Rich is Su’a still limited in practice?

    • Rich Tandler - Oct 14, 2016 at 1:12 PM

      Yes, Wednesday and Thursday. Will find out about Friday soon, will post in injury report on CSN.

      • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 1:21 PM

        Rich. I’m sorry to ask you when there articles up about my question at CSN. But I’m a little confused about Cravens and the glasses. There’s a lot of conflicting info out there. Are they actually something he will be expected to wear long-term or just part of a 2-week recovery regiment? Does he need them or are they just resting his eyes?

        I’ve seen the results of a lot of concussions from my time in military medicine and I’ve never heard of someone needing glasses for the rest of their life. Vestibular and memory issues? Yes. Glasses? No. Something doesn’t smell right.

        • Rich Tandler - Oct 14, 2016 at 1:25 PM

          Trey, unclear on what the deal is on Cravens’ glasses. Gruden just said they are part of his rehab and Cravens hasn’t been available to the media as is the policy for players in the concussion protocol.

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 2:04 PM

          Thanks Rich.

        • snyderisanidiot - Oct 14, 2016 at 7:03 PM

          You can’t believe any of these stories about Cravens. I just read one article that said he is actually partially blind in one eye now. Can’t see anyway this will not negatively affect his play. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 11:01 PM

          Well that’s kind of my point. I think it’s complete Bs and that’s how it won’t affect his play.these stories are sourcing his snap chat account. Like a 20 year old I’d never exaggerated on social media. They know exactly as much as you.

          This just doesn’t track. It wasn’t a huge hit and I’ve never heard of anyone getting vision loss even after massive concussions from bombs. That’s doesn’t mean it’s not possible. I just have to think it’s pretty rare and the mechinism of injury needs to be huge.

  9. COSSkinsFan - Oct 14, 2016 at 1:10 PM

    Has anyone heard how Whitner is doing in practice? I saw one highlight of him breaking up a pass . Ihenacho played well last week but wanted to know the chances of Whitner starting.

    • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 1:28 PM

      It’s a good play in the clip but I question if he would have made it in an actual game. He didn’t get his head around and I think his buddies on the sideline tipped him off to get his hands up.

      Duke played well last game and he’s been waiting for his shot for a while now. I say let him keep it until he loses it.

      • redskins12thman - Oct 14, 2016 at 1:44 PM

        Does anyone know how Evans and Sullivan are playing?

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 2:03 PM

          No idea. Rich did make a comment either here or Twitter that seemed to indicate Sullivan might not be looking so hot. I could be wrong and I could have read into something that wasn’t actually there. Can’t remember what he said to make me think that. But I lowered my expectations after that.

          Long is playing well enough, is a home grown guy, should get better with more reps, and is young. By all means he should get first crack. Unless Lauvao goes down. Then I want Long at LG and Sullivan at C. But we need to figure out what we have in Long and if he’s our answer at center. I would much rather sort these kinds of things out this year than go to the playoffs. Figure out who we want around and who we should get rid of as soon as a replacement is available. Center, Safety, and QB top the list of priorities there.

          So it doesn’t really matter to me if Sullivan and Whitner look better than Long and Ihenacho. I want the young guys to start so we know what to do this offseason.

          For Evans, I don’t expect him to see the field unless there’s an injury. He hasn’t been a very good player in his so far short career.

        • renhoekk2 - Oct 14, 2016 at 2:49 PM

          Sullivan is needed for depth if nothing else.

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 2:56 PM

          And I’m glad to have him even if he doesn’t play a single down. Piece of mind and he played good football for a long time. Hopefully he can pass some wisdom off to Long or any other general O-line tips to all our young guys.

          That’s one of the main reasons I was really hoping we would sign Dwight Freeny. Think he could have helped be a good example for Smith. I feel like Smith just needs some mentorship to really break out.

        • redskins12thman - Oct 14, 2016 at 7:50 PM

          Well, I think we’re vulnerable at Free Safety. Neither the Browns nor the Ravens tested Blackmon. Cooley is insistent that Blackmon is a CB / nickel back playing safety but that will come to haunt us at the most inopportune moment. We need to see if Evans can play Free Safety for us or we need to find someone else.

      • snyderisanidiot - Oct 14, 2016 at 6:40 PM

        Are we talking about Washed Up Whitner? Good play in the clip? Looked to me he was late and barely swatted the ball out of the guys hand. He was in no position to make a real play on the ball. Definitely was not a highlight pass breakup and looked like an average play any pro should make. Was actually surprised to see it posted.
        I would be very surprised if Whitner stays on this roster. Can we finally get a freaking safety around here? Please?

        • redskins12thman - Oct 14, 2016 at 7:52 PM

          That’s what I am most worried. Who else besides Ihenacho can play at NFL starter level for us now?

  10. abanig - Oct 14, 2016 at 1:24 PM

    Maybe it’s just me… and it usually is but the Redskins had no trouble with the Eagles front 7 last year and both games were without Lauvao and the second game was with LeReibus at center. I know the scheme is different and that does matter, but the players are the Eagles defensive front seven players are mostly the same – particularly the down 4.

    I just don’t see Trent Williams struggling with Brandon Graham and Lauvao/Long are a better tandem than we had going against Fletcher Cox last year when it was Long/Kory L and Long/Leribeus.

    On top of that as you said, Rich, Cousins gets the ball out quick. I will add another caveat here and that is that the Eagles corners aren’t that good. Our WRs should be able to abuse them.

    • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 1:54 PM

      It’s a good point about the Philly front 7. But don’t forget about the Chip Kelley effect. Everybody told Chip that his defense would struggle, particularly the big guys, if he played at that breakneck pace.

      Philly had a NFL defense paired with an offense that played at the pace of a college spread. That’s trouble and every coach in the Big 12 knows it. I thought Chip and the PAC 12 knew it too but maybe not. His big guys were on the field too much and didn’t have long breaks to rest up. That affected them and its reversal will help them against us.

      That being said. It’s Trent Williams. There isn’t anyone in the league I don’t trust him to go against. I also trust Lauvao and Long enough. The O-line is one of our better and more stable groups. If we can’t trust them to get it done then it will be a long day.

      • abanig - Oct 14, 2016 at 2:17 PM

        And if our OL does it’s job – which I expect – and Cousins gets the ball out quick – which I expect – then our WRs (Crowder, Djax & Garcon) should be able to abuse their secondary on the short and intermediate passing routes which should set up a deep shot or two to Djax and hopefully he and Cousins can finally connect on one.

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 2:30 PM

          That would be nice. But I’ll also settle for long methodical drives where the longest play goes for 10 yards and we eat up 8 min of clock. For the reason I was just talking about with defenses and rest.

          I love those bombs to DJax too. They’re exciting and make me happy too. But they’re not necessary to winning. We can get it done without them. And the price we pay for those are shorter drives and less rest for our defense. I wonder if we don’t get just as much from DJax running those routs as a deycoy to soften the underneath coverage as we do when we hit a couple a game.

          If we come out and our first drive is 17 plays for 90 yards (we’ll throw a holding penalty in there and maybe a false start), a TD, and it takes 7+ min off the clock then I’ll say there’s a real good chance we win. But if we gonjust chucking it up for the sake of it and punt after 5 plays then hold on for a long day.

        • abanig - Oct 14, 2016 at 3:28 PM

          Well I was suggesting we use the short stuff – including screens, outs, drag routes and slants to Djax and other WRs – that will pull the Eagles D up and then run a double move with Djax for a TD at the end of the 1st quarter

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 2:35 PM

          I should have said this too.*

          An obvious counter to my point is that we’ve struggled so bad in the Redzone that maybe we should be trying for TDs from 40-50 yards more often. There’s point in a 7 min drive if you’re not scoring at the end. Everything in moderation I guess.

        • ET - Oct 14, 2016 at 3:30 PM

          How ’bout split the difference with some controlled drives that end with TD strikes from the Eagles’ 21-40 yard line? Run / pass balance, play action, a couple of bootlegs, some tasty intermediate routes and a few quick strikes. Something for ever’one. Take care of us, McVay, make it look both polished and brutal.

        • abanig - Oct 14, 2016 at 3:35 PM

          Of course. You mean Mcvay should call the game like he did the last 4 games of Last year when we won all our games?

          That’d be nice

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 14, 2016 at 4:04 PM

          Yes! That’s the point I was trying to make last night. Just do what we did last year. Quit trying to open the playbook and force Cousins to be what he isn’t yet. It worked and Cousins played great with it!

      • sidepull - Oct 14, 2016 at 3:12 PM

        Yea the front seven and yea Kelly has moved on but I think the addition of Schwartz makes them an opportunistic and unpredictable defense. I like the Redskins line so it should be a good match-up. I think its a coaching battle right there.

      • snyderisanidiot - Oct 14, 2016 at 6:42 PM

        It is not the Philadelphia defense or front line that I am concerned with at all. It is what the Eagles offense could do to our defense. If there is anything or anyone on the Redskins that I do not trust it is The Redskins Defense, and owner Daniel Snyder.

        • mtskins - Oct 14, 2016 at 9:45 PM

          I might be crazy but I’d be concerned with Fletcher Cox

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 15, 2016 at 12:10 AM

          And i guess Malcolm Jenkins and Connor Barwin are OK. If you’re into that kind of thing.

        • COSSkinsFan - Oct 14, 2016 at 10:01 PM

          Our run d is especially scary. I fear they will run on us all day. We have been lucky the last 2 games that opponents have abandoned the run despite them shoving the ball down the throat of the defense. Iodonnis has to come up big . I think we will improve with Hood and Baker playing de. Kerrigan definitely has to have a big fame against their rookie rt. If we continue to get turnovers and are efficient in the red zone we will be OK. If we can find a way to play well in all 4 phases (including coaching which has fallen short at times) we can beat anybody.

  11. lezziemcdykerson - Oct 14, 2016 at 3:45 PM

    “[Doctson] out for Sunday and the situation has not gotten better, per Gruden. “No. question pretty soon” is does Doctson go to IR” JP

    Well that sucks. Would be nice to see whitner rotate in if our tackling issues rear their heads again.

  12. smotion55 - Oct 14, 2016 at 4:09 PM

    They might as well IR Doctson and bring up Harris. Cooley said he questioned his toughness back in late August and regardless of the injury he has done nothing to keep him on the 53 at all.

    • snyderisanidiot - Oct 14, 2016 at 6:19 PM

      Josh Doctson is floating around in ‘bust draft pick’ land until he gets on the field. He was supposed to come in and make an immediate contribution. He was supposed to be Garcons replacement. There are whispers that he is just a wimp and many other guys have played through simimiliar injuries. Cooley said he is suspect.

      Whats the best Ability? Availability!

      • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Oct 14, 2016 at 7:17 PM

        Way to soon to say Doctson is a bust. Remember so many were ready to give up on Trent Murphy after last season?

        • snyderisanidiot - Oct 15, 2016 at 12:48 AM

          I did not call him a bust for the record, I called the Draft Pick a Bust. That’s a top tier pick for no production. Even when he was in the game for the brief time he was not injured it was not like he was Jerry Rice or anything.

        • Trey Gregory - Oct 16, 2016 at 2:49 AM

          Jerry Rice wasn’t Jerry Rice his rookie year either. People called him a bust, criticized San Fran for taking him, and said he was too slow. Oops. Would you sacrifice a rookie year for a hall of fame career?

          It’s just way to early to have any kind of an opinion about Doctson. He was not a top 10 pick. He was a late first. That’s more like Jordan Mathews and less like Julio Jones. But he’s a very, very talented athlete who could be a good player for us for a while.

          Doctson wasn’t brought in to help this year. He’s an insurance policy against our top 2 receivers leaving next year. You’ll be real glad to have him when DJax and Garçon are gone. It’s not a waste it’s planning for the future. It’s great to get immediate production from draft picks but it’s not something you should expect unless maybe they’re in the top 8. They’re still rookies. And a bunch of the big name rookies have missed time with injuries or are on IR already. It’s just one of those things.

      • lezziemcdykerson - Oct 14, 2016 at 10:58 PM

        Not only is it way too early to call him a bust, I didn’t know he was supposed to come in and make an immediate contribution. I agree 1st rounders usually see the field and the guy picked just ahead of him is making plays but, our team had depth at WR. It would’ve been a hell of a foursome but don’t dwell on what could have been, he’s under contract, we’ll see him again.

    • snyderisanidiot - Oct 15, 2016 at 1:01 AM

      LoL. This is the kind of stuff that the blogs should focus on more. More clips and talk of stuff like you posted here. This is the small highly detailed stuff that only the true fans want to know about. Good find. And great move by Duke! He saved the day for sure. Archives

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