Key Player Match-Ups

Game Day Washington Commanders

Eagles RBs vs. Jeremiah Trotter
Rich Hilts

The Philadelphia Eagles, like the Redskins, have been platooning their running backs this year, partially due to Duce Staley’s hold out that took so long to resolve. Unlike the Skins, however, the Eagles haven’t shown the same success the Skins backs have shown.

Their main back has been Brian Westbrook, the smallest back of the three. He has been a threat out of the backfield both running and receiving the ball. He has a 6.8 YPC average and has caught 3 balls for 6 yards. While the receiving doesn’t look like much of a threat, he did have over 9 yards per catch in his last season.

Staley and Correll Buckhalter, while exhibiting dangerous tendencies, haven’t really blossomed this year. Staley has rushed 14 times for 35 yards – a mediocre 2.5 YPC average. Buckhalter, who had, at one time looked like the heir apparent to Duce, has rushed 12 times for 25 yards, an even worse 2.1 YPC average.

While Trotter isn’t the only man guarding against the run, he is a primary weapon keying on the backs, both in coverage and against the run. Second on the team in tackles with 24, he will be watching the outside trying to prevent the running backs from escaping the ends of the line. While he has been burned in the last couple of games to the outside, he looks to finally be getting some help out there from the line. If the running game goes outside, or the backs get a lot of passes in the flats, it will be a long game for Trotter chasing them down unless Edwards adjusts. But since there was some adjustment shown by Edwards in the Patriots game, the advantage has to go to Trotter for his lethality on tracking down backs before they get past the line of scrimmage.

Advantage: Trotter

Redskins RBs v.Mark Simoneau
By Fran Farren

If you want to know how Mark Simoneau is playing for the Eagles, just ask their defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson:

“[Mark is] playing very well. He’s playing the run well. He’s handling everything well. I don’t even hesitate about him. He’s playing solid football right now. I think all three backers are. I really do. You talk about the run, it’s a combination between that front four and the secondary, also the linebackers. They’re reads are well. Mark reads the run very well. He’s in the right place. They’re not running up the middle on him.”

Of the Eagles three linebackers SLB Carlos Emmons, MLB Mark Simoneau, and WLB Nate Wayne, Simoneau is probably the most formidable against the run

The Eagles run defense, however, will likely start up front, especially with the return of DT Hollis Thomas. If the Eagles D-line can just delay the Redskins running game a little, look for the Eagles line backers to step it up and do quite well against the Redskins running attack.

The numbers don’t lie, the Redskins have been running the ball well. In 4 games, Canidate has rushed the ball 46 times for 248 yards (a 5.4 yards/rush average). Betts has rushed the ball 48 times for 185 for 185 yards (a 3.9 yards/rush average) plus 2 touchdowns. Put them together and the Redskins running attack is averaging a very respectable 4.6 yards/rush average.

This week, however, don’t expect to see those types of numbers against a formidable Eagles defense. Hopefully, the Skins will manage enough yards on the ground to keep the defense “honest” and to prevent them from focusing on the passing game….but don’t be surprised if this game is a high-scoring aerial show, instead of your typical NFC East pound-it-out type of game.

Advantage: Simoneau

Donovan McNabb vs Redskins’ defense
By Martin Collinson

Call it the ‘Rush’ Bowl. This weekend’s visit to the new Eagles stadium ‘the Linc’ was pressurised enough without Rush Limbaugh adding a lighted match to a pool of gas by opining that Donovan McNabb was overrated, and only got the profile he has because of his skin colour. If ever an athlete came into a game wanting to prove something, this is the game and McNabb is the athlete.

Actually athlete is a very good description of McNabb – he may be a better athlete than he is a QB. Not that he is a bad QB. McNabb is the focal point of an otherwise nondescript Eagles offense. This season he leads the Eagles in both passing (506yds) and rushing (156yds) through 3 games – if he could catch his own passes he would probably be their best receiver as well. In the Eagles first two games McNabb was very poor by his own admission, throwing a total of 5 interceptions and completing way under 50% of his passes. Needless to say, the Eagles lost both games. Last week following a bye, the Eagles got back on track with a win against the Bills in which McNabb performed much better though he is still to throw his first TD of the season.

Historically McNabb has given the Redskins defense fits. In the 2000 season he rushed for 125 yards in one game, and over his career he averages 55 yards rushing per game. McNabb is a good QB. Not a great one, but a good one. He is not a pocket passer, he lacks authority in the pocket and accuracy is not his strong suit. However out of the pocket he is terrific. We have already seen how he can hurt you with the run, but out of the pocket he is also a more dangerous passer.

In fact, McNabb is just the type of mobile QB who the Redskins have struggled against defensively in recent seasons.

As with most mobile QBs the first task for any defense is to keep him in the pocket were he loses at least half his threat. The second task is to get some pressure on him without giving him escape routes to take off and run. Getting pressure on even static QBs like Testevarde has been a problem so far for the Skins. The defensive line has been solid against the run, but has been a non factor in putting pressure on the passer. Bruce Smith is running on fumes and is playing more on reputation than ability.

The puzzle for the Redskins, and the key to shutting down McNabb, is how to use La Var Arrington. He is the Skins most explosive pass rusher but he is also the most athletic linebacker and the obvious choice to use in a ‘spy’ role to contain any impulse McNabb might have to pin back his ears and rush.

Look for the Redskins to try to keep McNabb guessing as to what LaVar will do – one play he may rush, the next he will be shadowing McNabb. The good news is that Washington’s secondary matches up very well against the Eagles receivers (ex Redskin James Thrash is their leading receiver and he would be Washington’s 3rd receiver at best) so using a lot of man coverage on the edges will give the Redskins much more flexibility on use of blitz, zone blitz and dog packages to unsettle McNabb.

Make McNabb beat you with his arm, and the Skins should win. Let him get out of the pocket and become a double threat, and it could be a frustrating night.

Advantage: Even.

Jon Jansen vs. Brandon Whiting
Rich Hilts

This one, folks, should really not prove to be much of a contest. Jon Jansen, the Rock of the Right Side, should not give up much to Whiting. While Whiting has played in the league for 6 years, he has not made much of a splash.
He gives up size since he is 6′ 3″ 285 to Jansen, and while he has been called one of the “smartest players in football” he hasn’t put up the numbers to be called one of the best, unlike Jansen.

His high sack total for a year has been 6 and his high tackle total is 60. There has to be a presumption that he isn’t as good as needed when he didn’t start until injuries became an issue with the Eagles. Starting in game 3 of the year against the Bills, he recorded 3 tackles, and none for loss.

While Jon has been known to give up the occasional penalty, whether holding or false start, he is a wily veteran, used to dealing with the best ends in the league. While he hasn’t won every battle against the baddest boys on the end, he has won a majority of them. Whiting, while above average, simply isn’t one of the baddest.

Advantage: Jansen

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Game Day Staff

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