Match-Up Focus: Eagles vs Redskins

PREVIOUS GAME RESULTS

2015 WEEK 16 – WSH 38 PHI 24

2015 WEEK 4 – PHI 20 WSH 23

2014 WEEK 15 – PHI 24 WSH 27

Player to Watch – Brandon Brooks

I’ll have a close eye on G Brandon Brooks this week.  He will have a new partner at RT in Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Big V).  Big V is filling in for Lane Johnson who has finally been handed down his 10 game suspension (more on Big V below).  Brooks has been solid this year for the Eagles.  Through 6 weeks he’s he 11th rated G in the NFL grading out at 82.5 per PFF.com.  He’s a few spots lower than teammate Allen Barbre at 83.9.  The Redskins are having trouble through 5 weeks stopping the run but I’m more worried about the pass rush this week.  The Eagles will have to put Brooks in position along with the RB’s to help out Big V when needed.  Brooks has been better in pass protection vs the run game grading out at 86.0 (pass) and 78.4 (run).  Brooks will get into trouble if he starts over thinking and worrying about BIG V to his right.  If he focuses on his responsibilities and help out only when needed the Eagles OL should continue to play well.

Player to Watch – Jason Kelce

This is an OL theme with a new RT coming in.  In order to keep the cohesiveness the other OL need step up their game as well.  Let’s take a look at C Jason Kelce and how he’s performed or under performed through the 1st Q of the season.  Kelce is extremely important this week because the Redskins are going to try and overload the right side of the line with blitzes and stunts.  Kelce along with QB Carson Wentz will need to call out the right blitz protection.  Through 4 games Kelce has graded out a putrid 42.5 per PFF.com.  He’s currently ranked 35, YES 35 out of 32 centers.  This means there’s 2 backups that have come in and played better.  I understand it has a lot to do with his weight.  He’s a smaller C so he can often be pushed back.  He’s also committed a number of penalties this year.  He will have this hands full with Skins tackles Chris Baker grading out at 79.0 and Ziggy Hood at 37.2.  Hood is a much better player than his rating should suggest.  He was an important cog in the Steelers defensive unit for years.  Baker is a load and a handful.  If Kelce can keep the the Skins D line from pushing and collapsing the pocket Wentz will be able to go through his progressions.

Match-Up to Watch – Halapoulivaati Vaitai vs Ryan Kerrigan  

Big V is the last component of our match-up tree and arguably the most important piece.  The Redskins don’t have any regular season tape on him.  Once it was announced he was starting the Skins went back and looked at his college and pre season tape.  There’s no Pro Football Focus grade on Big V as he hasn’t played.  For more information here’s our Big V draft write up.  One thing he needed to work on was his post snap position. Scouts said he was too vertical and could often give up ground because of his position.  That’s extremely important with Skins OLB Ryan Kerrigan.  Kerrigan is a game changer off the edge.  He’s a match up night mare with his speed and quickness and arguably the Skins best defender.  This year he’s graded out at 71.7 per PFF.com.  Wentz will also have to be aware because there will be at time or two when Kerrigan drops into coverage and fills gaps in between those crossing routes the Eagles like to run.  I don’t think Big V will have a terrible game.  There will be times when he struggles but this coaching staff has done a great job at practice all week coaching him up.  Look for the players we mentioned to step up around him.

Player to Watch – Jordan Hicks

Coming off the bye week was not kind to the Eagles defense as the Lions racked up 21 first half points relatively easily. The defense looked sluggish pretty much all of the first half and also had trouble getting off the field on third downs. Jim Schwartz managed to make key halftime adjustments leading to a much more productive second half from the unit. A player I would like to see stand out on Sunday is linebacker Jordan Hicks. Heading into the season Hicks was viewed as a future star on this defense based on his rookie year in 2015 before his injury. I’ve noticed during the early quarter of this season at times Hicks has been subbed out for Stephen Tulloch who is familiar with Schwartz from their time in Detroit. I’m not quite sure if this can be viewed as a negative to Hicks’ play as PFF has him graded as the 8th best linebacker. It should be noted his coverage grade is significantly higher than his run grade. I would like to see Hicks become the three down linebacker everyone has envisioned, and more importantly become the captain of this defense. Perhaps Schwartz is still easing Hicks into his role since he is only in his second season, first as a starter. Either way I believe Hicks has a chance to be a special player for this franchise over the next decade. I’ll be paying close attention to him on Sunday at Fedex Field.

Player to Watch – Jamison Crowder

The Redskins offense will likely be missing a major piece to their attack in tight end Jordan Reed who is dealing with a concussion. Reed’s absence will open up an increased number of targets for the other receivers including slot receiver, Jamison Crowder. Crowder is your prototypical undersized slot receiver who utilizes his quickness to get open. The Redskins like to use Crowder in a variety of ways including smoke and bubble screens where his punt return ability kicks in. Speaking of return ability, Crowder earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors last week when he took a punt back 85 yards for a touchdown. As Eagles fans we know the importance of a good punt returner with Darren Sproles changing the course of numerous games. Eagles special teams have already allowed one punt return touchdown this season, Eddie Royal in Week 2. Crowder is no slouch as a receiver either with 21 receptions and two touchdowns on the season. PFF has Crowder graded as the 61st wide receiver. The absence of Reed will force Kirk Cousins to find his other weapons. He’s struggled to connect with Desean Jackson for a majority of the season, but has seemingly struck a nice bond with Crowder.

Match-Up to Watch – Desean Jackson vs. Nolan Carroll/Jalen Mills

The connection has not been there between Kirk Cousins and Desean Jackson especially on the deep ball in 2016. Jay Gruden admitted on Wednesday that Jackson needs the ball more as his production has declined steadily since Week 1. Jackson also acknowledged that Cousins has missed him on some of the deep balls. There was one instance against the Ravens where Cousins overthrew Jackson by a few yards, and a completion would have all but ended the game. Pro Football Focus has Jackson graded as the 35th wide receiver despite only catching 18 balls on the season with one touchdown. Cousins has been shaky at best playing under the franchise tag, and he’s graded as the 27th quarterback courtesy of PFF. Leodis McKelvin reaggravated his hamstring during the Detroit game leaving his availabilitly in doubt against the Skins. Rookie Jalen Mills is likely to draw the starting nod in his place for the third time this season. Mills has shown he belongs in this league as a 7th round draft pick out of LSU. However, he has been beaten deep on a couple of occasions which can be problematic when covering Jackson. Nolan Carroll had a rough go of it against the Lions allowing numerous completions his way. PFF has Carroll graded as the 96th cornerback which is 13 spots ahead of Mills. We all knew cornerback was going to be one of the weaker positions for the Eagles heading into this season. Carroll and Mills will need to prevent the Redskins passing attack, specifically Desean Jackson, from beating them over the top with game-changing plays.

Source: Pro Football Focus

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