The Redskins (1-2) missed out on a huge opportunity in the Meadowlands a little more than a week ago. But there’s good news: they have another chance to gain a foothold in the NFC East when Sam Bradford and the Eagles (1-2) visit FedEx Field on Sunday.
Before the game, be sure to catch Redskins Kickoff on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic at noon. We’ve also got you covered after the game; Redskins Postgame Live begins at 4.
Here are Tarik’s five areas to monitor:
1-Kirk Cousins needs a bounceback performance after last week’s 32-21 loss to the Giants. He threw two interceptions for the second time in three games, including a baffling decision deep in Washington’s end that helped the Giants open an early 9-0 and forced the Redskins away from their game plan. Cousins also missed a handful of open receivers. Coach Jay Gruden reiterated his confidence in Cousins this week, saying he and his assistants are seeing gradual improvement from the fourth-year signal caller. But, as we all know, this is a bottom line kind of league, for quarterbacks and coaches alike. Cousins will face a Kiko Alonso-less Eagles' defense that defense ranks 24th against the pass, seventh against the run and is allowing 21 points per game (11th).
2-The Redskins are second in yards allowed per game (277.3) and eighth in points permitted per game (19.7), which signals significant improvement over last year. Buuuuut…there are a couple of key areas where the unit must get better. Washington is tied for 21st in sacks with only four, with starting outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy accounting for 0.5 sacks between them. In the takeaway department, the defense has one fumble recovery and no interceptions. The Jaguars are the only other team with just one takeaway. Overall, the Redskins’ turnover differential is minus-5. That, obviously, is not sustainable. Asked what he wants to see from the pass rush on Sunday, Gruden said: “More of it.” Bradford has been sacked only twice but he’s tied with Cousins with four interceptions (only four quarterbacks have tossed more.)
3-The Redskins’ special teams were a mixed bag last week at MetLife Stadium. Rashad Ross returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown, Washington’s first since 2010. But the unit also yielded a blocked punt that resulted in a safety and an early 2-0 deficit. On Sunday, they’ll face another challenge: Philadelphia’s 5-foot-6 punt returner Darren Sproles, who is one of six players who have returned a punt for a score this season. “I’ve never been around a player that works as hard, trains as hard, prepares as well as Darren prepares,” Eagles Coach Chip Kelly told Washington reporters this week. “What you see on Sundays is what we see every day in our training sessions with him.” Earlier this week, the Redskins signed free agent Mason Foster in an effort to provide depth at inside linebacker and bolster punt protection.
4-One of the biggest areas of concern for the Redskins this week figures to be the banged up secondary. Starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall is already sidelined for a few weeks because of a toe injury and now Chris Culliver is battling some swelling in his left knee. Gruden is hopeful that Culliver will play, but the coach acknowledged that it’s always worrying when a player can’t practice on the Thursday before a game. If Culliver is able to suit up, he’ll start alongside Bashaud Breeland, who is still looking to get into his groove. If Culliver doesn’t play, well, that would be suboptimal to say the least. Gruden should provide another update on Culliver’s status after practice on Friday.
Culliver isn’t the Redskins’ only injury concern, of course. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (hamstring) has been sidelined since Week 1 and, although he was not ruled out on Thursday, it would be a long shot for him to suit up. The status of inside linebacker Perry Riley (calf) is also in doubt after he missed practice on Thursday.
5-Ask Gruden and he’ll tell you Sunday’s game will come down to who runs the ball more effectively and who stops the run more effectively. It’s hard to argue with that assessment. In the Redskins’ victory over the Rams, Matt Jones and Alfred Morris racked up 182 yards on 37 carries and a pair of rushing touchdowns (both belonging to Jones). That’s what the Redskins want to be on offense, and they must get back to it. Philadelphia’s ground game, on the other hand, has yet to get going. DeMarco Murray (11 yards on 21 carries) missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury and is expected be a game-time decision Sunday. With Murray scratched in last week’s 24-17 win over the Jets, Ryan Mathews carried the load, running for 108 yards on 24 carries. “They’re going to try and run it on us obviously,” Gruden said. “How we stop the run will be how the game goes. How we run the ball will be how the game goes.”
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