One of the most glaring differences between the Redskins and the Eagles is the ability of each team to score non-offensive touchdowns.
The Eagles are good at it. The Redskins are not.
Since the start of the 2014 season the Eagles have scored 12 touchdowns on returns. They scored on punt returns three times, blocked punts three times, and two each of fumble returns, interception returns, and kickoff returns.
In that same time period the Redskins have scored one touchdown on a return, Rashad Ross’ 101-yard return against the Giants.
Return TDs, and lack thereof, were decisive in the two games the Eagles and Redskins played last year. The first time they met, Philly got a 102-yard Chris Polk kickoff return for a touchdown and won by three. In the second meeting the Eagles got no return touchdowns and Washington won 27-24.
The big concern this week is Darren Sproles. He has all three of the Eagles’ punt return touchdowns over the last two years including one last week against the Jets. It should be noted that the Eagles won that game by seven points.
“Sproles, as a punt returner, is very dynamic,” said Gruden. “He’s already small in stature, but he’s big as far as making people miss, finding lanes. He’s hard to find to find sometimes when he’s behind the blockers and he gets a wall and he’s gone. He’s got great speed. It’ll be another great challenge.”
Sproles was named the NFC special teams player of the week for his performance against the Jets. This is the second time in four games that the Redskins have faced a reigning special teams POW. In Week 1 they played the Rams and Tavon Austin, who had returned a punt 75 yards for a TD against the Seahawks.
Austin did not do any damage. Tress Way punted six times and Austin had no returns. Four were downed, one went out of bounds, and one went for a touchback. Way averaged 40.7 yards per punt.
They only came close to getting burned once. With 29 seconds left in the first half, the Redskins had to punt from their own 27. Way tried to angle the kick out of bounds. He did, but the kick went only 18 yards before going out of bounds. But the Rams were unable to score and no harm was done.
Sproles’ returns are not the only things that the Redskins’ special teams have to worry about. Note the three blocked punts returned for TDs by the Eagles last year. The Redskins have had issues there are recently as last Thursday. Fortunately, the punt the Giants blocked rolled out of the end zone for a safety but the play did give the Giants a safety and a 2-0 lead that they never relinquished.
One of the easiest predictions to make is that the Redskins need to prevent a return touchdown if they are going to beat the Eagles. Since the start of 2014 they have given up eight defensive and special teams touchdowns, each in a different game. They have lost all eight of those games.
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