This week’s Monday night game will feature a division clash at the Linc between the Redskins and the Eagles that is sure to effect the NFL playoff picture. The 6-5 Redskins currently sit at the top of the NFC East with the Cowboys, and if the 5-6 Eagles can beat them they will take the Redskins’ slot at #2 in the East.
Per the Vegas Insider, the Eagles open as 6.5-point favorites against the Redskins. The Eagles are also 10-8 against the spread and 14-4 as home favorites since Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz joined forces.
Although Colt McCoy is now the Redskins starter and the ‘skins are riding a two-game losing streak, this team and this game should not be taken lightly. The Redskins lost to the Cowboys by eight points last week, and the Eagles barely beat the abysmal 3-8 Giants with a field goal in the waning seconds of the game. If I’m being honest the Giants not giving the ball to Saquon Barkley more in the second half after shredding the Eagles in the first half is up there in the idiocy ranks with the Falcons not running the ball more in the second half against the Patriots in that Super Bowl.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) November 25, 2018
To beat the Redskins, the Eagles will need their ground game (specifically Josh Adams) to be at least as effective as it was against the Giants. Up until last week, the Eagles rushing attack had been inconsistent at best as the Eagles still rank 24th in the NFL in rushing today.
Against the G-men, Adams had the best game of his young career as he logged 22 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles plan to keep feeding the young back, and according to a report from Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com, Coach Doug Pederson said on Monday that he plans to give Adams more touches each week
From @NFLGameDay: The #Eagles are planning to feature RB Josh Adams as their starter going forward, an impressive rise for the former UDFA from Notre Dame… and #Chargers RB Melvin Gordon, listed as questioanable, is set to play today. pic.twitter.com/m6vMFL7tYs
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 25, 2018
Pedersen isn’t the only coach that has expressed infatuation with Josh Adams as offensive coordinator Mike Groh said after the game, “Josh really found a rhythm and did an excellent job of reading his keys and even making people miss and getting more out of what might have been there. He had a really fine day”. Groh went on to say, “He’s been coming on and making really good progress each and every week and I think earning everybody’s trust with the way he’s handled everything that he’s been asked to do”.
While Adams’ career day might not seem like much on the surface (84 rushing yards and no involvement in the passing game), it is his sheer involvement in the offense that gives Eagles fans and fantasy football owners alike reason to believe in the rookie. Adams played 40 of 65 offensive snaps against the Giants (62 percent of plays), while Corey Clement played 24 snaps (37 percent of plays) and Wendell Smallwood played just one snap.
This marks only the fourth time this season an Eagles RB has gotten more than 40 snaps in a game. The last time also came against the Giants when Wendell Smallwood played 44 of 71 offensive snaps on October 11th.
Adams’ sheer number of carries also hints at his potential as his 22 carries marked the first time an Eagles RB had 22 carries since Ryan Mathews in 2016. Those are the only two times Eagles RBs have had 22 carries with Doug Pederson as head coach. Furthermore, the last time an Eagles rookie RB had 22 carries in a game was in 2012 with Bryce Brown.
The Washington defense has allowed 100-plus RB scrimmage yards in each of their past five games, so Adams will have another opportunity to further solidify his role as the Eagles current workhorse.
Aside from the rushing attack, the Eagles will also need their defensive line to step up if they want to get past the Redskins. The Eagles have had a shit ton of cornerback and linebacker injuries right now, leaving them to play less-talented, more inexperienced, more vulnerable defenders with less catch-up speed which is especially noticeable on play action plays and stretch runs. The injury bug is so bad that the Eagles used receivers to play cornerback at practice last week and were prepared to play some receivers at corner against the Giants if any other corners got injured, per Eagles insider Tim McManus.
What’s the only way to mask injuries to your defensive back end? A defensive line that stuffs the run and rushes the QB so relentlessly that the timing and rhythm of the opposing offense is anything but normal. Check out some highlights of both times the Giants beat the Pats in the Super Bowl if you doubt the effect a strong “front four” can have on an opposing offense and an opposing QB.
The reason the Eagles defensive line hasn’t been as dominant as they were last year probably stems from the injuries within the defensive line group and the resulting lack of a rotation. The rotation the Eagles had last year on the defensive line was a key part of their success as it allowed all of their pass rushers to be fresh and created hell for opposing QBs.
What happens when you don’t have a defensive line rotation and your defensive line consists of guys who are mostly known as veteran pass rushers (Chris Long, Brandon Graham, and Michael Bennett)? The opposing team gashes your tired pass rushers on run plays with holes that you could literally drive a truck through as we saw against the Saints and Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, which then opens up the passing game enough for a QB like Drew Brees to throw for over 300 yards to go along with four TD passes.
The return of Tim Jernigan should help this defensive and their stamina as he played 20 defensive snaps against the Giants (32 percent of defensive plays) while Fletcher Cox played 49 and Haloti Ngata played 25 snaps. This appeared to help the Eagles d-line as they showed good stamina late in the fourth quarter when it mattered most, and Long and Bennett both came away with key sacks on the day.
Look for Cox, Ngata, Long, Graham, Bennett, Jernigan and whoever else to be even more dominant on Monday against the Redskins as the Eagles continue to increase their use of a d-line rotation as everyone gets healthier and more comfortable.