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Can the Eagles Shut Up and Play?

Can the Eagles Shut Up and Play?

When two teams with identical records meet in a game that marks the midpoint of the NFL season, there is usually a checklist of factors to consider when trying to figure out who is going to win. In the case of this Sunday’s night game between the Redskins and Eagles, that checklist doesn’t tell us much.

Injuries: The healthier club has an advantage, often a large one. In this case, the healthier team is neither. The injury list for the two teams is 26 names long with 14 Eagles and 12 Redskins appearing on it. Although nobody is listed as doubtful nine players are questionable, meaning that there is a 50/50 chance that the likes of Philly’s Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, and Jevon Kearse and Washington’s Cornelius Griffin. These are not fringe players.

Coaching: Joe Gibbs has the superior lifetime resume. Andy Reid, having taken his team to the Super Bowl last year, has the edge in the “what have you done lately” department.

Statistics: Not much to go on here, either. The Redskins’ worst statistical weakness, their 25th- ranked run defense, is offset by the fact that the Eagles rarely run the ball.

Momentum: Both teams are coming off of ugly road losses, losing by a combined 54 points. They both have figurative wounds to lick as well as the literal ones.

Stepping back a bit, though, looking at it in the longer term, this may be where we find the key. The Eagles could well be coming into this one with three straight losses with a miracle win on a blocked field goal against San Diego coming in between blowout losses to Dallas and Denver. Their swagger seems to have disappeared.

They may not be in a slump, they may be imploding. Setting the charges, of course, is none other that Owens, who had some, well, head-scratching things to say in an ESPN interview.
ESPN analyst Michael Irvin recently said the Eagles would be undefeated if Favre was the starting quarterback.
Asked for his thoughts on Irvin's comment, Owens said: "That's a good assessment, I would agree with that, just with what [Favre] brings to the table.
"A number of commentators will say he's a warrior, he's played with injuries. I feel like him being knowledgeable about the quarterback position, I feel like we'd probably be in a better situation."

It’s not exactly like the QB that the Eagles do have, McNabb, is a wuss who doesn’t know the game. Owens went on to point out McNabb’s third-quarter interception, which came with the Eagles trailing just 28-21, as the reason the Eagles lost last Sunday.

The slams weren’t just for the quarterback. Owens also took one at the entire organization:
Owens also hard harsh things to say about the Eagles for not publically recognizing his 100th career touchdown catch Oct. 23 at home against the Chargers.
"That right there just shows you the type of class and integrity that they claim not to be," said Owens, who became the sixth receiver in NFL history to reach the milestone. "They claim to be first class and the best organization. It's an embarrassment. It just shows a lack of class they have. My publicist talked to the head PR guy and they made an excuse they didn't recognize that was coming up. But that was a blatant lie. Had it been somebody else they probably would have popped fireworks around the stadium."
The key line is, of course, “It just shows a lack of class they have.” TO has shown that he has a lot of class. Unfortunately, all of it is low.

Certainly, turmoil doesn’t preclude winning. Teams that are winning quarrel all the time, sometimes in public. But it’s a different deal when a team is losing—and make no mistake, the Eagles are in that category. That’s the time when needs to close ranks, shut up and play.

Speaking of shut up and play, ex-Redskin Jeremiah Trotter said in an interview earlier this week that the Redskins had “no heart” and Kearse said that the Redskins were the Eagles “b—ches”.

Apparently, Reid is continuing his laissez-faire approach to Owens and letting TO be TO and did not comment on the comments by Trotter and Kearse. Reid takes the “they’re grown men, let them handle it” philosophy. When you’re winning, that’s the enlightened approach; when you’re not, the inmates are running the asylum.

All that being said, what Kearse said isn’t far from the truth. The Redskins have lost seven straight to the Eagles and most of the games haven’t been close. Have the Redskins improved enough and have the Eagles imploded enough to change this?

The initial gut feeling earlier this week was no. The thought here was that the Eagles would circle the wagons one last time and have enough to beat a good but still shaken Redskins team.

Then, as the week went on, I realized that those weren’t wagons being circled up I-95 but rings being added to the circus. I went to Redskins Park on Wednesday. This is not a shaken group of players and coaches. To a man, they had put the Sunday’s debacle behind them and were focused on the Eagles. There is no false bravado here. We know that well from the team under previous coaches and this is different. The confidence is in the players’ eyes as well as in their words.

Like just about everything for the 2005 Redskins, it won’t be easy. Washington will jump to an early lead, but the Eagles will fight back, perhaps even take the lead. But their lack of a running game won’t allow them to hold it and the Redskins will pull back ahead in the second half. Washington will have to repel one or two late Philly bids to win it.

Redskins 24, Eagles 20

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Trent Williams promises that the best has yet to come from him

Trent Williams promises that the best has yet to come from him

If you took 100 random NFL fans and asked them to name the best player in the league, there's a very strong chance none of the 100 would say Trent Williams, the Redskins left tackle who clears paths like a snowplow. But according to an in-depth ranking system published a few weeks ago from Bleacher Report, Williams is in fact the correct answer.

The system, called NFL1000, is supposed to "bring exposure" to players who aren't as appreciated as they should be, and in the eyes of the analysts who built the rankings, no one should be appreciated more than Williams, who beat out Tyron Smith and Aaron Rodgers for the top spot. But that's still not the peak of his performance, the lineman says.

No. 71 apparently just got a hold of the NFL1000 list, and in a Wednesday Instagram post that featured it, he said his "best is yet to be seen." Sorry, opposing pass rushers.

In addition to that accolade from Bleacher Report, Pro Football Focus chose Williams as their highest-rated offensive lineman, and the Professional Football Writers of America assigned him to their All-NFC team. It wasn't a perfect year for the Pro Bowler, however, as he was suspended for four games during a critical stretch in the season's second half (the Redskins were 2-2 without him).

Nevertheless, because an offensive lineman is often doing his job best when you aren't hearing his name called, it can be easy to take someone like Williams for granted. These types of awards, though, show the 28-year-old's value — value that he says will continue to climb in 2017. 

MORE REDSKINS: SETTING THE ODDS ON WHAT THE 'SKINS WILL DO WITH COUSINS

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Need to Know: The early odds on what happens with Redskins and Cousins

Need to Know: The early odds on what happens with Redskins and Cousins

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 19, 98 days before the NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 42
NFL free agency starts 50
First Sunday of 2017 season 235

The coordinator search and more

As noted above, we have 42 days until the deadline for the Redskins to put the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins. The immediate future of the franchise is contingent this situation being handled correctly by the organization. It’s time to turn the attention and the $100 in imaginary casino chips towards what might happen with Cousins as the process unfold. We will revisit this from time to time as the various deadlines approach so consider this the early odds.

Sign before the tag deadline, $5—This seems unlikely after his rather cold response to my question immediately following the season-ending loss to the Giants when he said, “The ball’s not in my court.” He indicated that it’s up to the Redskins to tag him. It doesn’t look like he and his agent will have much of an inclination to sit down to any serious negotiations before that happens.

Let him go into free agency, $5—Yes, I know that this is out there but it makes no sense to take the chance of the possibility that he could walk with zero compensation. While there might be some logic in finding out what Cousins would be worth in a true free market in order to establish the basis for a fair contract the risk of behind left empty-handed is just too great.

Tag and trade, $20—This also has been discussed by various media types as a possibility. It would involve giving Cousins the non-exclusive franchise tag, which would let him go out and negotiate a deal with another team. The Redskins could then match that offer or choose to get compensation. The CBA calls for compensation of two first-round picks although the two teams may negotiate something less. The most frequently suggested trade partner is the 49ers and their soon-to-be head coach Kyle Shanahan but there are probably around half a dozen teams, maybe more, who could be interested. If the Redskins don’t think they will ever sign Cousins long term this could be the way to go.

Tag and sign by July 15 deadline, $30—This may be a little low for this possibility. Perhaps if the other options are off the table he will consider that he is a perfect match for Jay Gruden’s offense and that he might not be such a good fit elsewhere. There also is the possibility of injury or, for whatever reason, Cousins having a subpar season. Those thoughts could spur him to instruct his agent to get the best deal he can get in Washington.

Tag and play the season on the tag, $40—Right now, this appears to be the mostly likely scenario. They can afford the $24 million cap hit and it would get them one more year of his services. However, the prospects for him remaining in a Redskins uniform for 2018 and beyond would be very cloudy.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.