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Prediction: Will more Eagles plays equal more turnovers?

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Prediction: Will more Eagles plays equal more turnovers?

Week 1 games are difficult to predict. Without looking it up, I’m sure that I picked the Saints to win comfortably a year ago today as the Redskins went to New Orleans for RG3’s debut. I don’t think I saw them beating the Giants behind Rex Grossman in 2011. Perhaps I called the win over Dallas to open the Mike Shanahan era but even if you give me that one out of three isn’t a great track record.

I have to say that it’s tough to be confident about predicting tonight’s game. For a change, the Redskins are the known quantity, assuming that Dr. Andrews’ repair of RG3’s knee is sound. It’s the opponent, the Eagles, that is the mystery. They have a new coach (Chip Kelly), a new offense (some sort of up tempo spread) and a new defense (a 3-4, even though Kelly won’t call it that).

The Eagles do have many of the same players running Kelly’s new offense—running back LeSean McCoy, receiver DeSean Jackson, and quarterback Michael Vick. While there may be very limited game film of the NFL version of Kelly’s offense there is plenty of tape on these players, especially Vick. He has played in 121 NFL games so there is ample data available to study his tendencies.

And if the best guesses on Kelly’s offense are correct, it calls for Vick to do things that he has not done well during the course of his career. It calls for quick decisions and that isn’t Vick’s strong point. Soon after he was hired Kelly said that he wants his quarterback to release his passes within 1.6 seconds after the snap. He hasn’t talked much about that lately as it took Vick about 3.6 seconds to get his passes off during the preseason.

Kelly’s offense is designed to get off more plays. His logic is that more plays equals more yards. Yes, but with Vick more plays could also equal more turnovers. In the past two years he has started 23 games and he has 24 interceptions and 21 fumbles. More snaps could be the proverbial double-edged sword for Philly.

Will the fast-paced attack work in the NFL? Kelly likes to point to a 2010 game when Oregon had 21 minutes of possession time to 39 for UCLA. The Ducks won 60-13. But that was a bad 4-8 UCLA team. There are no such talent disparities in the NFL.

On the other side of the ball, it looks like the Eagles are having a rough go at transitioning to the 3-4 defense. This is pain the Redskins know well, having one through it in 2010 and at least into 2012. They will take many of the 4-3 players who were members of the 2012 Philly defense, a unit that ranked 29th in points allowed and 23rd against the run, and have them adapt to the new scheme.

It seems to be a safe bet that the Redskins will put up some points. Despite the fact that he was hobbled by a knee injury in their second meeting, Griffin was deadly efficient against the Eagles last year. He completed 77 percent of his passes, averaged 10.2 yards per attempt, and threw six touchdowns to one interception.

But the key could be Alfred Morris. There was no sign during the preseason that the Eagles will be any better against the run. Morris didn’t run wild against them last year (167 yards combined in the two games) but if he gets rolling that will help keep the Eagles’ offense off the field and help the Redskins put up some points?

How many will they score? They averaged 27 a game last year. Let’s give them another TD and go with 35 with two TD’s being the result of takeaways.

And they’ll need to score a lot to keep from sweating this one out. Even though a lot of the time the Eagles’ offense will be a lot of movement and sound and fury that doesn’t accomplish much. They’ll break a long play, maybe more than one. McCoy could have a pretty big day. But many drives will die because Vick, the guy pulling the trigger, will make a mistake to kill it. A few succeed, perhaps one or two because of a big play. It won’t be enough.

Redskins 35, Eagles 21

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Eagles coach's comments on effort create a stir in the locker room

Eagles coach's comments on effort create a stir in the locker room

The day after the Eagles 32-14 loss to the Bengals on Sunday, Philadelphia coach Doug Peterson said that he didn’t think that all his players played hard.

Not everybody, and that’s the accountability that I talk about,” Pederson said, via the Birds 24/7 blog. “I hold coaches accountable for that; I hold myself accountable for that because it all starts with me. I pride myself each week to make sure the guys are ready to go, but at the same time, it comes down to a mentality by each individual player. This is a business where we have to be ready to go every single weekend because every team in the league — there are some teams that are better than others, but for the most part anything can happen any weekend.”

This sort of vague shot fired at the team did not sit well with the players. Safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the most respected voices on the team, said that the comments put players in a bad spot.

“I know the intent of the guys that I practice with and play with every day, and I didn’t see effort being an issue,” Jenkins said. “It puts us in a little bit of a tough position as players because now everybody wants to know, ‘Well, who were you talking about?’”

Some in the media in Philadelphia surmised that two of the players Pederson was talking about were tight end Zach Ertz and safety Rodney McLeod. One on play it looked like Ertz failed to block Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict on a Carson Wentz scramble.

“I’m not going to get into the details of every thought I had on that play,” said Ertz. “I’m focused on giving this city everything I have on each and every play. I promise going forward, I will do that. I think I have done that in the past.”

It didn’t look like McLeod did everything he could to keep Bengals running back Jeremy Hill from scoring a touchdown on a two-yard run in the first quarter.

“I thought the ball was going to hit somewhere else, and then obviously it came through. By the time I could react, Hill already crossed the plane,” said McLeod. “Just got caught flat-footed, tried to react and by the time I did, I feel like if I were to hit him it could possibly be late. Just a tough situation.”

You can see both of the plays in question here.

We don’t know if Ertz and McLeod are among the players that Pederson was talking about when he spoke of issues with effort. Leaving things vague like that doesn’t do much for the coach’s credibility in the locker room. And when that starts to be in doubt the coach gets asked about his job security. Pederson said that owner Jeffrey Lurie and GM Howie Roseman have been supportive.

“From both of them, it’s been 100 percent support on everything. I meet with Jeffrey and Howie every week and we discuss a lot of things and go over a lot of things. Every week, it’s very positive,” Pederson said. “I just don’t think you can base a guy’s career on one season. I think you got to give it time to develop.

But the fact that these questions are being asked after he has been in his job for a dozen games is an indication that he is facing at least a minor crisis as his team prepares for four games that are likely to be meaningless in terms of the playoff picture. We will see if he can get the train back on the tracks by Sunday.

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Poll: What is your approval rating for the play of Redskins QB Kirk Cousins?

Poll: What is your approval rating for the play of Redskins QB Kirk Cousins?

As usual, answer the poll and either rely on Twitter or come back here and hit the comments section.