Redskins-Eagles Preview


The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins are concluding disappointing seasons that have caused questions for both heading into 2012.

The Eagles will try for a fourth straight win and a season sweep of their NFC East rivals on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Philadelphia (7-8) will miss the playoffs for the third time in 12 seasons despite an infusion of talent that included Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Cullen Jenkins, prompting fellow newcomer Vince Young to call the Eagles a "Dream Team."

Instead, the defending NFC East champions got off to a 1-4 start and never recovered until this three-game win streak that nearly kept their division title hopes alive.

"There are a lot of things I could have done better with that," said coach Andy Reid about his team's poor start. "The bottom line is they're together now, and they have an opportunity to play a good football team and continue to get better as a unit."

It appears Reid will return for a 14th season, but it's unclear whether defensive coordinator Juan Castillo will be retained. Castillo, a former offensive line coach, saw his unit struggle until recent weeks.

Washington (5-10), meanwhile, will finish in last place for the fourth straight season. Second-year coach Mike Shanahan has acknowledged that his rebuilding plan for the once-proud franchise needs more time.

"A lot longer than I first anticipated," Shanahan said. "We had less depth than I thought. We were a little bit older at a few different positions. I thought we might keep those players a little longer than we did."

The Redskins have endured a season in which running back Tim Hightower, receiver Santana Moss, tight end Chris Cooley and right tackle Jammal Brown all missed significant time with injuries. Plus, left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis were suspended for the last four games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Rex Grossman was benched following his four-interception performance in a 20-13 loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 16. Grossman regained the starting job when Washington lost all three games started by John Beck, but he's tied for the league lead with 19 interceptions.

"My confidence level is at an all-time high," Grossman insisted. "I just need to eliminate a couple of bad plays here and there that deter a great performance."

Grossman got some good news when the Eagles placed safety Kurt Coleman on injured reserve this week with a biceps injury. Coleman picked off Grossman three times in the first matchup.

The bigger story injury-wise for Philadelphia is whether LeSean McCoy will play through an ankle problem suffered in last Saturday's 20-7 win at Dallas. McCoy leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns (17) and total TDs (20).

McCoy is tops in the NFC with a career-high 1,309 rushing yards, 123 shy of Wilbert Montgomery's club record of 1,512 set in 1979.

"Well, it's not a high ankle sprain so we'll just see how he does here," Reid said. "If he can play, he'll play. He wants to play. We'll see how he does."

McCoy wouldn't be the only Eagles Pro Bowler trying to gain individual honors. Babin has 18 sacks to tie for the NFL's second-highest total behind Minnesota's Jared Allen, who has 18 1/2.

The Eagles have a league-high 49 sacks while Washington's pass rush has been solid with 39, led by rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan's 7 1/2 and Brian Orakpo's seven.

Orakpo is finishing his third season with the club, and still feels the franchise is headed in the right direction.

"We've got the right guys in this locker room," Orakpo said. "Guys are fighting hard. We don't really have any issues. Guys play for each other. Got a great coaching staff. We got an owner (Dan Snyder) doing everything possible to win. ... 5-10 is a terrible season to have, but I'm a very optimistic guy, I want to keep building and hopefully get this organization on top eventually."

Washington has seen its defense slip to 14th overall after allowing an average of 381.3 yards the last three games.

The Redskins will face a resurgent Michael Vick, who has thrown for five TDs and rushed for two more in his last two meetings against them.

"I've watched this team grow as the weeks have went on," Vick said. "The last three or four weeks, we've come together as a team. It's a family environment, a family atmosphere and that translates to winning. That's why you see a different team."