How big a game is this for Kirk Cousins?
I don’t get the sense that his job is in immediate jeopardy if he duplicates his game vs. the Giants. But it certainly won’t help his standing and it won’t help anyone buy into him being anything other than a quality backup. As has been oft-stated, people can scream about the coaches playing him all they want, but if Robert Griffin III had shown legitimate progress after being with them for 18 months, then Cousins wouldn’t be in the game. Period. This always has been about what the coaches perceive as Griffin’s lack of development. Fans careers don’t ride on wins; coaches lives do. This isn’t high school where they play 'favorites.' However, if Cousins struggles again, it makes it hard to sell the bosses that he should remain in charge. Maybe Griffin hasn't developed enough to be a consistent quarterback, but someone else must get to that point or questions will -- and should -- persist. Cousins needs to play well to reduce any potential heat on coach Jay Gruden if nothing else.
Can they beat the Eagles?
Of course. Philadelphia’s offense is playing poorly, from the quarterback on down. Sam Bradford just isn’t playing well. There are plenty of issues and the offense does not look nearly the same as it did in Chip Kelly’s first two seasons. You don’t see defenses out of position like you did against them in those years. My big beef with coaches: When they believe scheme trumps all. It never has; it never will. Coaches look smarter when they have playmakers; they look ordinary when they don’t. So this makes the Eagles a winnable game for the Redskins. But their defense isn’t bad -- Atlanta beat them, but that was in part because Atlanta has receiver Julio Jones.
Who will start at left guard?
It depends on Josh LeRibeus' health and if he’s still sidelined by his calf injury. He has the most experience, but after that it comes down to Spencer Long or rookie Arie Kouandjio. Long was further ahead in camp just because he’s been in the league a year. All three have their flaws, as did Shawn Lauvao. The Redskins have spent the past couple years building their line depth, so if it’s what they think, then they should be OK, but there could be some rough moments getting to that point. It helps that the guard would play between Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger. Both know what they’re doing.
Can they generate more pressure?
The Redskins have not resorted to blitzing much, opting for four-man pressures more than in recent years. It allows them to play more in coverage and, though it would be good to generate more heat through blitzes, that does result in a problem: Can the secondary hold up if the Redskins routinely rush six defenders? Blitzing a lot exposes the secondary, and if the coverage isn’t sound, it leads to more problems -- and big plays. That’s what occurred the last few years. The big key will be limiting teams on first down. The Redskins rank 23rd in allowing 4.56 yards per carry on first down, according to ESPN Stats & Information, which is worse than last season. Still, they have done a good job on third downs so far (30.6 percent, tied for third in the NFL).
Will the run game get going again?
The Eagles’ issues have been more on offense than anything as they allow just 3.11 yards per carry -- best in the NFL. This will be the best rushing attack Philadelphia has faced, however. Still, the Eagles have a solid defensive line (led by end Fletcher Cox) so it will be difficult for Washington. The Eagles run blitz quite a bit and align their linebackers sometimes a little wide, which messes with the combination blocks. But they have looked vulnerable at times to outside runs (hello Matt Jones). The Redskins struggled with the run even when they beat Philadelphia last season (Alfred Morris had a 28-yard touchdown, but his other 20 carries produced 55 yards). The Redskins must be patient with the run; if they can get DeSean Jackson back it would help tremendously. The Eagles will play eight in the box a lot and be aggressive stopping the run; Jackson’s presence can make them pay for doing so.