Eagles Opposition Report: Redskins Defense

Eagles Opposition Report: Redskins Defense

How are the Washington Redskins 3-1 and in first place in the division? Well, when the defense holds opponents to 15.8 points per game, the third-lowest total in the NFL, that takes a lot of pressure off folks like Rex Grossman.

It's a solid all-around unit that is sixth against the run and eighth against the pass. They've forced a league-high 14 fumbles, are tied for fourth with 15 sacks while the other four teams in the top five have each played one more game than the Skins. And although they have improved their personnel since last season, they are getting it done with many of the same players who have made up the core of their defense in previous years.

ROLB Brian Orakpo
Maybe the best player in the NFC East nobody talks about. The only time Orakpo's name seems to enter the conversation about the game's best pass rushers is when the Redskins are on TV. Sure, his sophomore campaign was something of a down year --  registering *just* 8.5 sacks last season -- but he was the only player Washington had who could get to the quarterback. With an improved defense, Orakpo is off to a blazing start with 3.5 sacks through the first four games, giving the former Longhorn 23 total through his first 35 career games. His speed off the edge could be a real matchup problem for Todd Herremans, who has to move over to left tackle this week after injuries to Jason Peters and King Dunlap.

LOLB Ryan Kerrigan
One of the reasons Orakpo is back on track in 2011 is the addition of Kerrigan, who gives the Skins a legit presence on the other end of the formation. The 16th overall pick in this year's draft, I've seen Kerrigan play a few times already this season, and have no problem saying this kid is the real deal. The 23 year old out of Purdue is more of a power rusher who will drive unsuspecting tackles into the backfield, but he's incredibly active no matter what the scheme calls for, and has shown a knack for getting to the ball. In his first four games, Kerrigan already has two sacks, two forced fumbles, and he's returned an interception for a touchdown. It appears Winston Justice will be making his first start since 2010, and he will have his hands full dealing with this promising rook.

RDE Stephen Bowen and NT Barry Cofield
The Redskins have a much different look up front from a year ago, opting to go with players who actually give their full effort on the football field. That means Albert Haynesworth is out, and Bowen and Cofield are in, both coming over from division rivals.

Bowen spent five seasons in Dallas, primarily as a backup. He finally saw some extensive playing time last year, getting nine of his 11 career starts, and essentially worked his way into a job with Washington. The change of scenery seems to have done him some good, as he is rapidly approaching a personal best with 2.5 sacks after four games. Cofield, a starter for five seasons with the Giants, is still adjusting to playing the nose in a 3-4. He hasn't done much to fill out the stat sheet, but is perfectly capable of teaching young Jason Kelce a thing or two on Sunday.

LDE Adam Carriker
Carriker is the only returning member from last season's front, and he too has benefited from the improvements in the front seven. The former first round pick of the Rams might even shed the bust level if he keeps up this pace. The Nebraska product has three sacks this season, nearly doubling his career total in the process. He'll be working against Justice and Danny Watkins on that right side, so he could have some opportunities to add or even multiply that number.

ILB London Fletcher
The fact that Fletcher is still playing is amazing. The fact that he is still playing at a high level is almost unimagineable. Now in his 14th NFL season, Fletcher continues to be one of the most prolific middle linebackers in the league, racking up tackles in the hundreds every year. You would think a 5'10" MIKE would eventually wear down -- and front offices in St. Louis and Buffalo must have been counting on that as well -- but so far, that has not been the case. When he gets his hands on the ball carrier, the play is over more often than not. However, he won't necessarily kill the offense with big plays either. He doesn't generate a ton of negative stops or create many turnovers.

Rocky McIntosh, a high second round pick from '06, competently mans the other inside linebacker position.

CB DeAngelo Hall
The very definition of a boom or bust player, Hall could either intercept four passes on Sunday, or he could concede four long touchdowns. There's no question he is a very dangerous player with elite speed and ball skills, but his coverage ability has always left something to be desired. Still, he can make the offense pay if they make a mistake, which the Eagles have done at an alarming rate. Vick, a former teammate of Hall's in Atlanta, has thrown nine interceptions so far this season, so you know the Skins' showboaty corner is licking his chops heading into this matchup.

SS LaRon Landry
After missing the first two games of the season with a hammy strain, the sixth overall pick in the '07 draft has bounced back and made his presence felt in two games this season. Landry is a hard hitter who can play close to the line of scrimmage, or is athletic enough to play centerfield in the defensive backfield. He is susceptible to the big play though, as Landry can find himself out of position due to his aggressive style.

O.J. Atogwe, who spent the previous six seasons in St. Louis, joins Landry to fill out the secondary. He's a decent enough player, but has been quiet so far working in a new scheme. Overall, the secondary is an area the Eagles can attack. Washington's DB's are all capable of making the offense pay for their mistakes, but any one of them can be beaten as well, especially by speed. There is already some bad blood between this team and DeSean Jackson, so look for Andy Reid to take some shots downfield early and often -- provided Vick has time to stand in the pocket and deliver the football.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).