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.

Best of MLB: Beltre's 2 home runs lift Rangers over A's

Best of MLB: Beltre's 2 home runs lift Rangers over A's

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adrian Beltre hit his second home run of the game with two outs in the ninth inning, a two-run shot that rallied the Texas Rangers past the Oakland Athletics 7-6 on Monday night for their third straight win.

Beltre, who finished with four hits, had two singles in his first three at-bats before hitting a solo homer in the seventh. His game-winning drive came on the first pitch from Ryan Madson (3-4).

Until then, Texas had trailed since Danny Valencia hit a two-run homer for Oakland with two outs in the first. All 13 runs in the game were scored with two outs.

Texas turned three double plays behind starter Martin Perez, who has induced a major league-best 25 in 21 games.

Valencia also had the first of three run-scoring doubles in a three-run third that gave the A's a 5-1 lead (see full recap).

Blue Jays' Sanchez wins 10th straight decision
TORONTO  -- Aaron Sanchez pitched seven shutout innings to win his 10th consecutive decision, Kevin Pillar had three hits and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the San Diego Padres 4-2 on Monday night.

Sanchez (11-1) became the first Blue Jays pitcher to win 10 straight since Roy Halladay won 15 decisions in a row in 2003. Halladay and Roger Clemens (1998) hold the club record.

Making their first appearance in Toronto, the Padres were held scoreless until Alex Dickerson hit a two-run homer off Bo Schultz in the ninth.

Dickeerson's drive into the fifth deck extended San Diego's team-record streak of games with at least one home run to 23. The 2006 Atlanta Braves were the last National League team to homer in 23 straight games.

Roberto Osuna replaced Schultz and got two outs for his 21st save (see full recap).

Orioles top Rockies for 5th straight win
BALTIMORE -- Adam Jones scored the winning run in the 10th inning on a low throw to the plate by pitcher Jordan Lyles, and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Colorado Rockies 3-2 on Monday night for their fifth straight victory.

Jones reached on a one-out single off the third-base bag and took third on a single by Jonathan Schoop. Manny Machado followed with a comebacker to Lyles, who fumbled the ball before throwing home. Catcher Nick Hundley caught the ball near the ground and lost the handle while attempting to tag the sliding Jones.

Lyles (2-3) was charged with an error on the play.

Getting two RBIs from Jones, the Orioles climbed a season-high 18 games over .500 (58-40) and improved to 37-14 at home.

Chaz Roe (1-0) worked the 10th for the win (see full recap).

Trade candidates — especially Jeremy Hellickson — lead Phils to shutout of Marlins

Trade candidates — especially Jeremy Hellickson — lead Phils to shutout of Marlins

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson was standing in front of his locker speaking with reporters after his second strong outing in a week against the Miami Marlins when Cameron Rupp walked by an offered his take on all the trade talk surrounding the veteran pitcher.

“He’s not going anywhere,” Rupp said loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

Hellickson laughed at his catcher’s commentary.

“I hope not,” he said.

If Hellickson really wants to stay with the Phillies and finish out this rebuilding season instead of moving to a contender for the final two months — and possibly beyond — he did himself a disservice Monday night.

He enhanced his attractiveness to potential buyers by pitching six shutout innings in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay).

Hellickson, who sports a 3.65 ERA in 21 starts, needed just 70 pitches to get through the six innings. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter with runners on second and third and two outs in a scoreless game in the top of the seventh. Ryan Howard struck out, following Cody Asche and Peter Bourjos, as the Phillies whiffed on a golden scoring chance.

“I hated taking Hellickson out of the game there, but we had an opportunity to score and I had to go for it,” manager Pete Mackanin said.

“After we didn’t score, I didn’t think we had a chance to win this game. I just thought that with their bullpen we were in trouble.”

The Phillies ended up winning with a rally against Miami’s bullpen. Tommy Joseph delivered a clutch, two-out double against Fernando Rodney in the eighth to score Maikel Franco from first. That was the only run the Phillies needed. They tacked on three against the sloppy Marlins in the ninth to finish it off.

Hellickson, David Hernandez, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez then combined to allow just one base runner in three innings to finish off the Phillies’ 11th shutout of the season. That’s the most in the majors.

“Our bullpen did a great job,” Mackanin said.

Three of the four pitchers that the Phillies used in the game — Hellickson, Hernandez and Gomez — are very much available for trades. They all pitched well with a gaggle of scouts sitting behind the backstop. A number of contending clubs — the Cubs, Orioles, Giants, Rangers and Blue Jays — had scouts at the game. Pitching, starting and relief, is high on the needs list for most of those teams.

Of course, the Marlins are looking for pitching, too. They have interest in Hellickson, though it’s not clear whether he is a top target of theirs. Maybe he will become a top target after what he’s done to the Marlins in the last week. Hellickson has pitched 14 innings over two starts against the Marlins. He has given up just six hits and a run.

“Just executing,” said the pitcher, explaining his success. “In my last two games the ball has been down for the most part. I’ve just gotten a lot of easy outs. The ball's down and not missing too many spots right now.”

Hellickson will be a free agent this winter and does not appear to be in the club’s future plan. Nonetheless, he has steadfastly said he would like to remain with the club for the rest of this season. Phillies management is not opposed to keeping Hellickson. He provides veteran stability and innings to a young rotation. But management would move Hellickson for a player that has the potential to help in the future.

Trade rumors can be distracting for a player. But Hellickson, who has been dealt twice in his career, is locked in.

“It doesn't bother me,” he said. “Once I'm in this locker room — obviously you still see it on TV and stuff — my focus is on helping us win today. Now it's on to the next start. It's been like this for a few years now so it's pretty easy to go out there right now.”

Mackanin said he had no idea what will become of Hellickson’s fate. But if the pitcher stays, he won’t complain.

“At this point, I don’t want to lose him,” Mackanin said. “I wish he could stay here. He’s that solid for us. He’s been like that the whole year.”

The Phillies needed a good pitching effort to pull this one out. Their hitters struck out 13 times, left 11 men on base and went just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“We don’t show plate discipline,” Mackanin lamented. “We’re taking fastballs early in the count that are hittable pitches. If you’re going to take fastballs early in the count that are hittable pitches, you cannot swing at breaking balls in the dirt. That’s all I can say about that. We have to have more plate discipline.”

On the positive side of that, Franco and Rupp both walked three times, and Franco’s two-out walk in the eighth became the biggest run of the game on a night when Jeremy Hellickson and his status with the Phillies was the biggest storyline.

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson continued to enhance his trade value and Tommy Joseph had the big hit in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Monday night.

Hellickson shut down the Marlins for the second time in a week. The next time he pitches, it could be for them. The Marlins are one of the teams interested in the veteran right-hander. Scouts from several other contending teams were in attendance for Hellickson’s strong outing.

Joseph’s two-out double in the top of the eighth broke a scoreless tie.

Phillies pitching held the Marlins to two hits. The Phils have 11 shutouts this season.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson pitched six scoreless innings and gave up just a hit and a walk while striking out one. He exited for a pinch-hitter after just 70 pitches. The right-hander has pitched 14 innings and allowed just one run in his last two starts, both against the Marlins. He has lowered his season ERA to 3.65.

Miami’s Jarred Cosart came up from Triple A and pitched five scoreless innings. However, he threw 92 pitches. He allowed three hits, a walk and struck out one.

Bullpen report 
Trade candidate David Hernandez pitched a strong seventh inning for the Phils, picking up the win. Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez closed it out.

Miami right-hander Kyle Barraclough came up big in the top of the seventh inning. He struck out Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and pinch-hitter Ryan Howard with runners on second and third to preserve a 0-0 tie.

Marlins right-hander Fernando Rodney struck out the first two batters in the eighth then gave up a four-pitch walk to Maikel Franco before Joseph’s two-out double delivered the game’s first run.

Rodney took the loss.

A.J. Ramos was charged with three runs in the ninth, two unearned.

At the plate
The Phillies survived 13 strikeouts, a 1-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position and 11 men left on base to score the win.

The Phils had just six hits. Joseph had a pair of them and now has 25 RBIs in 54 games.

Cesar Hernandez gave the Phils some cushion with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Miami’s defense fell apart after that and the Phils scored two more runs to put the game away.

Asche had a hit to break an 0-for-26 skid. Bourjos is 0 for his last 17.

Trade talk
Andres Blanco is out for six weeks so he’s no longer a trade candidate, but others are (see story).

Up next
Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) pitches against Miami right-hander Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42) on Tuesday night. Koehler pitched eight innings of two-run ball in beating the Phillies last week at Citizens Bank Park.