Scouting Report: Eagles' defense vs. Redskins' O

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Scouting Report: Eagles' defense vs. Redskins' O
November 16, 2013, 10:00 am
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Robert Griffin III has thrown for 280 yards or more in three of his last four games, completing 62 percent or better in those three games. (USA Today Images)

Overall, the Redskins aren’t a very good team.

But the vanilla offense that stumbled all over itself for three quarters in the season opener isn’t the one the Eagles will see Sunday at the Linc in the rematch.

Ten weeks into the season, quarterback Robert Griffin III is much more dynamic than he was Sept. 9 when he was seeing his first live action since tearing up his knee in a first-round playoff game against Seattle.

Back then, Griffin was still feeling his way back and the coaches were reluctant to rely on the zone-read schemes that capitalized on RG3’s ability to get outside the edges and make big plays in the run game.

Without the threat of Griffin’s run, teams keyed on Pro Bowl halfback Alfred Morris, who had averaged just 14 carries and 74 rushing yards in the first four games as the Redskins stumbled to a 1-3 start, and Griffin averaged just 4.5 runs per game.

Since then, Griffin has become more comfortable and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has reopened the college playbook.

Griffin has averaged almost eight rushing attempts and 46 rushing yards per game in the past five games, which has helped Morris return to one of the NFL’s most punishing halfbacks.

Morris has averaged 21 carries for 106 yards -- 5.1 per carry -- during that span, and is coming off back-to-back games of at least 25 carries. He’s totaled 260 rushing yards in his past two games.

He’s one of the league’s hardest running backs to tackle one-on-one because of his size (5-9, 219), low center of gravity and his ability to run with great leverage.

The Redskins have used outside zone runs under Mike Shanahan to get their one-cut running backs going downhill immediately. This year, they’ve featured more two-back formations that create a triple-option attack often seen at the college level -- Georgia Tech does this the best.

With their running game in full stride, the Redskins are back to their bread-and-butter of play-action passes. The run threat of Morris and Griffin causes linebackers and defensive backs to freeze, giving receivers and tight ends that extra step.

Griffin has thrown for 280 yards or more in three of his last four games, completing 62 percent or better in those three. He also had pass ratings better than 105 in two of his last four weeks.

Pierre Garcon, their best deep threat, has 14 catches for 291 yards in his past two games, averaging nearly 21 yards per reception. He had just one 100-yard effort in the Redskins’ first seven games.

The X-factor in the Redskins’ passing game is rookie tight end Jordan Reed (see story). The former Florida standout lines up everywhere: slot receiver, split wide, H-back, tight end and fullback. He creates mismatches with his quickness across the middle.

Reed has 27 catches for 323 yards and two TDs in his past four games, an average of nearly 12 yards per catch, and has emerged as Washington’s second-best receiving threat behind Garcon.

Reed stands to give the Eagles problems if linebacker Mychal Kendricks can’t play and if Najee Goode is again forced into action. Goode played well against a one-dimensional Green Bay offense last week that tried to pound the ball with Eddie Lacy, though the Eagles brought him here because they valued his coverage.

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis seemingly comes with new blitz packages every week. Because he lacks an elite pass-rushing outside linebacker, Davis has thrown several five- and six-man pressures at quarterbacks to get them skittish in the pocket and increase his chances of getting an interception.

But the Redskins aren’t the kind of team that you can mortgage the house on, especially with Griffin’s ability to break contain and make a big play with either his feet or his canon right arm. Davis needs his down linemen to collapse the pocket, specifically Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry.

After a slow start to the season, Curry has improved his two-gap technique and isn’t just restricted to being a nickel pass rusher.

Griffin has been sacked seven times in his past three games -- four against the Vikings last Thursday, so it’s not impossible to bring him down.

In all four games this season that Griffin has been sacked at least three times, the Redskins have lost, so there’s your key to the Eagles beating Washington on Sunday.

(To read the Eagles’ offensive scouting report, click here.)