Jamie Mottram & Dan Steinberg on the EaglesRedskins Game Tonight

Jamie Mottram & Dan Steinberg on the EaglesRedskins Game Tonight

With the Washington Redskins in town this evening for the Monday Night Football extravaganza, I thought I'd ask D.C.'s two brightest sports minds what they thought about the matchup.  Nope, not Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser.  We'll get plenty of Tony K. tonight.

An in depth look at the game tonight with these two television stars, after the jump.

Dan Steinberg and Jamie Mottram are the stars of Comcast's hit television show Blog Show!  You can watch past episodes here.  Dan and Jamie do their work at The Washington Post's D.C. Sports Bog and Mister Irrelevant, respectively.

Enrico: We Eagles fans are used to looking down towards the bottom of the
standings to see how the Redskins are doing.  Going into the Monday
Night Football game this week, the Birds are 0-1 while the Skins are
1-0.  I don't like it.  How do you feel about being tied for the NFC
East lead after one week of football?

Jamie: You Eagles fans are also used to looking around and seeing
a lot of insufferable assholes wearing green, so, all things
considered, I think you'll be just fine. Anyway, how do I feel about the
Skins being in first? I feel like they opened with a W over a five-win
team at home (in OT no less), but that won't diminish the rippling beer muscles
I'll be throwing around come Monday Night.

Dan: Oh snap! Except
I think the Dolphins had six wins last year. Maybe not.

Enrico: I couldn't agree more.  I really can't stand the Saint Patties day festivities in Philadelphia.

Dan: Anyhow, I'm not
a Redskins fan, despite the fact that I live in D.C., but living here
and interacting with the people with whom I interact, it's impossible
not to believe that the world will end if the Skins don't finish 16-0,
and that God is on their side.

Enrico: Now,
you guys actually have a decent quarterback for the first time in a few
years and Antwaan Randel El put up some huge numbers in week one.  With
Lito Sheppard going down and the weaker Will James stepping in, is that
something you expect the Skins to exploit?

Dan: The
odd thing no one's pointing out about Randle El is that his day went
from "above average" to "huge" because he caught a tipped hail mary at
the end of regulation. Also, that B-Lloyd was invisible, and that
Cooley and Moss didn't do much. This team won't succeed with Randle El
as its offensive weapon. I'm expecting a ton more Cooley this week, but
yeah, sure they'll test James. Wait, who am I, Mort? I have no idea.
I'm just trying to make fun of Eagles fans in the parking lot.

Jamie: JC 17 is the first QB in DC able to really throw the ball downfield
since a certain Super Bowl hero named Mark Rypien. The problem in Week 1,
however, is that Campbell was deadly inaccurate. Plus, 'Tana Moss dropped
two easy downfield passes and Captain Chaos stayed in to help on pass
protection after Jon Jansen went down in a twisted heap of agony early on. So,
yeah, McNabb won't be the only QB with something to prove on Monday Night,
and Sheppard being out will only help.

Enrico: Wow.  Mark Rypien.  I forgot about that guy.  So, big game Monday night
in Philly.  Would either of you two care to make a wager?  I was
thinking I could mail you a Geno's cheesesteak if the Skins win and you
guys could mail me... um?  A foreign diplomat? What are you guys famous
for in DC?  A Ben's Chili Bowl half smoke?  I hear Bill Cosby is a fan.  Seriously though, how bout
a ticket to the Nationals/Phils game this weekend?  Steinz prob gets
them for free anyway, that way if the Eagles win, I won't really have
to deliver.

Jamie: How about a Geno's cheesesteak vs. an Eagles visor (don't ask, but I have
one)?

Enrico: No.

Jamie: How about a cheesesteak vs. me not kicking your ass?  For real, Steinz and I will stomp the yard on that ass!

Enrico: Okay, Jamie's lost his marbles.  I'll end this weak attempt at football
analysis with my pick.  I'm predicting a huge night from McNabb, maybe
3 TD tosses.  Eagles 34 Redskins 13.  How do you like that beatdown?

Jamie: McNabb better have a huge night, or you know what time it is
... it's Kevin Kolb time.  Prediction: Redskins win a close one on the strength of their
running game and defense. Get ready for the grind, Philly. It's gonna be
like Eric Nies up in this bitch! 

Dan: As
the only impartial member of this email thread, I think I'm obviously
closest to the truth. Eagles win but, most importantly, do not cover.
Call it 20-19 or something like that. How 'bout the Eagles score on a
second-half turnover, just to get extra specific.

Enrico: Alright! Many thanks to the DC folk for sharing their thoughts.  Go Birds!

Penn State's Saquon Barkley staying patient with sluggish run game

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USA Today Images

Penn State's Saquon Barkley staying patient with sluggish run game

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Saquon Barkley believes he can score a touchdown every time he takes a handoff.

Don't mistake the Penn State running back's confidence for arrogance. He's put plenty of evidence on tape in just 15 games to earn a growing reputation as one of the country's most dangerous backs in space.

But with each game this season, Barkley's discovering that space isn't always there in Penn State's new zone-read rushing attack that ranks near the bottom of every major statistical category. Barkley's sure if he remains persistent, more of those highlight-reel runs will come, however.

"We've got to be patient," Barkley said Wednesday. "Stuff will open up and I've got to step up as a player and make more guys miss and break more tackles and we've really got to start getting our run game going because if we get the run game going, that can open up the passing game even more."

Barkley leads the Big Ten with six rushing touchdowns but Penn State ranks last in the conference and 122nd in the nation with just over 101 rushing yards per game. Those sagging rushing numbers can be traced to the big-play back being bottled up before he even gets going.

Usually Barkley's first step is backward in Joe Moorhead's zone-read rushing attack. A delayed handoff follows and Barkley or quarterback Trace McSorley have at times been swallowed up quickly as defenders converge on the mesh point. Although his 55-yard score against Temple came on an inside zone run, Barkley's average on such plays over the last three games falls to just 1.4 yards without it.

It's a cause for concern for Penn State's offensive staff, which is committed to finding more ways to get Barkley the ball as the team prepares to face Minnesota (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) on Saturday.

Shovel passes and pitches have made brief appearances. Barkley's also caught 10 passes thus far and direct snaps may show up in the future.

Eliminating inside zone reads isn't an option, though.

"There's a lot of different ways," Penn State coach James Franklin said.

Penn State has had success on the outside. Even with a delayed start, Barkley's done most of his damage over the last three games when he's been able to flank defenders. He's averaging 10.8 yards per carry on those plays, further evidence of his skill on the edge.

"He's a game-changing player," center Brian Gaia said.

But one that's not comfortable lobbying his coaches for more touches or criticizing a young offensive line that will likely start two freshmen guards this weekend. Like Franklin, Barkley believes a little more early physicality coupled with his own patience will open things up in the middle.

"I would say the thing that we really need to improve the most is just coming out stronger, coming out faster and starting fast," Barkley said. "Physically, I think we're there. Mentally, we've really got a good grasp of the system but, especially in away games, we've been starting out really slow."

Temple readying for conference play, SMU's uptempo attack

Temple readying for conference play, SMU's uptempo attack

Take a look at the standings and you’ll see the Temple Owls are 2-2 so far this season with wins over Stony Brook and Charlotte and losses to Army and Penn State.

But take a peek to the right of that 2-2 mark and you’ll see a 0-0 record in AAC conference play.

While the Owls would most certainly like to have a better record than the 2-2 record they sport at this very moment, the silver lining is that none of those games were conference games. Therefore, those games don’t affect Temple’s overall goal of defending its AAC Eastern Division crown.

But, on Saturday afternoon, that title defense finally begins when Temple welcomes SMU and its uptempo offensive attack to Lincoln Financial Field in the first of eight straight AAC games that will close out the regular season.

“It sort of feels like a new start to the season,” Temple senior quarterback Phillip Walker said following Tuesday’s practice on campus at Edberg-Olsen Hall. “It’s just another great opportunity for us not to look back on anything or think about anything that happened in the past in the first four games. Now it’s an opportunity to play our next eight games and enjoy playing the conference again.”

The good news for Temple heading into conference play is that the offense has found its stride. The Owls overwhelmed Charlotte last week, 48-20, behind 268 yards and two touchdowns throws from the arm of Walker and two touchdowns runs a piece from senior Jahad Thomas and Sophomore Ryquell Armstead. After early struggles, Walker is now up to 846 yards and five touchdowns on the year.

That’s after the tough loss at Penn State two weeks ago when the offense settled itself for the first time this season and found continuity. Thomas’ return to the backfield has helped, as he’s scored four touchdowns in two games since missing the first two games of the year with a dislocated left thumb.

The Temple defense is still hurting itself with a lackluster pass rush. The Owls have only five sacks through the first four games. Last season, they had 10 sacks in the first game alone. Big plays allowed are an issue, too, as Temple has allowed 10 plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage through four games.

But the confidence is there and the Owls believe they are getting better each week.

“I think we’re better than where we were [earlier in the year,]” said redshirt senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick, who has five tackles for loss on the year. “A lot of guys are stepping up, locking in on the small details that were hurting us the first couple of weeks. We’ve got the younger guys playing better and harder, so I think we’ve come a long way. I still think there are some things we need to get better on, but we’re close.

“Those first four games, none of those teams were conference teams. It was like preseason to work out the kinks. Now it’s time to go. It’s full-throttle now. There’s no time to make mistakes. There’s no time to beat ourselves.”

Temple head coach Matt Rhule, on the other hand, doesn’t like to talk much about the “fresh start” or “restart” that comes with the beginning of AAC play this weekend.

He preaches the importance of conference play every week, and he has proof.

“Every week, I put up the conference rankings, no matter what,” he said Tuesday “Week 1 when we lost, I put up the conference rankings. Week 2 when we won, I put up the conference rankings. Week 3, Week 4, I do that every week because I want guys to understand the importance of conference wins, conference losses and conference play.

“I will say, to be fair, I did say we were going to try and get our kids to be ready for Week 4 or 5 or 6, because we knew we were going to have to play a lot of young guys and knew we were going to have to teach them.”

All the Owls, young and old, know they need to be prepared on Saturday.

The Mustangs have already equaled their win total from last season and have the same record, overall and conference, as the Owls heading into Saturday. They hung tough with Big 12 powerhouses Baylor (6-6 at half) and TCU (6-3 TCU at half) before eventually succumbing in the second half of both games.

Defensively, SMU is tied for tops in the nation with 10 interceptions. But plenty of focus goes on the Mustangs’ uptempo offense, which break off chunks of yardage in the blink of an eye with 448 yards per game so far this year. Rhule and the Owls know that fact better than anyone. The last two times these schools have met, SMU earned a 59-49 win in 2013 and Temple came away with a 60-40 victory last season. That’s 208 points combined in the last two meetings.

SMU’s fast-paced attack is exactly the type of offensive system Rhule’s Owls have historically struggled with, too.

“They have, obviously, a lot of offense,” Rhule said of Saturday’s foe. “(SMU head coach) Coach (Chad) Morris was one of the best offensive coordinators in the country. He did it at Clemson and he’s doing it there. There’s a lot to deal with. That’s the history of this series, though.”

Quarterback Matt Davis, who hurt Temple with both his arm and his feet last season, is out for the year with a knee injury suffered in Week 1. Ben Hicks has stepped in and thrown seven interceptions compared to just two touchdowns. But big-play receiver Cortland Sutton is still there and he already has four touchdown grabs on the year.

In practice this week, speed has been the theme of the Owls' defense, which is 28th in the nation with 327.3 yards allowed per game this year.

“It’s difficult to prepare for,” Reddick said of SMU’s offense. “You’ve got to just work on it in practice, going fast and getting the defensive calls faster. You have to look and read to the offense faster to see what you have to do faster. So you have to kick it up.”