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Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Eagles find a pushover they can handle


 
 Win McNamee/Getty Images
 Will Witherspoon made his presence felt in his first game with the Eagles, returning an interception for a touchdown.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

LANDOVER, Md. -- If you're trying to kick start your season, the Redskins are the ideal opponent. On Monday night, the Eagles needed less than two minutes to bury a team that is gaining ground on Al Davis' Raiders for biggest laughingstock in the league.

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It was the first game of a three-game stretch against NFC East opponents that could shape the Eagles' season. On Monday night, they were able to make enough big plays on both sides of the ball to cover up another ragged performance by the offense. On their fourth play from scrimmage, second-year wide receiver DeSean Jackson took the ball from Donovan McNabb on an end-around and sprinted 67 yards for a touchdown. The Skins' alleged speedster DeAngelo Hall watched helplessly as Jackson raced down the sideline.

For this Redskins team, a 7-0 deficit is pretty much insurmountable. The Eagles won the game 27-17 but the final score suggests this was a competitive situation. Well, it wasn't.

Jackson Five plays
The Eagles were far too dependent on the big play -- DeSean Jackson specifically -- against the Redskins, which will not fly against the tougher teams on their schedule. Due to the big play, the Eagles did not run a play in the red zone.
Category Jackson All others
Plays 5* 51
Yards gained 136 125
Yards per play 27.2 2.5
TD 2 0
* Includes 2 incomplete passes thrown his way.
Jackson, who's emerged as one of the most exciting players in the league, added a 57-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter to give the Eagles a 27-7 lead. On the touchdown, Jackson used a stop-and-go route to get at least 10 yards behind Redskins safety Chris Horton.

The bad news for the Eagles is that they have only one game remaining against the Redskins. In Week 8, the Eagles return home to face a Giants team trying to break a two-game losing streak. Then they host a Cowboys team that showed signs of life in a 37-21 win over the Falcons.

There's still no way to have an accurate read on the Eagles, but Monday's win helped them get rid of that awful stench from the Week 6 loss to the Oakland Raiders. This team appears to have several weapons on offense, but it learned the hard way that you actually have to act somewhat interested to beat an inferior opponent.

"We wanted to get rid of that feeling," said tight end Brent Celek. "I never want to have it again. Hopefully we got it out of the way. We just can't afford to have it happen again."

The worst moment for the Eagles occurred in the first quarter when Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook took an accidental knee to the head after a 5-yard run. He was on the ground for at least three minutes as players from both teams huddled around him in prayer.

"I hoped he was OK," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He wasn't moving at first. That worries you a little bit because you don't know exactly what happened. When a player isn't moving, that worries me."

Westbrook suffered a concussion on the play, but he was able to return to the sideline in the second half and Reid's hopeful that he'll return to the lineup soon. Without him, the Eagles' rushing game was stagnant. Rookie LeSean McCoy had 14 carries for 37 yards. It was so bad that Reid sounded thrilled that Michael Vick was able to take off on a 9-yard run out of the Wildcat formation. We were led to believe that opposing defenses would tremble with fear at the sight of Vick lining up for the direct snap, but so far the Eagles' Wildcat has provided only comic relief.

 
 Win McNamee/Getty Images
 Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell was sacked six times.
And speaking of comedy, Sherm Lewis made his play-calling debut with the Redskins. I'm hoping head coach Jim Zorn gave him the full play chart because Lewis fell in love with the same pattern to tight end Chris Cooley early in the game. The Redskins normally like to spread 17 points over several games, but don't let that explosive point total fool you. The offense was just as ineffective as always -- and the Eagles' defense had a lot to do with it.

Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell said he injured his right Achilles tendon early in the game -- and that made it impossible for him to run away from the Eagles' pressure. He was sacked six times and the Skins turned the ball over four times. Linebacker Will Witherspoon, acquired by the Eagles in a trade last Tuesday, returned an interception for a touchdown and forced a fumble in his debut.

The sheer joy of leaving a winless Rams team seemed to lift Witherspoon the entire game, although that's not exactly how he phrased it.

"There is some similarity to the scheme here," said Witherspoon of his time with the Rams. "And this locker room is great. They made sure I was prepared. For me, it's like starting the season again. The mindset was just to come in and play well. It's only going to get better from here."

Unfortunately for the Eagles, their real schedule's about to begin.