At the center of this evening’s Monday Night Football contest between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles will be quarterback Donovan McNabb. Fresh off a 5-year extension that will reportedly pay him $40 million guaranteed and could be worth $88 million if all the incentives are reached, McNabb’s name is now in the spotlight once again. As if playing his former team and the memory of his benching by Redskins coach Mike Shanahan aren’t enough McNabb will now have the additional pressure of trying to dispel the idea that he’s a quarterback in decline.
Statistically, 2010 has arguably been McNabb’s worst season as a full-time starter. His numbers are down across the board, including completion percentage, passer rating, interception rate and touchdown rate. Despite these indicators, the Redskins have opted to extend him for several seasons beyond 2010 for a significant amount of guaranteed money.
There is one area where McNabb has struggled that might have particular relevance tonight against the Eagles. McNabb in particular, and Washington as a whole, have struggled mightily on third down this season. The Redskins have the lowest third-down conversion percentage in the NFL this season at 23.8, well behind the second-worst team, the Chicago Bears, at 28.7. McNabb has struggled on third down himself this season, registering the second-worst completion percentage on third down.
In addition, this season’s struggles on third down have continued a downward trend for McNabb in that area. In 2010, McNabb has posted a 44.9 completion percentage mark on third down, with a 62.8 passer rating in such situations. In 2009, it was a 55.0 completion percentage with an 86.4 passer rating. And in 2008, it was a 59.2 completion percentage coupled with a passer rating of 96.4.
However, the Eagles could present a prime opportunity for McNabb and the Redskins to get back on track in this department. The Eagles defense ranks 18th in the NFL in third down completion percentage allowed (39.6), 18th in yards per attempt allowed on third downs (6.92) and 25th in pass TD percentage allowed on third downs (6.5). Needless to say, if McNabb is going to turn around his season, and start justifying his new contract, improving upon a personal and team-wide weakness against a team vulnerable in those situations would be a great way to do it.