The Redskins crawl into this game at 3-10; the Eagles, hit by a number of key injuries, are 6-7 and still hope to make a playoff run in the weak NFC East. That makes Sunday’s game important for them and affords the Redskins an opportunity to damage the Eagles’ playoff hopes. Here are the keys for the Redskins in Sunday’s game:
Protect Dwayne Haskins
The Redskins’ rookie quarterback sprained his ankle in Sunday’s loss at Green Bay, which made him even more vulnerable to the Packers’ pass rush. Philadelphia’s strength is its defensive line, but it has not gotten as many sacks as one would expect. If Haskins can avoid pressure, he can get the ball downfield. Philadelphia will be wary of rookie wideout Terry McLaurin, who burned its defense in the opener. But that should leave others open.
Don’t let Carson Wentz beat you
In the opener, Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson scorched the Redskins’ secondary for two touchdowns. Jackson is on injured reserve as is Alshon Jeffery, who also caught a touchdown pass in the opener. But Washington can’t relax just because Philadelphia has a depleted group of receivers. Wentz is quietly having another excellent season with 3,165 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
Wentz can still run — he has 197 rushing yards — and the Redskins are going to have to contain him. He has been sacked 33 times, which suggests that even though Wentz can scramble for first downs, Washington will have to pressure him.
Run the ball
The Eagles are third in the league against the run, which will make it hard on Adrian Peterson, but the Redskins have to find a way to get him free. Washington seems to be at its best when it plays a ball-control game, letting Peterson slowly build a rhythm. He is 282 yards shy of his ninth 1,000-yard season, and with Derrius Guice out, the veteran should get a lot of carries. Former coach Jay Gruden didn’t play Peterson in the teams’ first meeting.
Avoid a slow start
Aside from the season opener, when the offense looked unstoppable in the first quarter, the Redskins have struggled early. Washington’s coaches have talked about finding ways to come out hotter, without finding any real answers. Even though a quick start didn’t work for Washington the last time these teams met, going down two touchdowns in the first quarter won’t help, either.
Win the field position game
When the Redskins’ defense settles down, it has been pretty good. A pattern develops: Washington moves the ball some, relies on punter Tress Way to pin opponents deep and eventually takes advantage of good field position to crawl back into the game. If the defense can carry them, the Redskins have a good chance of beating Philadelphia for the first time since 2016.