KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin
PREDICTION: Redskins 29-20
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Redskins expect to have QB Robert Griffin III back from a sprained knee. That typically would affect the running scheme more than the passing game, but designed runs for RG3 might be curtailed a bit until he proves 100 percent. Philadelphia has scraped the Wide-9 defensive line sets and needs CBs Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to be aggressive in support against the league’s top-ranked ground game. Eagles rookie QB Nick Foles struggled in his first career start against the Redskins five weeks ago. He has progressed quickly since, and will benefit from the return of RB LeSean McCoy. Exciting but fumble-prone rookie Bryce Brown will also figure into the backfield mix.
FAST FACTS: RG3 became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to record a “perfect” passer rating of 158.3 in the first meeting. … Foles needs 153 passing yards to break John Reaves’ (1,508 in 1972) team rookie record.
–RB Alfred Morris needs 78 yards against the Browns to join Clinton Portis and Stephen Davis as the only Redskins to rush for 1,400 in a season.
–WR Santana Moss is 33 yards shy of the 9,700 yard mark for his career.
–SS Reed Doughty should make his 45th career start on Sunday.
–QB Robert Griffin took full practice again on Thursday after being inactive last Sunday at Cleveland with a sprained right knee. Coach Mike Shanahan said that, barring a setback, he’ll return to the lineup on Sunday at Philadelphia. Griffin III can match Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen as the only Redskins quarterbacks to throw four TD passes in three games in a season with such a performance Sunday at Philadelphia.
–ILB London Fletcher was limited on Thursday after not practicing on Wednesday because of a chronically ailing left ankle, but is expected to start as always, on Sunday. Fletcher can start his 239th consecutive game on Sunday, tied for the most by an active player.
–DE Stephen Bowen was limited for a second straight day on Thursday after tearing an upper biceps at Cleveland. Coach Mike Shanahan said that Bowen will be able to play with the injury.
–RT Tyler Polumbus didn’t practice again on Thursday under the NFL’s concussion protocol but didn’t have a setback, according to coach Mike Shanahan, althougb he had taken part in Wednesday’s walk-through. Polumbus expects to start as usual on Sunday. If he can’t, either second-year man Maurice Hurt or rookie Tom Compton will get the nod.
–C Will Montgomery practiced again on Thursday despite suffering a Grade 2 sprain of his left MCL during the fourth quarter at Cleveland. He’s expected to remain in the lineup at Philadelphia.
–ILB Lorenzo Alexander took full work on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday because of the right shoulder stinger he suffered in the second quarter at Cleveland. He’s expected to play against the Eagles.
–OT Trent Williams took full practice on Thursday for the second straight day for the first time in several weeks because of thigh and ankle injuries.
–RB Chris Polk, who has been sidelined for the better part of the last month-and-a-half with a toe injury, is expected to be activated Sunday and could see action at fullback with Stanley Havili nursing a hamstring injury.
–QB Michael Vick has been practicing this week after missing five games with a concussion. But right now he is the Eagles’ third quarterback and probably won’t be activated Sunday.
–QB Trent Edwards will be the backup to starter Nick Foles Sunday, even though Mike Vick is healthy.
–WR Jason Avant was added to the injury list Thursday with a hamstring issue, though he was a full practice participant.
–FB Stanley Havili didn’t practice for the second straight day. He has a hamstring injury and probably won’t play Sunday.
–WR Jeremy Maclin, who was a limited practice participant Wednesday with a back injury, practiced fully Thursday and is expected to start Sunday.
–RB LeSean McCoy has been practicing all week and is expected to play Sunday, though his touches likely will be limited. McCoy has missed four games with a concussion.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Head coach Mike Shanahan has been praised for years for his zone-blocking scheme that has produced seven 1,000 yard runners, the latest Redskins rookie surprise Alfred Morris.
But Shanahan and his son, Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, also deserve kudos for their newly-developed high-octane passing game even though it’s ranked 18th in the NFL compared to the top-ranked running game.
Only seven quarterbacks who have thrown more than 13 passes this season have triple-digit ratings and two of them are Redskins rookies: Robert Griffin III, who’s second in the NFL with a 104.2 rating, and fourth-round selection Kirk Cousins, who stepped in when Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick, sprained his right knee late in the Week 14 game with Baltimore and has a 101.6 rating. The other quarterbacks with ratings over 100 are MVPs/Super Bowl winners Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady along with the San Francisco tandem of Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith.
“They’re a lot more prepared coming in,” Shanahan said about rookie quarterbacks.” (With) the shotgun, people throwing the ball as much as they do (in college), I think they have a better sense of the NFL game than quarterbacks in the past.”
Today’s rookie quarterbacks aren’t just more efficient – all NFL passers are more accurate than their predecessors who faced bump-and-run coverage and threw deep more often – they’re also winning. Griffin’s 7-6 and Cousins is 1-0 for a team that went 15-33 in the three seasons before their arrival.
The only rookie regulars since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger who had ratings close to Griffin’s are Hall of Famer Dan Marino (96.0) and two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger (98.1). Griffin is sixth in completion percentage and second in lowest interception percentage, trailing only Brady.
“It doesn’t happen very often where a young quarterback or a rookie comes in and has as few interceptions as he had,” Mike Shanahan said. “It’s a combination of a lot of things. He picks things up very quickly. He has the arm strength to make all the throws. When he does see somebody open, he can get the ball there in a hurry. I think it is kind of a feel for the game, too. You have to have a feel. When you take a look at his (18/4) touchdown/interception ratio, it is off the charts.”
Griffin also has led the Redskins to within two victories of their first NFC East title since 1999 and their first playoff berth since 2007. The only rookies during the past 32 seasons who quarterbacked their teams to the postseason were Miami’s Marino (1983), Cleveland’s Bernie Kosar (1985), Pittsburgh’s Roethlisberger (2004), Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco (both in 2008), the New York Jets’ Mark Sanchez (2009) and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton (2011).
After missing the last two games with a bruised sternum, safety Kurt Coleman will return to the lineup Sunday against Washington. But the man going to the bench won’t be Colt Anderson, who has been starting in Coleman’s absence. It will be 2010 second-round pick Nate Allen.
It’s not surprising that Anderson will remain in the starting lineup. He played very well the last two games and earned an opportunity to keep playing. Both Coleman and Allen have played poorly this season, but it was assumed Coleman would sit and Allen would start when Coleman returned.
But defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said Thursday that Coleman will start in Allen’s place because he’s “more vocal.”
Said Bowles: “We talked to Nate. Nate needs to be a little more vocal, a little bit more decisive. Right now, we think Kurt is the way to go. Kurt and Colt. Colt has been playing well. We really didn’t want to sit Kurt down. It was a tough choice.”
Bowles said Allen will play, probably in nickel and dime packages.
In September, the Eagles released safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, their 2010 second-round pick. Could Allen be on his way out the door as well?