Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Personnel

War Nest
Posted Nov 3, 2005


Terrell Owens played in all of Sunday's 49-21 loss to the Denver Broncos. He caught three passes for 154 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown catch-and-run in which he made the Broncos' Pro Bowl cornerback, Champ Bailey, look like an overmatched schoolboy.

Owens walked off the field after the game without a limp. When Eagles coach Andy Reid went through his injury report after the game, Owens' name wasn't on it. But the next morning, Owens informed Reid that he sprained his right ankle in the game and didn't think he'd be able to play, not only this Sunday against Washington, but also probably next week against Dallas as well.

Considering the acrimony between the Eagles and their star wide receiver over the last several months, there is natural skepticism when Owens says he's injured. Is he really hurt, or is he sticking it to a struggling 4-3 team that won't give him a new contract and badly needs him as it gets ready to play three straight games against NFC East opponents?

"I never question that about him," Reid insisted Wednesday. "He loves to play the game and wants to be out there."

But he probably won't be Sunday. Owens is listed as doubtful on the club's injury report with an injury to the same ankle that he had surgically repaired last December.

"The injury is a day-to-day thing and that is the way he is approaching it," Reid said. "We will see how it goes. He is hurting and he is sore and it is going to be a fight to get him in there Sunday."

That's bad news for Reid's struggling offense. Owens leads the team in receptions (47), receiving yards (763) and touchdown catches (6). Without Owens in the game, the Redskins will be able to focus on stopping the Eagles' other two primary pass-catching weapons, running back Brian Westbrook and tight end L.J. Smith.

If Owens can't play, he'll be replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Reggie Brown, who had the best day of his young career Sunday, catching a pair of passes for 44 yards. Brown is a talented player. So is the Eagles' other starting wideout, Greg Lewis. But neither of them is Owens.

"Reggie's coming along real well," quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "We've definitely worked on timing in practice and we've been able to run different routes and have good placement on balls. He's been doing a great job of catching the ball and getting upfield with it. If T.O. can't play, I have confidence in Reggie and Greg. We'll be OK."

With or without Owens, the Eagles are expected to run the ball more Sunday. The Redskins own the best pass defense in the NFL and have given up just five touchdown passes this season. But they have struggled to stop the run, particularly on the weak side.

Tiki Barber and the Giants gashed them for 200-plus rushing yards last week. The Redskins are allowing 4.5 yards per carry.

The Eagles have ignored the run most of this season, throwing the ball 75 percent of the time. But in the second half of last week's loss to Denver, that changed a bit. Westbrook had nine rushing attempts in the second half. The Eagles' 19 rushing attempts in the game were their second-most this season.

"We're going to concentrate on running our offense," McNabb said. "That is what we are going to do and that's whether it is throwing the ball or running the ball. We will see how it works out this week. I don't get too much into that other stuff."

SERIES HISTORY: 141st meeting. Redskins lead the series, 73-62-5. Eagles have won the last 7 meetings, including both games last year. They beat the 'Skins in Washington 17-10 and in Philly, 28-6.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Despite the presence of three Pro Bowlers in their secondary, the Eagles continue to have problems stopping the pass. In the last five games, they've given up 13 touchdown passes. That's just three fewer than they gave up all of last season. In those five games, opposing quarterbacks have averaged 8.05 yards per attempt against the Eagles.

"We're just giving up too many big plays," said free safety Brian Dawkins. "We've got to stop giving up so many big plays."

Why are they giving up so many, including six completions of 20-plus yards in last week's 49-21 loss to Denver?

"It's hard to say," Dawkins said. "Some of them are blown assignments. Mental mistakes. When that happens as a defense, we're all beaten. Not just that one person. We have to start running our defensive game plan to perfection. Right now, we're not doing that."

--Just when it looks like the Eagles will be getting kicker David Akers back this week, they lost punter Dirk Johnson. Johnson was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. He had surgery in June to repair a sports hernia, but has been bothered by groin problems all season. The pain has gradually worsened. At one point in Sunday's loss to Denver, he couldn't even run down the field after punting the ball. The Eagles have replaced him with Reggie Hodges, who was a sixth-round pick of the Rams in April. Hodges was the Rams' punter for the first 5 games, but averaged just 38 yards per punt before they released him. The Eagles apparently had no interest in their former punter, 44-year-old Sean Landeta.

--The Eagles continue to dig themselves early holes. They were outscored 14-0 in the first quarter of Sunday's loss to the Broncos. In their seven games, they've been outscored 62-14 in the first quarter. They haven't scored a first-quarter point in their last five games. Last year, the Eagles had the best first-quarter point differential (+46) in the league. They've scored just once on their first two possessions this season. Quarterback Donovan McNabb is a pitiful 12-for-35 for 159 yards on the first two possessions.

"One of the things that's pretty obvious is you can't get down by four touchdowns against a good football team like we did Sunday," said coach Andy Reid, whose team fell behind the Broncos 28-0 before scoring late in the first half. "We have to start faster. We realize we haven't done a good job of that this year."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think we have lost confidence. We have to fix the problems and just move on from there." - Eagles SS Mike Lewis

BY THE NUMBERS: The Eagles have recorded just seven rushing first downs in the past four games.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Rookie wide receiver Reggie Brown likely will get his first NFL start Sunday against Washington in place of injured Terrell Owens. Owens injured the same ankle last week that he had surgically repaired last December and isn't expected to play this week.

With Owens out and the Redskins coming off a game in which they were torched for 204 rushing yards by the Giants' Tiki Barber, the Eagles likely will run the ball more than they have this season. In Sunday's loss to the Broncos, they ran the ball 19 times, which, ironically, was their second highest number of rushes in a game this season.

Kicker David Akers is expected to return this week after missing four games with a torn hamstring. But that doesn't mean Jose Cortez will necessarily be going anywhere. At least not yet. The Eagles likely will keep Cortez around to handle kickoffs until they're sure Akers is out of the woods injury-wise. Kickoffs cause more strain on the hamstring than placekicks.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Terrell Owens likely will miss Sunday's game against Washington and possibly next week's game against Dallas as well. He injured his ankle Sunday against Denver. It's the same ankle he had surgically repaired last December.

--WR Reggie Brown, the club's second-round pick in the April draft, will get his first start Sunday in place of injured Terrell Owens. Brown has been the club's No. 3 receiver behind Owens and Greg Lewis. He had two catches for 44 yards in Sunday's loss to Denver.

--QB Donovan McNabb missed Wednesday's practice with a rib contusion. But he is listed as probable on the injury report and is expected to play Sunday.

--DE Jevon Kearse didn't practice Wednesday. He injured his shoulder Sunday against the Broncos. An MRI showed no damage, but he is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Redskins.

--PK David Akers may return this week after missing four games with a torn hamstring. He started kicking last week with a snapper and holder and participated in practice Wednesday. If he plays this week, he will only do the placekicking. Jose Cortez will handle the kickoffs.

GAME PLAN: With Terrell Owens not expected to play and the Redskins owning one of the NFL's worst run defenses, the pass-happy Eagles are expected to try and run the ball more than they have been. Teams have been successful running to the Redskins' right side, at right end Renaldo Wynn and weakside linebacker Warrick Holdman. But Holdman was benched in the second half last week and replaced by LaVar Arrington.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Eagles LDE Jevon Kearse vs. Redskins RT Jon Jansen. Kearse has an injured shoulder and is listed as questionable. He hasn't played up to expectations even when healthy. ... Eagles CBs Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard vs. Redskins WR Santana Moss. Moss is averaging 18 yards per carry and is one of the league's best deep threats. The Eagles have given up 13 touchdown passes in the last five games.

INJURY IMPACT: WR Terrell Owens (ankle) isn't expected to play Sunday. His absence will be a big blow to the Eagles' offense. He'll be replaced by rookie Reggie Brown. ... DE Jevon Kearse and DE N.D. Kalu both are listed as questionable for Sunday's game with shoulder injuries. If they both can't play, the Eagles will have a major numbers problem up front.


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