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First-place Redskins aim to add to Eagles' surprising woes

One win in five games this season.

Who would have thought that would be the case for the Philadelphia Eagles entering this season after their summer shopping spree of free agents? Not too many, and most of the fingers are now pointed toward head coach Andy Reid.

"Coach can only give us the recipe for victory and he's giving us that," said Eagles quarterback Michael Vick after last week's 31-24 loss at Buffalo. "It's the little things that's killing the game, so it's not on coach. I know the game of football and I've been around the game for a long time. I know the intricacies and the ins-and-outs and it's not coach. Bottom line. Put that heat on the players. Put it on us, don't put it on him."

Vick went on to add that Reid is one of the best in the business, though right now a 1-4 record may not show it.

The Eagles will try to end a four-game losing streak Sunday afternoon against the NFC East-rival Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in their second division contest of the season. Philadelphia lost to the New York Giants in Week 3.

It's not surprising that Vick and any other player on the Eagles would go to war for their head coach, who made what some believed to be a head-scratching move when he tabbed former offensive line coach Juan Castillo as the new defensive coordinator. Poor defense has plagued Philadelphia, especially at the linebacker and safety positions. Those are two areas the Eagles didn't address through free agency, as they headed into the season believing those spots were already set.

The Eagles seem to be the team everyone wants to run on as well, since they're 30th in the league in that category, allowing 190.2 yards per game.

Holding teams off of the scoreboard has been a problem for Philadelphia, which is 27th in points allowed (26.4 ppg). It has also given up 352.0 yards per game -- good enough for just 15th in the NFL.

Wide receiver Jason Avant called his own players-only meeting this week with hopes of the team turning its struggles around and avoiding the first five-game skid in the Reid era, which began back in 1999.

"We need to circle the wagons around each other," Avant said.

Washington's state of mind is much different than last-place Philadelphia's, as it sits alone atop the NFC East standings with a 3-1 record. The Giants are second with a 3-2 mark, followed by the 2-2 Cowboys and then the Eagles.

The Redskins, who went 6-10 under first-year head coach Mike Shanahan in 2010, have used a stout defense and an effective ground attack to emerge as one of the early surprise stories of the season. Fresh off their bye week, the well- rested Redskins can also point to quarterback Rex Grossman as a catalyst to their success. Grossman, however, has thrown five interceptions over his last three games, but has at least one touchdown pass in all four.

"The flow of the game can skew some things as far as what you're allowed to do and that can [impact] the final result," Grossman said. "I tend to evaluate per game. I feel like I can definitely get better. I'm really happy with a lot of things we've done and I just need to clean up a couple of plays per game."

Grossman said during the preseason that his team was good enough to win the NFC East, something the Eagles did a year ago. Last season the Eagles lost their first meeting with Washington, but waxed the Redskins at FedEx Field by a in Week 10. Vick had a game for the ages and Grossman had a front row seat for the festivities as a backup to Donovan McNabb.

Washington running backs Ryan Torain and Tim Hightower were also not a part of that Monday night debacle, but each could be featured plenty this Sunday.

Hightower could be limited with a shoulder injury, but that likely won't stop Shanahan from testing Philadelphia's porous run defense. Shanahan gave Torain a shot when Hightower hurt himself in the team's 17-10 Week 4 win over St. Louis and said he wants competition at every position.

Hightower has started all four Redskins games this season, but may revert to passing downs if the shoulder still bothers him towards the end of the week.

SERIES HISTORY

The Redskins hold a 78-68-5 lead in their all-time series with the Eagles, but Philadelphia has left with a victory in four of its last five stops at FedEx Field and has won three of the past four overall meetings between the teams. In addition to the above-mentioned 31-point blowout last November, the Eagles posted a 27-17 road triumph en route to a sweep of the 2009 season set. The Redskins earned a 17-12 decision at Lincoln Financial Field during Week 4 of last season, a game which marked the return of then-Washington quarterback and longtime Eagle Donovan McNabb to Philadelphia.

In addition to their regular-season advantage, the Redskins won their only postseason meeting with Philadelphia, a 20-6 road decision in a 1990 NFC First-Round Playoff.

Reid is 15-9 versus the Redskins since taking over in 1999. Shanahan is 3-2 lifetime against Philadelphia, with the first two wins and the initial loss coming during his 14-year reign with the Denver Broncos from 1995-2008. Shanahan is 2-1 against Reid head-to-head, having also bested the Eagles by a 49-21 count in Denver back in 2005.

WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL

The Eagles are hoping Vick (1,336 passing yards, 8 TD, 7 INT) can have the type of performance he had in the second meeting with Washington a year ago when he takes the field on Sunday. Vick was 20-of-28 passing for 333 yards and four touchdowns in that game, and ran for 80 yards and two scores on eight attempts to help the Eagles set franchise records for points in a half (45) and total yards (592) in the club's second-highest scoring effort. Vick was picked off a career-high four times in Sunday's loss at Buffalo and has more interceptions now than he had all of last season (6). He also was knocked out of the first meeting with the Redskins last season with a rib injury. Vick passed Randall Cunningham for the most yards rushing by a quarterback in NFL history against the Bills. The Eagles have 15 turnovers this season -- three more than any other team -- and their six lost fumbles is tied for the most in the NFL. Philadelphia's offense is still explosive regardless of its record, and is first in the league with 165.6 rushing yards per contest. The team's average of 445.6 total yards per game is third in the NFL. Running back LeSean McCoy (443 rushing yards, 5 TD) is a dual threat who owns 19 catches for 110 yards and two scores out of the backfield. Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jason Peters is expected to miss another week of action because of a hamstring injury, however. The Eagles hope to get wide receivers DeSean Jackson (21 receptions, 410 yards, 2 TD) and Jeremy Maclin (32 receptions, 388 yards, 3 TD) involved right away against the Redskins. Slot receiver Jason Avant (23 receptions) broke out last Sunday with a career-high nine catches for 139 yards.

Washington sack leader and linebacker Brian Orakpo (11 tackles, 4 sacks) said his teammates won't take the Eagles lightly even though they have just one win in five games this season. Orakpo mentioned how intense NFC East matchups can get and that the Redskins will not be fooled by their opponent's 1-4 record. He also said he hopes to get to Vick and create some turnovers, a common trait for the Eagles this season. The Redskins are tied for eighth against the run and will be ready for a healthy dose of McCoy and Vick. They are also second in points allowed (15.8 ppg) and sixth in the NFL in both pass defense and yards permitted. Linebackers Rocky McIntosh (27 tackles, sack) and London Fletcher (22 tackles, sack) will try to keep the lanes plugged so Vick doesn't single- handedly take over the game like last year. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall (22 tackles) is still searching for his first interception of the season, while safety LaRon Landry (7 tackles) seems to be back at full strength after missing the early part of the season with a hamstring injury. The defense has allowed one touchdown in eight quarters since Landry's return, and he and free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (17 tackles) make opposing receivers think twice about running crossing routes. Cornerback Phillip Buchanon is back after a four-game suspension, but may be eased into action as a nickel defender.

WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL

Grossman (989 passing yards, 6 TD, 5 INT) had his worst rating of the season with a 48.5 number in Washington's Week 4 win over St. Louis. He threw a pair of interceptions that day and hasn't had a quarterback rating of 100 or better since recording a 110.5 figure in a Week 1 win versus the Giants. Grossman has performed well in four division starts with the Redskins, collecting three 300- yard passing performances and nine touchdowns. He is averaging 303.3 passing yards a game over that stretch. Grossman's teams are 8-0 when he has a rating of 100 or better. The Redskins would like to get their eighth-rated ground game going against Philly, with Hightower (233 yards, TD) and Torain (135 yards, TD) possibly sharing duties. When Hightower was slowed by a shoulder injury the week before the bye, Torain was thrust into the lineup for his season debut and didn't disappoint, compiling 135 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. A bruising type of runner, Torain had 70 yards and a touchdown run against the Eagles in Week 4 of last season. Washington's offensive line had arguably its best game in St. Louis, as it did not allow a sack while helping the offense compile 196 rushing yards. Left tackle Trent Williams and right tackle Jammal Brown won't have Eagles defensive end Trent Cole to worry about, as he's out with a calf injury.

A trio of Eagles defensive linemen in Cole (14 tackles, 3 sacks), Cullen Jenkins (16 tackles, 5 sacks) and Juqua Parker (3 tackles) are currently nursing injuries, but the only one expected to miss time the former. Jenkins is bothered by a triceps injury and Parker suffered an ankle injury last week before jumping offsides on fourth down late in the game to allow Buffalo to run out the clock. Castillo's defense is seventh against the pass, but 15th in yards allowed, 27th in points surrendered and 30th against the run. With their wide-nine technique up front, the Eagles have been susceptible to the run and the stats don't lie. The scheme, however, has allowed the Eagles to post 16 sacks this season, good enough for second in the league. Defensive end Jason Babin (17 tackles, 7 sacks) is a product of the Eagles' offseason spree and hasn't disappointed so far in his second stint with the team. Kurt Coleman (9 tackles) and rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett are expected to split time at safety this Sunday. The safeties and linebackers have been a weak link for the Eagles, with Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Keenan Clayton and Moise Fokou all moving around. Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha (13 tackles, INT) and Asante Samuel (15 tackles, INT) hope to keep Washington one-dimensional this weekend.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Washington has the eighth-best run defense in the NFL and will be going against the top rushing squad on Sunday. The Redskins not only have to worry about McCoy and what he brings to the table, but also Vick escaping the pocket on his own or via designed plays. The Eagles' offensive line is a bit banged up, however, and that could be key for Washington.

Will Vick duplicate his performance from a Monday night massacre in the nation's capital a year ago? Even if Vick puts up half of those numbers, the Eagles will be in good shape to earn their second win of the season. Remember, Jackson and Maclin were able to get open easily in that one, but could face a steeper challenge in this week's showdown.

Many suggest Shanahan will try to burn the Eagles off the bat with running backs Torain and Hightower. But he could throw a big curve and allow Grossman to air it out to wide receiver Santana Moss or tight end Chris Cooley. The Redskins are 19th in passing this season, so chucking it up early Sunday would be a change of pace.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Eagles haven't started 1-5 since Ray Rhodes' last season in 1998, while the Redskins' last 4-1 start was more recent, coming in 2008. Something has to give Sunday, and the Eagles are hoping some history and words of wisdom by Vick can propel them to their second win of the season. Vick believes this team can turn things around and make the playoffs, though what else is the $100 million quarterback going to say? Since 1990, five teams have started 1-4 to win their division, and the Eagles will get started on that trend with a hard-fought win at FedEx Field. Washington will still expose some of Philadelphia's struggles in defeat, but the "Dream Team" will head into the bye week with optimism.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eagles 24, Redskins 13