THE EAGLES HAVE seen both sides of the spectrum regarding Robert Griffin III.
Two seasons ago, during the quarterback's dynamite rookie season, his Redskins beat the Eagles twice, RGIII in the process tossing six touchdowns to one interception and, in the teams' first meeting, scrambling for 84 yards.
Last year the Eagles returned the favor by sweeping Washington. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner threw four touchdowns to three interceptions but completed only 56 percent of his passes over the two meetings.
The Griffin we've seen this season, as you've surely heard, much closer emulates the latter version. Probably worse, actually. The former No. 2 overall draft pick hasn't led his team to any of its three wins in another lost season.
But despite Griffin's struggles, the fact he was previously benched for the third-string Colt McCoy and all the questions concerning his future in the nation's capital, the Eagles' defense approached this week as if the QB it's tasked with stopping today was, basically, the RGIII of 2012.
"We're preparing for the best," was how Eagles coach Chip Kelly put it this week.
"And if you sleep on that guy, trust me, [reporters] will be sitting here after the game going, 'Boy, he went for 100 yards against you, how did that happen?' " Kelly said before Wednesday's practice at the NovaCare Complex. "That kid is athletic as heck and he can run really, really well. Trust me; we have to understand where he is on every single play."
Kirk Cousins started for Washington in the teams' Week 3 clash - a 37-34 Eagles win - so this afternoon's game at FedEx Field will be Griffin's first of the season against the Eagles. Cousins, who this week went from No. 3 to No. 2 on the Redskins' depth chart because of McCoy's season-ending neck injury, consistently got the ball out quickly in that Sept. 21 game at the Linc and lit up the Eagles secondary for 427 passing yards and three touchdowns.
When facing Griffin, there is the element of his mobility for which to account. Though it was far from what took the NFL by storm in 2012, he is coming off his best rushing game of the season against the Giants. Eagles inside linebacker Emmanuel Acho noted this week that RGIII is "still probably the fastest quarterback in the NFL."
"When it comes down to it, you have to defend his potential," Acho said. "And his potential is still up to that of a premier quarterback. Now whether or not he's played up to his potential; that's what everybody's criticizing him for this season. But he's a threat and we have to treat him like one."
In seven games (five starts), Griffin has an 89.8 passer rating with a 69.3 completion percentage, 1,138 passing yards and a measly three touchdowns to four interceptions. He's taken off only 27 times for 146 yards (4.5 yards per carry). He hasn't scored a rushing touchdown since his rookie-of-the year campaign, during which he ran it in seven times. He is prone to fumbling, doing so this season seven times, three of which resulted in turnovers.
While it's certainly all relative, Griffin is coming off probably his best overall individual performance of the season in the Redskins' most recent loss. Against the Giants he completed 18 of 27 passes for 236 yards with one touchdown to no interceptions and amassed 46 rushing yards on five carries, one of which went for a gain of 23, a season-high for him.
The Eagles are experienced in defending the read-option. Two weeks ago, Seattle's Russell Wilson kept the ball 10 times for 48 yards, 26 of which came on his second-quarter touchdown run on which Trent Cole bit on the fake handoff to Marshawn Lynch.
The linebacker responsible for the quarterback on a read-option hinges on defensive coordinator Billy Davis' call on a given play. Each of the Eagles' three inside linebackers, Mychal Kendricks, Casey Matthews and Acho, came from a college program that either utilized the zone-read or a conference that heavily features it. The defense faces it throughout training camp against its own offense, "so we probably get more reps then anybody in the NFL against the read-option," Acho said.
"There's some carry over from going against Russell Wilson," outside linebacker Connor Barwin said. "We're preparing for [Griffin] to be his best. He looked good last week. He looked like he was playing confident. Obviously, it will be important to be disciplined in the zone read and then obviously we'll have to keep him in front of us when he drops back and when he gets outside the pocket."
It would obviously behoove the Eagles to jump out to an early lead, in turn forcing Griffin to operate more in the pocket (behind an offensive line that has surrendered 36 sacks over the past 6 weeks) and put pressure on him to make plays with his arm.
"He's still a dynamic player," Davis said. "He really looked like he benefited from a little bit of perspective in taking a step back and looking at it. He came out there with a little more confidence and that old swagger you saw.
"He ran the ball more aggressively, he put the ball on the money, he threw the ball a little more accurately, and it looked like he had a better understanding. So, I think he has gained a little bit of perspective from sitting back and watching for a little bit."
Nick Foles (collarbone) and Trent Cole (hand) are the only Eagles ruled out for today's game. Everyone else was a full participant in practice this week and is expected to be available to play . . . Washington left tackle Trent Williams (shoulder) is questionable to play. Linebacker Keenan Robinson (knee) is doubtful. Defensive end Jason Hatcher (knee) was ruled out. . . . The Redskins yesterday placed safety Brandon Meriweather on injured reserve and promoted linebacker Steve Beauharnais, a Rutgers product, from its practice squad.