THE EAGLES play an aggressive style of defense. Sunday, they encountered a Detroit team that found first-half success using that aggressiveness against them, with screens, traps and draws, though the Birds closed most of that down in the second half; in fact, they still haven't given up a second-half touchdown this season.
Washington is a little different - the Redskins' running game is more inside-oriented, less concerned with getting to the edge - but the Eagles know they will see some of the same tactics every week now, especially if teams find a bit of success with them.
"Every team will put that in against us, because we get upfield," defensive end Connor Barwin said. "We were just disciplined in our defense in the second half. We had some man-to-man, and if you play disciplined and cover your guy in man-to-man, you shouldn't be able to run a screen."
Defensive tackle Beau Allen said there is no great secret to stopping screens, traps and draws. "It's just about having good awareness - really, more than anything, knowing that teams are going to try and do that to you. We know that.
"To run a trap, you have to pull a guard, so a guard will be light (in his stance), things like that. You can kind of get a feel for it, too, in-game. Usually, with plays like that, if you stuff one - against the Lions, I think Nigel (Bradham) had a (tackle for a loss) on a screen, and then they didn't run another one."
"It ain't gonna slow us down," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox vowed. "Teams are gonna trap, they're gonna run screens, that's just trying to get us to slow down. I won't slow down. I don't think anyone else in the room will slow down. At some point, wheels start turning. We'll see something in one of those traps, and they'll be tackled for a loss."
One of the Eagles' problems in Detroit was that the d-line rotation - something players and coaches have identified as a big part of their success - got thrown off, with the Lions taking a big early lead and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz worrying more about stopping the bleeding than giving guys rest.
"It's easy to rotate when things are going good, you know what I mean? It's easy to tag the next guy," Schwartz said Thursday. "The next guy goes in, and you're on a roll, you're getting stops and things like that. When you start giving up plays and you start giving up touchdowns, it becomes a little bit harder."
Schwartz mentioned Allen (eight snaps in Detroit) and defensive end Vinny Curry (16 snaps) as players he'd planned to use more, and hopes to find more work for this week.
Allen and Curry both said they understood the situation.
"That's just how it goes. Your rotation isn't going to be the same every week," Allen said. "It's obviously situational . . . you've just got to have that patience and understanding," while maintaining your edge for the snaps you do get.
"It's not like they did it on purpose," Curry said. "It's not last year" and the Chip Kelly regime.
The turnaround from the first to the second half was remarkable. Defensive end Brandon Graham said that was partly because the Eagles are "a grinding team" that doesn't quit.
Graham also said that at halftime, Schwartz "painted the bigger picture for us" on how the Lions were attacking, something that's hard for a player to grasp sometimes from his isolated spot on the field.
"There's no dodging the fact we played a poor half of football in the first half," Schwartz said. "Three drives, three touchdowns, penalties, third-down conversions. There was a lot not to like in that. But I think we've all seen teams or been around teams that, that 21 points in the first half could have easily led to 45. But they were prideful . . . I'm proud of the guys for that."
Schwartz said he thinks the duel between his front seven and the Washington offensive line might define Sunday's game.
"They got some big guys up front," he said. "They have a good blend of experience. It starts with the left tackle (Trent Williams). He's a Pro Bowl player. If you talk about offensive line play, you can probably start there. Because teams have ability to rely on one guy they think that can take a rusher out, then they can take their scheme other places.
"I like our pass rush. I think that's a great matchup in this game, our ability to generate a pass rush, our ability to blitz. Those kinds of things will go a long way in determining who the winner of this game is. And that matchup between the o-line and d-line, it doesn't just go to pass game. It's run game, also. They've been able to methodically move those chains. We've been good at creating some lost-yardage plays. That will be a good battle, also."
Washington is 25th in rushing offense, but 13th in yards per carry, at 4.1. Detroit's early running success Sunday made it hard for the Eagles - whose defense is ranked second in the league overall and third against the run - to tee off on quarterback Matthew Stafford.
"They're definitely going to run the ball," Allen said. "We're going to be ready for it."
The Redskins seem to be still figuring out whether Kirk Cousins is a long-term, franchise quarterback. He got off to a tough start this season, and didn't generate a ton of offense last week in Washington's third successive victory after an 0-2 start, a 16-10 win at Baltimore. Cousins is completing 67.2 percent of his passes, but has five interceptions to go with his seven touchdown passes. He has been sacked eight times.
"He does a good job of executing that offense.," Schwartz said. "When you look at the different things that they do, whether it's stacks and options and running the ball and putting them in the right run plays and things like that, he has put them in those kinds of positions.
"Doesn't really favor one guy or the other, moves the ball around to a lot of different players. He has enough arm strength to attack the whole field. He can throw the ball deep over the top, and that fits DeSean Jackson. There's gonna be probably three or four times in the game that they're going to unleash a deep ball, and it's not a 45-yard deep ball; that thing's coming 60, 65 yards.
"He's tough, also, he's taken a bunch of hits this year, some pretty wicked hits, and he's got back up and played."