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Opposing Gab – Interview with

In preparation for the Eagles and Redskins re-match, I was able to speak with Rajan Nanavati of Redskins Gab to get some insight. We were able to speak about the Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan situation, look at some of the match-ups on the field, and get a final prediction on the game.

EaglesGab: The big talk about the Redskins right now is Mike Shanahan’s decision on benching Donovan McNabb against the Lions. Give us your opinion on the matter. Do you agree with Shanahan’s decision?

RedskinsGab: There’s just no circumstance, short of McNabb laying on a gurney and writhing in pain (or laying completely motionless), where it’s a better idea for the Redskins to bench McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman.

Did McNabb have a lousy game against the Lions? Yes. Is he currently on a streak of games where he has played poorly? Yes. But it’s completely ridiculous to put in an ice-cold Grossman against a Lions defensive line who spent most of the afternoon mutilating the Redskins quarterback. Casey Rabach, Kory Lichtensteiger, Artis Hicks, and Stephon Heyer played like a bunch of Girl Scouts last weekend. They made the Lions defense look like the Steel Curtain Steelers of the mid 70’s

If McNabb, who still has the ability to elude the pass rush and make plays with his feet, was getting pummeled and abused all afternoon, what exactly were the Redskins expecting from a lead-footed journeyman like Grossman? I’m not sure if Joe Montana, circa 1989, could have done anything if put in that situation, let alone Rex freakin’ Grossman.

EG: Moving forward, how do you see the McNabb-Shanahan relationship progressing? If the team had to pick one to stay and one to go, who would be hitting the road?

RG: I think they’ll be fine, because honestly, I think that at this point in both their respective careers, Shanahan needs McNabb and McNabb needs Shanahan.

Everyone wants to talk about what an egomanical coach Mike Shanahan is, but I think even he realizes he made a series of dumb mistakes with the whole bencing situation. Shanahan may believe in things going his way and only his way, but there’s just no way he can realistically expect to win after alienating his starting quarterback.

Plus, it’s not exactly like McNabb is lighting the world on fire in Washington especially to the extent where other teams will be throwing lucrative long-term deals at him. No matter what anyone wants to say (including McNabb himself), he’s struggled to learn the Shanahan offense, especially given the fact that this is the first he’s had to learn a new offense in his entire career. Do you really think the solution is to go to another team and repeat the whole process of learning yet another offense all over again? That makes no sense.

Dan Snyder is still the owner of this team, which means that when the time comes, we’ll pony up the money and outbid everyone else to keep McNabb in town.

But if it came down to one guy and not the other, Shanahan is here to stay. Bruce Allen was hired so Mike Shanahan was hired. Shanahan effectively became the head coach of the Redskins in November of 2009, even while Jim Zorn was still “officially” the coach of this team. Shanahan has two Super Bowl rings, something McNabb can’t say.

EG: The Redskins were able to take the first game this year against the Eagles. Since then, where have the Redskins improved? Where have they declined?

RG: Improved: Until the Lions game, the Redskins were running the ball very effectively after their win over the Eagles. Ryan Torain had 275 yards and two touchdowns in that four game span, including a couple of 100-yard efforts against the Colts and Bears. The other area I’d say is interceptions forced. The Redskins have picked off opposing passers six times in the past four weeks (five of them coming from Deangelo Hall). To put it in perspective, seven teams in the NFL have less interceptions than that over the entire season.

Declined: It has to be pass protection. McNabb has been sacked 17 times over the past four games, and it could have been more if it weren’t for his ability to evade pressure, or the fact that Clay Matthews Jr got hurt when the Redskins beat the Packers (he was nearly unblockable that game). Again, to put it in perspective, half the teams in the NFL have allowed less than 17 sacks all season, let alone over a four game stretch. Rabach has been having his worst season as a Redskin, and Lichtensteiger has been nothing short of a human turnstyle.

EG: Looking at the NFL as a whole, what are your thoughts on the issue of player protection and the rash of fines going around? Do you think it’s starting to take away from the game?

RG: Call me old school, but i’m in the “the NFL might might as well put flags and tutu’s on the players” camp.

Goodell’s facist (and completely hypocritical) decree of making sweeping changes to ensure the safety of players was nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to a particularly violent Sunday afternoon. I actually happeened to be watching the Eagles-Falcons game that day, and I still maintain the hit on DeSean Jackson, while absolutely vicious, was a clean hit. Same with the hit on Austin Collie. It’s absolutely horrible what happened to him, but it happened within the rules of the game.

But, I don’t necessarily think it’s going to take away from the game, because I really don’t see players changing the way they tackle all that much. The NFL (or more specifically, Goodell) can pretend that things have changed since that one Sunday, but watch any game, and you’re always going to see 8 or 9 great hits that are legal, compared to one vicious shot to the head. Since then, the NFL has just chosen to focus on those 8 or 9 a little more, so they can say: “see, it’s working!”

EG: Barring an injury, the Redskins will see Michael Vick for the entire game on Monday, something they didn’t get to experience in the first meeting. What do you expect the Redskins to do in order to try and shut down Vick?

RG: The way to stop Vick and make him ordinary is to force him to throw the football, and not use his amazing athleticism and improvisational ability. I can easily see the Redskins going with a lot of 8 man fronts, with Laron Landry playing closer to the line of scrimmage and playing the “spy” role for Vick. The Redskins corners already proved that they can effectively cover the Eagles receivers, so it comes down to making Vick throw the short passes (easily the weakest part of his game) and dumpoffs.

EG: On Sunday, where will the Redskins have an advantage on offense? On defense?

RG: Offense: There’s nobody on the Eagles who can keep up with or cover Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. The Redskins have one of the best pairs of tight ends in the league, and they’ve played particularly well against Philadelphia. In the last five games the Redskins have played the Eagles, a Redskins tight end has caught a touchdown pass in four of those games.

Defense: Albert Haynesworth versus the Eagles interior offensive line. Haynesworth has been playing great football, especially now that the Redskins are keeping him off the field on early downs and unleashing him during obvious passing downs. Mike McGlynn has been just ok on the interior line for the Eagles, and now it looks like Max Jean-Giles is not going to play due to injury. Haynesworth could create a lot of problems for the Eagles offensive line.

EG: Where will the Eagles have an advantage on offense? On defense?

RG: Offense: LeSean McCoy. What is it with Philadelphia running backs terrorizing the Redskins? For years, the Redskins had no answer for Brian Westbrook, and now McCoy seems to have inherited that role. He had 174 combined yards against the Redskins last game, and over 100 combined yards the last time the Eagles played in DC. He’s fast, elusive, and very effective in the screen game, something the Eagles run very well.

Defense: The pass rush. The Eagles did a great job of showing all sorts of defensive fronts and shifts against the Colts, which was one of the reasons Peyton Manning didn’t play so well last week. I expect them to do a lot more of the same against McNabb, a quarterback whom they know all too well. And given the way the Redskins offensive line has been playing of late, I expect a ton of exotic blitzes on top of that.

EG: What player could be a potential x-factor for the Redskins on Sunday?

RG: I’m cheating on this question, and going with the duo of Keiland Williams and James Davis at running back.

In each game the Eagles lost this season, it’s because their opponents top two RB’s exceeded 25 combined carries; when the Redskins played the Eagles in October, Torain had 18 carries, and Portis had 10. But, I strongly doubt that Portis is going to play on Monday, so it’s on one of these two guys to step up and produce, so the Redskins don’t dump their entire load on Torain (especially considering Torain is still recovering from a hamstring injury himself).

The NFL is a passing league now, but the most tried and true way of winning a football game is running it right down an opponents throat. If the Redskins can get 10-12 productive carries from Williams or Davis (or both combined), along with another 15-17 carries from Torain, they will be in very good shape.

EG: Final Score prediction:

RG: I’m going with 19 to 17, Redskins.

Eagles vs Redskins

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