After struggling much of the season, the Eagles' defense finally has its act together. It has given up just 36 points in three straight wins over Miami, the New York Jets and Dallas.
In those three wins, they've allowed just 3.7 yards per carry on the ground and 5.2 yards per pass attempt. They've only given up three touchdown passes in those three wins after giving up 23 in the first 12.
But their recent success against the pass needs to be viewed in the context of the quarterbacks it came against. Against the Dolphins, it was Matt Moore and J.P. Losman. Against the Jets, it was Mark Sanchez. Against the Cowboys last week, it was Stephen McGee, who replaced injured starter Tony Romo early in the first quarter.
On Sunday, they'll go up against another less than stellar quarterback when they face Rex Grossman and the Washington Redskins. The last time the Eagles faced the Redskins in Week 6 in a 20-13 win, Grossman threw four interceptions.
Despite a league-best 49 sacks, despite the offseason additions of Pro Bowl cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles have had their problems stopping the pass this season.
Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie both have struggled to establish a comfort level with defensive coordinator Juan Castillo's scheme. Asomugha, who was used almost exclusively in press-man coverage in Oakland, has been used in various different coverages this season. Rodgers-Cromartie has been asked to play in the slot, something he had never done before and something he hasn't been very good at.
On Sunday, when the 7-8 Eagles take on the 5-10 Redskins, the Eagles will be missing two starters in their secondary. Strong safety Kurt Coleman is on injured reserve with a biceps tear and will be replaced by rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett. Left cornerback Asante Samuel is expected to miss his second straight game with a strained hamstring. Rodgers-Cromartie will move outside and veteran slot corner Joselio Hanson will play inside in nickel.
This could be a look at next year's starting secondary. Jarrett, a rookie second-round pick out of Temple, has had trouble getting on the field this season, but is expected to be given a chance to wrestle the starting strong safety job away from the undersized Coleman next summer.
The Eagles have pretty much come to the conclusion that their secondary isn't big enough for Samuel, Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie. So, Samuel is expected to be traded in the offseason, which will allow Rodgers-Cromartie to move outside permanently.
"Jaiquawn's had a couple of opportunities in there when other guys have been banged up and he did a nice job," head coach Andy Reid said. "So I would just expect him to continue to build on that. It's great experience for him, so I think it's a positive."
Rodgers-Cromartie often has looked lost in the slot. But he has looked a lot more like the Pro Bowl player the Eagles traded for this summer when he's played outside.
"He did good," Reid said. "He got a little bit tired there towards the end, but that's understandable. He was in there every snap and also played on a few of the special teams. I think he had fun being back outside. We asked him to cover their best receiver in a lot of cases and I thought he handled that challenge well."
SERIES HISTORY: 153rd regular-season meeting. Redskins lead series, 78-69-5. The Eagles have won four of the last five meetings, including a 20-13 win in Week 6. The Eagles intercepted Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman four times in that game.
--Wide receiver DeSean Jackson may be playing his final game with the Eagles on Sunday. Jackson is a free agent after the season. He and the team don't seem to be on the same page as far as his worth. If they use the franchise tag on him, it likely would only be for the purpose of trading him. "That's out of my control," Jackson said when asked whether he thought he'd be back with the Eagles next year. "Hopefully I will be. I consider Philadelphia my home, and the fans have embraced me and things like that. I have a job to do, which is play out my contract, and with there being one game left, I felt I had to plan for this. So we'll just figure out where it goes."
Jackson has done little this season to convince the Eagles he's worth a top-shelf contract. He's got just three touchdown catches and has just two receptions in the red zone. He was suspended for a game for showing up late for a meeting and was benched in the fourth quarter of another game after dropping three passes, including two would-be touchdowns.
--After winning a Super Bowl title with the Green Bay Packers last season, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins thought he had a golden opportunity to win another one this year with the Eagles when he signed with them in July. But while his old team is favored to win its second straight Lombardi Trophy, his new team is 7-8 and out of the playoff hunt. "That's just how this league is," he said. "Shoot, it's eight years for me now and that's how it goes. You have up and down years and you can't get too high in the up times and you can't get too low in the down times. You know, you have to try to find what you can out of it to help you try to improve or help you get better. And that's just the way you have to look at it."
--Running back LeSean McCoy has had quite a season. He is first in the league in rushing touchdowns (17) and first in overall touchdowns (20). He is first in first downs (102). He trails Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew by 132 yards in the league rushing race. And on Tuesday, he was voted to his first Pro Bowl as a starter.
"He's the best running back in the league," left guard Evan Mathis said. "The guy's amazing." With 1,309 rushing yards this season, McCoy would need 204 yards Sunday to break Wilbert Montgomery's franchise record for rushing yards in a season. That's probably not going to happen, particularly since McCoy will be playing on a sprained ankle. But he needs just 103 yards to move into second place, ahead of Ricky Watters, who rushed for 1,411 yards in 1996.
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 - The number of games this season in which Michael Vick hasn't thrown an interception.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Yeah, he can take us to McDonald's or something." - Left guard Evan Mathis when asked whether LeSean McCoy was going to be buying his offensive linemen anything.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With LeSean McCoy's emergence as an elite running back, head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have been tweaking their offense. More run, less pass. Through 15 games, 44.1 percent of the Eagles' offensive plays have been run plays. That's their highest run percentage since 2003 and the third highest since Reid became the Eagles' head coach in '99. Yes, quarterback Michael Vick and his 75 carries has had a little influence on that number. But Donovan McNabb ran the ball every now and then too.
McCoy leads the league in rushing touchdowns and is ranked second in the league in rushing with 1,309 yards. He heads into Sunday's meaningless regular-season finale against the Redskins with an outside chance to become the first Eagles back since Duce Staley in 1999 to have 300-plus rushing attempts in a season (he's got 273).
Because of the blocking-catching versatility of tight ends Brent Celek and second-year man Clay Harbor, Reid has employed more two-tight end sets this season. Almost a third of their offensive plays (308 of 976) have come out of two-tight end sets. Six-hundred fifty-two of McCoy's 1,309 rushing yards and 13 of his rushing touchdowns have come out of two-tight end formations.
--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will start at left corner Sunday in place of injured Asante Samuel. With Samuel expected to be traded in the offseason, Rodgers-Cromartie, who has played mainly in the slot this season, will be moving back outside where he's more comfortable.
--RB LeSean McCoy has converted 30 of 39 short-yardage situations (two yards or less) in the last 10 games.
--WR DeSean Jackson has just three touchdown catches this season. He's got just two receptions in the red zone.
--S Jaiquawn Jarrett will make just his second start of the season Sunday against Washington. The rookie second-rounder will replace injured Kurt Coleman.
--QB Michael Vick has thrown just four touchdown passes and five interceptions in his last five starts.
--CB Asante Samuel is expected to miss his second straight game with a hamstring strain. He didn't practice Wednesday. Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie will replace him on the left side.
--S Kurt Coleman was placed on injured reserve after suffering a partial tear of his biceps in Saturday's win over the Cowboys. He'll be replaced by rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett.
--RB LeSean McCoy didn't practice Wednesday. He suffered a sprained ankle against Dallas, but coach Andy Reid said it's not a high ankle sprain and said he thinks McCoy will be able to play Sunday against Washington.
--DE Trevor Laws, who sat out Saturday's game against the Cowboys with a knee injury, was a full practice participant Wednesday and is expected to play Sunday.
--RT Todd Herremans, who is nursing a sprained ankle, practiced Wednesday and is expected to play this week against the Redskins.
GAME PLAN: The Redskins are 29th in the league in rushing and will be starting a rookie - Evan Royster - at running back. Quarterback Rex Grossman threw four interceptions the last time he faced the Eagles. What the Birds want to do is stop the Redskins' ground game, put them in obvious passing situations and force Grossman into mistakes with the pass rush.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Eagles RDE Trent Cole vs. Redskins LT Willie Smith. Smith is an undrafted rookie with just two career starts. Cole is one of the league's top pass-rushers.
Eagles TE Brent Celek vs. Redskins Ss Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes. Celek has 47 catches in the last 10 games and is dangerous after the catch. Doughty and Gomes play the run better than the pass.
Eagles RG Danny Watkins vs. Redskins DE Adam Carriker. Carriker is having his best season, but was in on just one tackle against Watkins and Eagles in Week 6.