|NFL Preview: Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles|
|Monday, 17 September 2007 02:51|
MNF: Redskins vs. Eagles
Donovan McNabb had only shown flashes of his running skills until a game against the Redskins seven years ago instantly turned him into an elite scrambling quarterback.
McNabb was in his second season in the NFL and his first full year as a starter when the Eagles visited Washington in Week 13 of the 2000 season. The game had important playoff implications for Philadelphia, which was only two years removed from a 3-13 finish.
Early on, McNabb made it clear he wanted to be known as a pass-first quarterback, even though he was an elusive runner whenever he decided to tuck the ball and take off. But when running back Duce Staley was lost for the season in Week 5, McNabb became the Eagles' best threat on the ground.
Against the Redskins on Nov. 26, McNabb displayed moves that could make any running back envious. He frustrated defenders with hurdles, jukes, power and pure speed, finishing with 125 yards rushing - at the time the most by an NFL quarterback in 28 years.
Replays of McNabb racing past Bruce Smith, faking Mark Carrier with a stunning open-field move and dragging Matt Stevens into the end zone on a 21-yard touchdown scamper have been shown thousands of times over the years. He had two other downright sensational runs, including a career-best 54-yard jaunt.
``He's Houdini,'' teammate Brian Mitchell said after that game.
It'll be a different McNabb when the Eagles (0-1) host the Redskins (1-0) at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday night.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Philadelphia -7 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 39 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on Philadelphia -7 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
The five-time Pro Bowl QB is playing his second regular-season game since tearing a knee ligament in Week 11 last year. He had a so-so performance in a 16-13 loss at Green Bay, and didn't seem too eager to run out of the pocket unless necessary. McNabb scrambled four times for 9 yards against the Packers, and completed fewer than half of his passes (15-for-33) for 184 yards, one TD and one interception.
``Well, the explosion is not where it was when I was healthy, but it will get there again eventually,'' McNabb said. ``At this point, you wouldn't expect it to be to the point of where you were when you were healthy. I still can get out of the pocket. I still can cut and do all that, but as far as that explosion is concerned, that's not where it was before.''
Eagles coach Andy Reid isn't concerned, though he's one play away from probably having to use a rookie if McNabb goes down. Kevin Kolb likely would make his NFL debut because backup A.J. Feeley is questionable after having a second surgery on his broken non-throwing hand.
``You know what I thought was important is that he got through the full game and had an opportunity to play the full game,'' Reid said. ``I think he'll just continue to improve as we go on and continue to get stronger and naturally trust more in the leg.''
McNabb's main priority remains to throw the ball. He prefers dropping back and letting it go downfield or dumping off underneath over getting chased around.
``You want to stay a passer first,'' he said. ``When I would have to move in the pocket, you still keep your eyes downfield. If nothing's there, then you pick up yards.''
McNabb has been very successful against the Redskins, going 9-3 in 12 career starts. He beat them with his arm last year in his final game before getting hurt against Tennessee. McNabb threw for 257 yards and two TDs, including an 84-yard score to Donte' Stallworth, and only ran for 12 yards in a 27-3 victory.
Redskins assistant coach Gregg Williams has seen enough of McNabb over the years to worry about his defense facing him.
``Donovan is a special player,'' Williams said. ``I have a lot of respect for him. I thought he had a very good preseason. He looks like he is back. Obviously when you watch him orchestrate that offense, he knows exactly what Andy wants. He is able to be a coach on the field after all these years in that system.''
The Redskins are coming off a 16-13 overtime win against Miami, a nice start after going 5-11 in Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs' worst season. They're a 7-point underdog at Philadelphia, which wants to avoid its first 0-2 start since 2003.
``We want to win this division and this is one step in doing that,'' running back Clinton Portis said. ``We have a big opportunity on Monday night at their home field. We know they are going to come out and give us everything they have, being that they are already down one game. This would be a big win for them, but it will be an even bigger win for us, if we can get it.''
By: Staci Richards - theSpread.com - Email Us
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