PHILADELPHIA - Eagles coach Andy Reid is benching the other safety.

Colt Anderson will start Sunday against Washington in place of Nate Allen instead of Kurt Coleman. Anderson started the last two games in place of Coleman, who was sidelined with a sternum contusion.

"Colt came in and we asked him to fill in at the line of scrimmage and be a physical player in there and he did a nice job with that," Reid said Wednesday. "We needed that at that time and we're going to need it this week. (The Redskins) run the football and do a good job with that. All three will probably have an opportunity to play, but Kurt is a little more stout in there and we need that this week."

The Redskins are the top-ranked rushing team in the NFL, averaging 164.8 yards per game.

Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris is the NFL's third-leading rusher with 1,322 yards. Rookie Robert Griffin III, who is expected to start, leads the league's quarterbacks in rushing with 748 yards.

"Anytime you get a chance to play, it's a big deal," said Anderson, who led the team with 11 tackles in a 34-13 loss to Cincinnati on Thursday. "I'm just excited for the opportunity and I want to continue to show that I can compete at this level."

Neither Allen nor Coleman played consistently well this season. They struggled in the Eagles' first meeting against the Redskins, when Griffin III threw four touchdown passes and earned a perfect, 158.3 efficiency rating in a 31-6 Eagles' loss.

Allen, a second-round draft pick in 2010, is coming off one of his best games of the season, however. He posted nine tackles against the Bengals.

"I'm not sure why they made the decision," Allen said. "Just that Colt's been playing well and it's the best fit for the defense right now. I've got to be professional about it. That's the game of football. You're always going to have ups and downs. But you always have to stay positive."

Allen hasn't been the same player since he ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee late in his rookie season against the New York Giants. He missed the start of last season while recovering from the injury.

He missed one game this season with a strained hamstring.

"I'm not making any excuses," Allen said. "I just have to keep working hard every day to try and get better."

Clay Harbor update

The Eagles placed backup tight end Clay Harbor on injured reserve Tuesday with a lower back injury. On Wednesday, Reid revealed Harbor suffered three small fractures in his back against the Bengals.

Harbor said he got hurt in the second quarter, but refused to come out of the game. The Eagles were already missing tight end Brent Celek, who was sidelined with a concussion.

"I really wasn't shocked that I had some fractures because of the way I felt," Harbor said. "I was getting sharp pains every step I took, every time I got down in my stance. Every time I was touched or hit, it was painful. By the second half, I couldn't do much. If I had to run a 40 (yard dash), it would have taken me about 10 seconds."

Cornering the market

Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Although questions about his focus have been raised this season, he said he wants to remain with the Eagles.

"I definitely want to come back," he said. "I know what kind of talent we have on this team and I know we can make this work and have success."

The entire Eagles' secondary has struggled this season, though they have been playing better since defensive coordinator Todd Bowles abandoned the "Wide-9" scheme in favor of a more basic pass rush that generates pressure from both the inside and outside.

"It's been better for us as a secondary," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "We don't have to cover (opposing receivers) as long. When we weren't getting pressure before, the quarterback was just sitting back there and picking us apart."

Bumps and bruises

Fullback Stanley Havili (strained hamstring) did not practice Wednesday and is not expected to play against the Redskins. Rookie running back Chris Polk will play fullback.

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (strained back) was limited in practice. Maclin is the Eagles' top receiver with 57 catches for 719 yards and five touchdowns.

Contact David Weinberg:

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