By Kevin McGuire
A brand new season of Philadelphia Eagles football is nearly upon us. On Sunday, the Birds head down I-95 to take on the NFC East rival Washington Redskins, a team the Eagles have not defeated in more than two years. Carson Wentz and the rest of the team have made some positive changes this offseason, but still face some serious question marks heading into the season opener.
But so does Washington.
Washington is coming off a 8-7-1 season a year after capturing the NFC East crown in 2015 with a record of 9-7. In the preseason, the Redskins lost their first two games before closing out the regular season with back-to-back wins against the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Records in the preseason tend not to mean much of anything, but Washington is hoping to carry over some of the good things seen in the last two games to get off on the right foot in the regular season in a division matchup.
The Eagles have lost five consecutive games against Washington, including a 27-20 setback last October in Landover, Maryland. The last Eagles win in the series was played on Sept. 21, 2014, and the last time the Eagles won on the road in the series was Sept. 9, 2013.
Redskins on Offense
After a rather contentious standoff this offseason, Kirk Cousins is still the starting quarterback for the Redskins. The two sides were unable to come together on a long-term deal as the team was unwilling to pay top dollar for Cousins, and Cousins was reluctant to sign a long-term deal with the team. That puts pressure on the QB to have a big year to earn a large contract from Washington, or perhaps another franchise, in the offseason. For now, it’s Cousins or bust for the Redskins.
Cousins will have emerging wide receiver Terrelle Pryor to throw to as his big target in the open field. The former quarterback out of Ohio State has blossomed as a receiver over the past year, and could be in line for a solid season in Washington playing on the opposite side of the field of Josh Doctson, who is considered questionable for this weekend. The running game will be led by Rob Kelley, but don’t be surprised if rookie Samaje Perine from Oklahoma gets a few carries at some point.
Redskins on Defense
Heading into the first week of practice for the regular season opener, the Redskins were thrown a bit of a curveball with the decision of safety Su’a Cravens to possibly retire. It was uncertain whether Cravens would take on a role in the Washington defense to begin with, but his veteran presence would have been beneficial to the Redskins defensive unit this season, had he been there. A knee injury over the summer has persuaded Cravens to contemplate retirement, and as a result, the Washington secondary will now look to plug a hole at the safety position. Deshazor Everett is the most likely candidate to replace Cravens, but it is unknown if he is prepared to take on a starting role at this time. DeAngelo Hall will eventually be another option once he returns from a torn ACL later in the season.
Up front, Washington will get first-round draft pick Jonathan Allen from Alabama right into the mix at defensive end. Coming off the left side, the rookie should have an immediate impact for Washington. Allen was considered by many to be the top defensive player in the 2017 NFL Draft after top overall pick Myles Garrett. Washington is also without defensive lineman Phil Taylor, who is on the team’s injured reserve.
Redskins Players to Watch
Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR – One of the key offseason moves made by Washington was bringing in Terrelle Pryor after parting ways with former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. The two are completely different types of receivers, with Pryor being the bigger receiving target Washington was looking to add.
Jonathan Allen, DL – Get to know Allen. The Eagles offensive line should have their hands full with him for years to come. Allen was a three-time SEC champion and First Team All-SEC standout. He was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year in addition to bringing in a handful of defensive awards like the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Lombardi Award.
If the Eagles have improved as a team overall, then this should be a fairly average matchup to open the season. The Redskins would typically be considered a home favorite given recent success, but an offseason of roster changes by both teams have swayed the momentum in Philadelphia’s corner heading into the season opener, according to the oddsmakers. The Eagles have to win a game in this rivalry soon, and if Carson Wentz is given protection, then the potential to put enough points on the board to win a tight one is right there.