We’re officially just one day away from Philadelphia Eagles football. The team are traveling to Washington with a clean bill of health and hopes of making this season one to remember. The Eagles have lost five consecutive games to their divisional opponents, but a high-octane offense may be the key to turning the tide. Here are five keys to watch out for tomorrow afternoon.
In both losses to Washington last year, the Eagles were without Lane Johnson and Ryan Kerrigan ran rampant on rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai. The Redskins pass rush was consistently able to flood the right side, stop the run,and more importantly get to Carson Wentz. The rookie quarterback was sacked nine times and hit twenty three in both the games combined, making life exceedingly difficult.
Johnson’s back after serving his PED suspension and if his brief appearance at the end of last season is anything to go by, he has a huge chip on his shoulder…not to mention the fighting talk in a Players Tribune article that sparked some interesting responses from the Redskins players themselves. Johnson may be the equalizer for an Eagles offense not only needing to establish the run early, but needing to keep Carson Wentz upright as much as possible.
Below are the rushing statistics from the last five times that the Eagles have played Washington.
To put it simply, things haven’t gone well. Whether it was the Chip Kelly Offense that struggled to use a downhill back efficiently, or Pederson’s lopsided play-calling that saw all the pressure placed on the shoulders of Carson Wentz, the Eagles couldn’t get rolling.
Doug Pederson will be hoping that a revamped backfield containing last year’s league-leading rushing touchdown scorer and a tremendous amount of versatility and explosiveness can change those fortunes. Whether it’s pony-packages with Sproles and Pumphrey, or changing the pace with Wendell Smallwood or Corey Clement, the Eagles went heavy at running back for a reason…expect to see why tomorrow.
The Eagles added a number of offensive rookies to their roster this year. From the likes of Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson who had vastly different offseasons, to the explosive Donnel Pumphrey, the Offense is locked and loaded. Hollins showed just how dominant he can be during preseason, making sure the world knows he’s more than just a special teamer. Pumphrey may have contrastingly struggled, but his ability to line up in the slot and bounce runs outside may give the Eagles enough of a threat where if the Defense is focused on those lining up outside, Pumphrey can wreak havoc off-guard.
This will be the first time that we see this year’s Eagles rookies in action, and with development being the name of the game…it will be interesting to see just how far they’ve come already under the tutelage of Mike Groh and how many snaps they play in.
The most exciting player to watch tomorrow will undoubtedly be Carson Wentz. The second year quarterback is coming off of a strong rookie campaign where his development was visible on a weekly basis. His comfort in and out of the pocket, his ball security, and his confidence and touch on the deep ball all saw significant steps forward throughout the season.
One year after inheriting the starting reins just days before the regular season, Wentz has a full body of work under his belt, a shiny new offense, and an offense of working with a quarterback guru to improve his mechanics.
His pocket presence and footwork improvements were visible to the naked eye during preseason and in a limited sample size at that. Just how far has Wentz come since week one last year? We’ll find out tomorrow with the help of a number one wide receiver and a reliable backfield.
After the Eagles surprisingly traded Jordan Matthews to the Buffalo Bills, it was Nelson Agholor who received a promotion to a starting role after a “night and day” offseason in which he looked to have finally shed his skin and the weight that was holding him down. It’s a new era for Nelson Agholor and with a chip on his shoulder, it could be the season he was always destined to have.
Agholor has never really shined against the Redskins. With 3 receptions for 34-yards in one game last year and 2 receptions for 22 yards in the other, he never really produced in the way many expected he would. His rookie year saw much of the same, with that stunning deep reception that was followed up by a fumble. The consistency just never seemed to grace the USC product who honed his craft dominating mismatches over the middle with his clean route running.
This time around, Agholor will be playing in a position of strength. He will no longer be matched up against Josh Norman, he will no longer be put on an island. Instead, with confidence issues aside, Agholor will look to run riot over the middle of the field and make a statement against a team who has kept him under wraps for one game too long.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports