Countdown to Kickoff: Eagles-Redskins may be closer game than some think

Redskins have ability to control the ball with a good running back group; Eagles have yet to play a game together

The Eagles are a 9.5-point favorite as they get set to host the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

That number feels high, given this is an NFC East game.

The Eagles’ roster is better, yes. It was better than Tampa Bay’s last year, too, and the Eagles lost in week two.

Point is, it’s way too early to think that the Washington Redskins are going to come in and let the Eagles do whatever they want to them. They went through training camp, too.

Remember, this is an Eagles team whose starters didn’t play a down together in the preseason.

“Every season is going to be something new,” said defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. “It's exciting that way. You never know what's going to happen. Weather generally plays a role in the opener. That can be a wildcard.

“So backups become important. Even last year we saw that even though it was a night game we had a rain storm last year. There is always that uncertainty of an opponent, that it's the opening game, that you're not 100 percent sure what you're going to see on offense and defense and things like that.”

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for a 9.5 point win.

We’ll know soon enough.

VIDEO: Lane Johnson talking about blocking Ryan Kerrigan

Here is my countdown to kickoff:

TELEVISION: FOX

Time: 1 p.m.

5 Players to watch

Carson Wentz. Duh.

DeSean Jackson. When he was with the Redskins, the still-swift receiver haunted his former team, the Eagles. Something tells me he will do the same against another former team on Sunday.

Tim Jernigan. I’m putting him on this list because we are unsure how much Fletcher Cox will play. Cox will play, but as head coach Doug Pederson said earlier in the week, he will keep a watchful eye on players who didn’t have much training camp practice. That’s where Jernigan comes in. The defensive tackle is fully healthy and looks ready to prove it.

Sidney Jones. The cornerback will start. He made four starts last season so it’s not his first, but this is an important season for the former second-round pick, and right now he is fully healthy. A good start would do wonders for his confidence going forward.

Dallas Goedert. Even though Zach Ertz has caught 71 passes for 718 yards in 12 career games against the Redskins, the Eagles talked a lot this offseason about getting the second-year tight end more involved this season. Let’s see how quickly they start doing that.

4 Redskins to watch

Derrius Guice. Pederson said Guice was a running back he and the organization liked when he was coming out of LSU last year. Guice missed his rookie season after tearing an ACL, but he figures to be eager to show the Redskins and the rest of the NFL what they missed a season ago.

Josh Norman. The cornerback will likely follow Alshon Jeffery because that’s how they’ve used him the past. Even at 31, he hasn’t missed a beat, collecting three interceptions last season to give him 13 in his career.

Montez Sweat. The rookie strong-side linebacker is listed as second team on the depth chart, but he played a lot in preseason and played well. At 6-6, 260 pounds, the 23 year-old will be a handful to block and that job will likely fall to 37-year-old Jason Peters.

Wendell Smallwood. Duh.

3 Facts

  • The Eagles have won their last three home openers. Doug Pederson can tie Joe Kuharich (four, 1964-67) as the only Eagles head coaches to win their first 4 home openers with the team.
  • Philadelphia has won four consecutive games against Washington dating back to the 2017 season, which marks the Eagles’ longest winning streak against the Redskins since they won seven straight from Dec. 16. 2001 through Dec. 16, 2004.
  • The Eagles have allowed the fewest points per game (15.8) at home in the NFL since 2016 (including playoffs). That’s the best three-year span by an Eagles defense since Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003.

2 Matchups to watch

Right tackle Lane Johnson vs. Redskins weak-side linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. The Eagles left tackle has played against the Redskins’ marvelous pass rusher Kerrigan since entering the league in 2013. In 16 career games against the Eagles, Kerrigan has 20 QB hits and 11.5 sacks. “I have to match his intensity,” said Johnson. “He’s just a guy who is relentless. Really, he’s been the heartbeat of their team ever since I got in the league in 2013. Just knowing that, he’s a guy kind of feeds off mistakes early and gets pumped up, so just keep him contained and match his intensity.”

Defensive end Brandon Graham and Malik Jackson/Fletcher Cox vs. Redskins left tackle Donald Penn and left guard Ereck Flowers. Penn is 36 and was headed for retirement until the Redskins called and Flowers was a first-round draft bust of the Giants in 2015. This could be a field day for Graham and Cox while Jackson may have one of the best Eagles debuts ever lining up against this Washington duo.

1 Quote

“He's a rolling ball of butcher blades. This guy is a heck of a player in all phases. Run game, he certainly creates and generates a pass rush. We have to be very conscious of where he is at. Heck of a player. High motor. He's smart. You're not going to fool him on a lot of stuff. He's one of those guys that we certainly spend time talking about. We want to make sure we got the right guys on him.” – Offensive coordinator Mike Groh on Ryan Kerrigan (pictured above).

Prediction

The Eagles will win, but it won’t be as easy as everyone seems to think. The Eagles defense is a wild card and, even though the Redskins have an offense that doesn’t look like it has a lot of big-play ability, it does have a good running back group with Derrius Guice, Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson that makes the Redskins capable of controlling time of possession if the Eagles’ defense lets it.

But DeSean Jackson and Carson Wentz will connect for a long touchdown – maybe two – and Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders will combine to run for more than 100 yards. So call it:

EAGLES 24, REDSKINS 20

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