Stopping the run seems to be the war cry of the Eagles defense before every game.
It is particularly so this week when they open their season against the Washington Redskins with a 1 p.m. kickoff at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
The Redskins runners figure to be their strength, especially when you look at receiving group that, other than Paul Richardson, Jr., have yet to make their mark on the NFL. It’s a group that includes rookies Kelvin Harmon ad Steven Simms, and second-year pass catcher Trey Quinn, who had nine catches for 75 yardsd as a rookie last season.
Throw in journeyman quarterback Case Keenum who will be playing behind an offensive line that has Donald Penn and Ereck Flowers protecting the left side and, well, running backs Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson and maybe Wendell Smallwood never looked so good.
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“They got a good running game,” said Eagles second-year defensive back Avonte Maddox, who will be the team’s nickel corner to begin the season. “They have some good backs. We have to stop the run. We stop the run make them one dimensional some way somehow and that will help us out on defense.”
Much has been made the return of Eagles DeSean Jackson and rightfully so. Even with a broken ring finger on his left hand, Jackson figures to leave a mark on this game, and not only because it’s against one of his former teams, but just because he will be playing his first game as an Eagle since his last game with them on Jan. 4, 2014 when he had three catches for 53 yards in a 26-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the opening round of the playoffs.
“He’s definitely a threat,” said Redskins coach Jay Gruden. “Everybody knows who he is and where he is, but the problem is the Eagles have Alshon Jeffery, he’s a really good player, and Zach Ertz had over 100 catches last year, and obviously Dallas (Goedert) is a good tight end.
“They kind of run their offense inside out kind of like we have in the past with Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson, but now they have a big speed guy outside that will really help them, I think.”
Reed, by the way, has been ruled out for Sunday due to a concussion.
The Redskins will also deal with another former player on their roster – linebacker Zach Brown (pictured above, though Brown will wear No. 52 this season).
Brown said he doesn’t have any extra special motivation playing against a team that he spent the previous two seasons with, because he has been on three other teams, too, including the Titans and Bills.
Asked what he might feel like, though, playing his first game with the Eagles, Brown said: “I don’t know, I’ll be calm, cool, quiet, in my own little world. Moment before I go on the field it’s like I imagine being in hell, that’s what I’m trying to put them in, trying to punish everybody. It’s a violent mode, anything goes, nothing’s off limits even if you’re my friend or not, I’m in go-mode.”
The Eagles’ offensive line looks like it will include right guard Brandon Brooks who was listed as a full participant on Friday, less than eight months after tearing his Achilles. So the line will be playing their first game together since last January and it will be tested against what looks to be a formidable defensive line and pass rush.
“There’s more and more emphasis (in the preseason) on keeping guys physically ready and I think you can afford to do that when you have some seasoned guys who have seen a lot of time,” said center Jason Kelce. “If you have a younger team you probably need to go out there and get them as many reps as possible, but we have a pretty veteran group, especially on the offensive line, so now it’s about making us physically ready to go, keep the legs fresh, so it’ll be better than being sore and worn for game one, for sure.”
And game one is upon us.