Key Matchups in Eagles’ Season Opener vs Redskins
What a way to start the season.
The Eagles’ match-up against the Washington Redskins, a team that has beaten them five straight times, should have a big impact on the NFC East race. It’s very possible that the winner of this game will be in the division hunt, while the loser might be out of the playoff race.
For the Eagles, a Redskins win could mean they aren't quite ready to compete for a playoff spot in Carson Wentz's second season – and as has been brought up several times this week, the Eagles haven’t won at FedEx Field since 2013.
Here are some interesting match-ups to watch in this game.
1. Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery vs. Redskins CB Josh Norman
Jeffery has the talent to be one of the better receivers in the league. He’s coming off a down season in Chicago, 52-catches, 821 yards. The Redskins brought Norman in to shut down guys like Jeffery, and Eagles coach Doug Pederson indicated this week the Eagles are expecting Redskins CB Josh Norman to shadow Jeffery.
2. Eagles RT Lane Johnson vs. Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan
In last year's game, it was the first ever start for Halapoulivaati Vaitai in place of Lane Johnson at right tackle.
"It's good to have Lane back, obviously," Pederson said on Wednesday. "That was Big V's [T Halapoulivaati Vaitai] first start last year, and as we know, he struggled in the game. To have Lane back, a little confidence there. Should be a good matchup all day. Just got to give the guy respect. He's a good pass-rusher."
In the two meetings last season, Kerrigan accounted for three sacks against Vaitai, but will face a much tough task with Johnson back in the fold. While he could still cause problems for the Eagles offense, he'll find it much more difficult to find real estate in the Eagles backfield.
"Yeah, first of all, Ryan, he's a great player," Pederson explained. "He's a high-motor guy, relentless finish. That's what you have to identify with him."
3. Eagles CB Ronald Darby vs. Redskins WR Terrelle Pryor
The Eagles traded for Darby before Week 2 of the preseason and he instantly became their top corner. Meanwhile, the Redskins signed Pryor to a big free-agent deal this offseason to replace Pierre Garcon. Pryor, is 6-4, 228, the type of big physical receiver, who could have his way against the smaller Darby, who is just 5-11, 193. Pryor comes over to Washington after catching 77 balls last year for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns in Cleveland
4. Eagles slot CB's vs. Jamison Crowder
Crowder had a nice game against he Eagles down in Washington last season, catching three balls for 52 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting. It will be interesting to see who the Eagles slide into the slot to match-up with Crowder, Malcolm Jenkins or Patrcik Robinson. While Jenkins is very good in the nickle situations, the small and speedy Crowder is a match-up problem for the bigger Jenkins.
5. Redskins RT Morgan Moses vs. Eagles DE Brandon Graham
The Eagles added Derek Barnett and Chris Long this offseason to help beef up the pass rush. Bringing those guys in should help Brandon Graham face less double teams and also allow the Eagles to generate more pass rush this time around on Kirk Cousins who had some big games last year against the Birds.
Cousins accounted for four touchdown passes in the two games last season, but getting a better pass rush could help bring him back down to earth.
"He also made a couple of big plays with his feet in both of those games," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said about Cousins.
"He's sort of sneaky that way. I think if you ask around the league, you wouldn't put him up there with some of the classic scrambling quarterbacks, but that's also something we'll have to be on guard for, because he did make a couple of key first downs with his feet in those games."
If the Eagles can get some pass rush on Cousins, he shouldn't be able to beat them with his feet, causing him to make some mistakes with his arm.
The Pick: Eagles 28, Redskins 23
KC Joyner's Matchup to watch:
"If I'm Philadelphia, I'm leaning heavily on running the ball, wearing them down and take their pass-rush away. Keep Carson Wentz around 25 throws, but I think Philadelphia has enough firepower on offense to get the win."