Ea­gles aim to wipe out the past

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bob Grotz bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @BobGrotz on Twit­ter

Head­ing into to­day’s game at FedEx Field (1 p.m., Chan­nel 29, WIP 94.1-FM), the Ea­gles don’t want to dwell on the past.

Par­tic­u­larly not the last time they played Wash­ing­ton, be­cause that day went so wrong... it was the last time they were coached by Chip Kelly.

With a play­off berth on the ta­ble, the Sam Brad­ford-led Ea­gles grabbed a 7-0 lead at sold­out Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field. The Red­skins scored 24 of the next 27 points and very nois­ily cel­e­brated the NFC East cham­pi­onship.

Those “53 An­gry Men” T-shirts owner Jef­frey Lurie dis­trib­uted to pump up his play­ers summed up the post-game mood in the home locker room. Kelly was canned a

few days later. Do we need to men­tion that Sam Brad­ford comes to Philly next week?

“I think it’s pretty ob­vi­ous what makes this an im­por­tant game,” vet­eran Mal­colm Jenk­ins said. “We’re com­ing off a loss and it’s the next op­por­tu­nity that we have. It’s a divi­sion game and it’s the Red­skins, a team we know very well and they know us and they swept us last year. And it’s the team that beat us to win the divi­sion last year. I think all of that makes it pretty ob­vi­ous. It’s clear that this is a big game.”

The Ea­gles (3-1) have lost three straight to the Red­skins (3-2) and head coach Jay Gru­den, who, af­ter losses to the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers and the Dal­las Cow­boys, have run off three straight vic­to­ries, in­clud­ing one over the New York Gi­ants.

The Ea­gles have lost two straight games on the nasty, un­for­giv­ing sur­face at FedEx. They’ve won just once in their last four starts here.

To end the streak the Ea­gles need an an­swer for Wash­ing­ton quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins, who threw four touch­down passes against them the last time they played. De­fen­sive tackle Fletcher Cox must get af­ter Cousins on an an­kle that earned him a list­ing of questionable on the in­jury re­port.

More­over the Ea­gles hope they can get se­ri­ous snaps out of cor­ner­back Leodis McKelvin, about 85 per­cent re­cov­ered from an ail­ing ham­string. The Red­skins have one of the fastest re­ceivers in the league

in DeSean Jack­son, who’s 2-1 in games against his ex­team. Pierre Gar­con and Jami­son Crow­der are at least as good as the guys the Ea­gles didn’t cover last week in a 24-23 loss to the Detroit Lions.

To beat the Red­skins you ba­si­cally get the ball to skill play­ers in space and let the poor tack­ling do the rest.

Al­most no one would be sur­prised if the Ea­gles ran the ball more this week as rookie fifth-round pick Hal Vaitai makes his NFL de­but at right tackle in place of Lane John­son, sus­pended the next 10 games.

“That means Doug is go­ing to throw it 70 times,” Gru­den said of Ea­gles coun­ter­part Doug Ped­er­son. “Ev­ery time you go into a foot­ball game your em­pha­sis has to be to stop the run, no mat­ter who you play. Even if you play the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, even though they have the great­est quar­ter­back in the his­tory of foot­ball, it’s no dif­fer­ent. You have to stop the run. Try to make a team one di­men­sional.”

Ea­gles run­ning back Ryan Mathews sat out the Fri­day prac­tice with an undis­closed ill­ness but isn’t listed on the in­jury re­port. Ped­er­son hinted that Ken­jon Barner and rookie Wen­dell Small­wood should see ac­tion at run­ning back in ad­di­tion to Dar­ren Spro­les.

Spro­les, by the way, is pre­cisely the guy rookie quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz wants to get the ball to in space.

Then again, if the run game isn’t work­ing and the Red­skins send ex­tra pass rush­ers at Vaitai, Wentz is a league-lead­ing 31-for-37 (83.8 per­cent) against the blitz this sea­son.

“It’s guys play­ing fast,” Wentz said. “The O-line pro­tec­tion

has been tremen­dous giv­ing me time. And ob­vi­ously when they bring an ex­tra guy, they’re miss­ing one in cov­er­age so guys are mak­ing plays, get­ting open quick. It takes quick de­ci­sion mak­ing but guys are see­ing things pretty quickly and we feel pretty com­fort­able with where we’re at with that.”

Lurk­ing in the shad­ows are Brad­ford and the Min­nesota Vik­ings, who on their bye week have the lux­ury of cri­tiquing Wentz and the Ea­gles.

The Ea­gles play the Vik­ings next Sunday, and then hit the road for games against the Cow­boys and the Gi­ants. And that’s the easy part of the sched­ule.

The Ea­gles then host the surg­ing At­lanta Fal­cons, hit the road for a game in Seat­tle, re­turn to host Green Bay and then take on the Ben­gals.

The sea­son starts Sunday.

“I don’t think we look at it as rough,” Jenk­ins said. “When you look at the next month, the next four games, we’ve got three games on the road and three of them are di­vi­sional games. This is the chunk of the sea­son right here when we talk about po­si­tion­ing. So if any­thing we’re look­ing for­ward to the op­por­tu­nity the next month. We’ve got some re­ally good teams, a bunch of di­vi­sional teams and we’re on the road. When you steal some things on the road it puts you in a bet­ter po­si­tion later when you come back home. So the op­por­tu­nity for the next month is there.

“We un­der­stand where we are in the sea­son, 3-1, right now. We’re feel­ing good about where we’re at. We’ve got an op­por­tu­nity to at­tack this next quar­ter of the sea­son.”

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