Eagles aim to wipe out the past
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.”