Eagles kick off against revamped, new-look Washington
The Philadelphia Eagles begin their quest for a fourth consecutive playoff berth when they open the regular season on the road against the revamped Washington Football Team on Sunday.
The injury-depleted Eagles won their final four games last season to finish 9-7 before falling to the Seattle Seahawks in the postseason. The Redskins, meanwhile, hired another head coach amid an offseason of turmoil that included the organization dropping “Redskins” and front office changes in the aftermath of allegations of sexual harassment.
Quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a concussion in the playoff game, but he has returned healthy. However, the Eagles will enter this opener with a number of key injuries — left tackle Andre Dillard and right guard Brandon Brooks are both lost for the season.
Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle), running back Miles Sanders (hamstring), and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (foot) are also day-to-day, and officially questionable for Week 1. Jeffery didn’t practice Wednesday and Sanders was limited.
Veteran Jason Peters will shift back to left tackle to protect Wentz against a Washington defensive line that features five first-round picks, including Chase Young, taken No. 2 overall in 2020.
“I’m excited for him and for this team,” Wentz said of Peters. “I’ve had J.P. blocking my blindside pretty much every year. … He’s been the guy out there and done a great job. We call him The Bodyguard for a reason.”
The Eagles added a couple of key players in the offseason — cornerback Darius Slay and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. But Hargrave (pectoral, hamstring) didn’t practice Wednesday.
On offense, wide receiver DeSean Jackson will be back to provide a deep threat. Jackson missed almost all of last season with an abdominal strain.
“One thing with DeSean, he feels good, he feels healthy and he’s ready to go for the regular season,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “Getting him back in the offense is just a boost. Obviously, a veteran player who can still play and play at a high level. That’s a really good thing for our offense to have him back in the lineup.”
Pederson is 4-0 in openers, including last season, when the Eagles rallied to beat Washington after falling behind 17-0.
The Washington Football Team completed last season with only three victories.
As a result, head coach Jay Gruden was fired after five games and owner Daniel Snyder hired former Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. He’s the eighth head coach under Snyder’s tenure – not including Bill Callahan’s interim stint last season – for a franchise which hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2015 nor won a playoff game since ‘05.
Rivera has undergone a round of chemotherapy to treat squamous cell carcinoma but is fully expecting to be with the team on Sunday and beyond.
“He’s been a rock,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said of Rivera. “He’s been excellent at communicating with the staff and with the players. Just complement him in every way and support him in every way we can.”
The Washington Football Team will turn to second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins with Kyle Allen serving as the likely backup.
“I made a commitment 10 years ago to another young quarterback (Cam Newton) and just told him: ‘Hey, you know what, I’m choosing you because I believe in you,'” Rivera said. “That’s really how I feel about Dwayne. He’s lived up to his part of our conversation in January. Because of that, I’m living up to mine.
“He deserves the opportunity,” Rivera added. “He’s going to get my support. Hopefully we can ride it as long as I rode it with Cam. You want to be able to have that guy and have that guy in place.”
Haskins lost 20 pounds with a strict diet-workout regimen in the offseason.
Linebacker Thomas Davis and cornerback Kendall Fuller (knee) are both listed as questionable for Sunday.
The Washington Football Team also made a couple of interesting roster cuts earlier this week with the release of running back Adrian Peterson and safety Sean Davis. Rookie RB Antonio Gibson, who’s expected to get the brunt of the load with J.D. McKissic, made Peterson expendable.
Look for Young to make an immediate impact.
“We’ve seen the pass-rush ability obviously,” Rivera said. “That’s probably the biggest thing you always look for when you pick a defensive end that high. Now, it’s putting the rest of his game in place in terms of understanding how to play the run, understanding how they shut down the edges, keep everything in front of him and inside of him.”
–Field Level Media