After a busy offseason and preseason, the NFL season is finally ready to kickoff. The Philadelphia Eagles are heading South on I 95 for a matchup with the Washington Offensive Mascots. This game is an important one for the Eagles not only because its the first chance to show off their improved roster, but also because it is an NFC East game.
Washington has handled the Eagles in recent matchups and are looking to figure out a way to handle Kirk Cousins. I wrote recently about Cousins exploits against the Eagles. The Eagles have made Cousins look like a top 10 quarterback. He isn’t. This year, the Eagles defense should finally be healthy and talented enough to shut him down. Washington’s offense lost some key pieces from last year including Wide Receivers Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. However, they do return talented pass catching Tight End Jordan Reed and signed WR Terrelle Pryor who looked about as impressive as you could expect a Cleveland Brown WR to look last season. Their offensive line is anchored by Left Tackle, and all around stud, Trent Williams as well as the talented young Right Guard Brandon Schreff. Last season Washington allowed the fourth fewest sacks and are returning all 5 starters, their Offensive Line might be their strongest position group. At the running back position Washington will be relying on second year running back Rob Kelley. Kelley was solid as a rookie, but expect Rookie Samaje Perine to get his fair share of touches as well as change of pace back Chris Thompson.
On the whole, I don’t believe this Washington offense should not give the Eagles defense too much trouble. The Eagles defensive line is elite. Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett should provide good pressure from their Wide 9 positions and DT Fletcher Cox will, as he always is, a handful to deal with in between the tackles. Washington’s receivers don’t scare me, despite are somewhat shaky cornerbacks. Ronald Darby shouldn’t have too much trouble with Pryor and second year receiver Josh Doctson. The X factor is Kirk Cousins. He has routinely proven me wrong with his performances against the Eagles. To shut down this offense the Eagles need to get pressure on him from their front 4. I do not want to be rewatching this game on Monday and see Cousins standing in the pocket for 7 seconds and then rolling out and hitting a wide open Jordan Reed on a scramble drill. The defensive line needs to get in the backfield and finish sacks.
On the other side of the ball the Eagles should be a lot of fun to watch. Howie Roseman invested heavily in his offense this offseason and Carson Wentz, from all accounts, seems ready to take the next step as this team’s franchise quarterback. Washingtons defense was ranked 27th last season in the NFL in yards allowed. They were equally as bad against the run as they were against the pass. Cornerback Josh Norman and Weakside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan are standouts, but the rest of the defense is below average. The loss of Trent Murphy, first to suspension and then to injury, also doesn’t help. It’s also newsworthy that starting Safety Su’a Cravens told the team he will retire before the start of the season. This defense is just begging to be exposed by Carson Wentz and the Eagles aerial attack. The running game is still a question mark, but this Eagles offense should be expected to put up some serious numbers in Week 1.
Eagles fans will be amped for this game for obvious reasons. It’s the first game of the season, they’re playing in enemy territory, and they have the more talented team. The Eagles should take it to this Washington team. Defensively speaking, Washington is a train wreck and on the other side of the ball the Eagles should handle Washington’s running game and limit Cousins’ effectiveness by applying pressure. The matchup to really look forward to in this one is the Eagles defensive line against Washingtons pass protection. Trent Williams is the best LT in football, but the way in which the Eagles invested in their front 4 should pay off immeadiatly. Brandon Graham was in the backfield a whole heck of a lot last year, he just couldn’t finish plays. Derek Barnett looked amazing in preseason showing an incredibly high motor and great body control on his pass rushes. The combination of those two should allow the Eagles defense to be successfully in getting to Cousins early and often. On the other side of the ball it will be fun to watch Alshon Jeffrey catching passes for the Eagles. He will be tested by Josh Norman who may or may not shadow Jeffrey depending on the gameplan. Norman’s man coverage skills are top class, but Jeffrey’s physicality and ability to attack the ball when its thrown his way should make for some good competition.
Prediction: I believe the Eagles will dominate Washington on both sides of the ball. My score prediction is 31-14.
Ladies and gentlemen, Kirk Cousins.