The Redskins head into their week one matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles as winners of the previous 5 outings. Forty five weeks of regular season play has passed since the last time the Redskins were defeated by their division rival, which is likely the reason the Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson guaranteed a victory against the Redskins on Sunday. The highly touted phrase in sports comes to mind when Johnson spoke, the “Due Theory”, and besides the standard preparation, that’s likely what he’s banking on.
On the Redskins front, this match-up is different from the last time the Eagles won, and the five meetings occurring their week three game back in 2014. The Redskins best wide receivers, and two of the top tier in the NFL is gone. Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson are in San Francisco and Tampa Bay respectively, which has drastically impacted the production and talent of the wide receiving core.
Since 2014, in six games against the Eagles, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon combined for 60 catches, 910 receiving yards, and 15.2 yards per catch. While the two combined for only six touchdowns, it’s not just the amount of times that they have reached the end zone that matters. Garcon has made clutch catches on game-winning drives against the Eagles, and Jackson bailed out the Redskins offense when they were sputtering. Kirk Cousins is now without those two weapons, which makes the strength versus strength match-up between Washington and Philadelphia a little more even.
Kirk Cousins is 4-1 against the Eagles, with his first start against them being in 2014. He’s compiled an impressive stat line to date with 1,579 passing yards, 64 percent completion percentage, 12 touchdowns with only three interceptions, and a 102.9 passer rating. So, with Garcon and Jackson elsewhere, Cousins loses 58 percent of his yardage total, and half of his touchdowns. So, here’s the big question with Cousins heading into Sunday: can he put the team on his back?
Outside of Jamison Crowder, the lack of chemistry displayed in pre-season is alarming for the Cousins and the Redskins receiving group. Additionally, the offensive line has had their struggles across the board. Again, the Redskins offense against the Eagles defense has become leveled. If Cousins receivers struggle to win match-ups he will need to improvise against a top-tier pass rush, and the Redskins will have to gain traction in the running game if they want to relieve any type of pressure on the offensive line and the passing game.
It’s not all on Cousins to get the job done, but it certainly is critical that Kirk serves as the key to establishing offensive success. His last two games against the Eagles, he has thrown two pick-sixes, and coming back from critical mistakes will be difficult against this stout 2017 Eagles team. Philly’s front seven this year has not lost a step, adding a prominent SEC pass-rusher in Derek Barnett, who has been solid this pre-season. Their secondary is not drastically improved, but the addition of cornerback Ronald Darby to go along with Pro Bowler Malcolm Jenkins at safety has made that group competent. It will be a collective effort from everyone to step their game up, and as head coach Jay Gruden expressed in his presser, they’ll need to play with a sense of urgency.
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