It’s the first week of football and we finally get to watch live games again! The Washington Football Team will be hosting the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday at home in FedEx Field in Landover, MD. No fans will be admitted to watch the game in person due to COVID, so we will sadly miss out on that huge home field advantage we would otherwise surely have...
The Eagles are an aging team and spent the offseason largely trying to add speed and youth to their roster, as well as providing Carson Wentz with more weapons. However, they’ve already been bit by the injury bug, losing several players for the season and with several more who may be limited for this game. The Eagles also somewhat controversially drafted QB Jalen Hurts in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft, though they have publicly remained committed to Carson Wentz as their starter.
To learn more about these and other issues, I asked Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation five questions about the state of the Eagles and what to look for in this game.
1. The Eagles were featured on the 2019 season of Amazon’s All Or Nothing. What was it like watching your team on that show and what were your key takeaways from the season? Did you learn anything about your team that you didn’t really know before?
I don’t know that the series really taught us anything we didn’t already know as much as it added extra color to the 2019 season. There were a lot of good quotes from the season; I wrote them up for a post on BGN (linked here).
Brandon Graham being awesome stood out. I hope Eagles fans and non-Eagles fans alike have come to appreciate him more. He’s a merciless trash talker who also comes off as a good-hearted family man.
Josh McCown’s veteran mentorship influence on Carson Wentz and the rest of the team was also apparent. Glad to see that he’s going to be around the team virtually this season as the oldest practice squad member in NFL history.
Outside of the show, some of the biggest takeaways from 2019 were that the Eagles need to find a way to stay healthy. They’re already not off to a good start in that regard in 2020. Giving Wentz more help was obviously paramount as well considering how he was working with a bunch of practice squad players by the end of last year. There’s hope the Eagles’ receiving corps could be better in 2020 but that’s not yet a given.
2. The Eagles already seem to have been bitten by the injury bug. Can you catch us up on which key players are expected to be out or limited by injury and what that means for the team? In a broader context, what seems to have happened since the Chip Kelly Eagles that (for all their other faults) were a consistently healthier team?
WR Alshon Jeffery and DT Javon Hargrave did not practice on Wednesday.
Jeffery is definitely out. With 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor also potentially missing Sunday’s game, the Eagles could be down to four healthy wide receivers: DeSean Jackson, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, and John Hightower. Not exactly the most battled-tested group. They could also look to call up summer standout Deontay Burnett using the new practice squad rules.
Hargrave was the Eagles’ big ticket free agent signing. He was supposed to boost the team’s interior pass rush. Fortunately for the Eagles, they still have Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, and Hassan Ridgeway. Cox is obviously an elite talent while Jackson and Ridgeway are coming off strong camps.
RB Miles Sanders, RT Lane Johnson, WR Jalen Reagor, and DE Derek Barnett were limited on Wednesday.
Doug Pederson said the Eagles might have to manage Sanders’ workload since he missed all of camp and still isn’t 100% in practice. I imagine Sanders will still see a majority of the workload at running back but Boston Scott and Corey Clement could also be in line for some touches.
Lane Johnson being limited three weeks after first being described as “day-to-day” is troublesome. Even if he can play, he’s going to be less than 100%, which is far from ideal.
Reports indicate Reagor won’t be back until Week 2 and maybe that’s the case. The team could take a cautious approach as he recovers from a shoulder injury. But Reagor looked pretty active in practice on Wednesday, so … he might play?
Barnett missed all of training camp for the second year in a row and still isn’t 100%. The Eagles still have some decent defensive end depth behind him with Josh Sweat having a good camp and Vinny Curry playing well down the stretch in 2019. Still, the Eagles need Barnett to have a breakout year for them and he’s not off to a good start.
[Editor’s note: Brandon sent me these answers Wednesday night, and I delayed publishing the article until now due to quite a few other articles being in the pipeline. His answers about the impact of certain players is still 100% accurate, but to update the injury status news:
Out: Javon Hargraves, Alshon Jeffery
Questionable: Lane Johnson, Derek Barnett, Miles Sanders
Practiced in full: Jalen Reagor
So they will definitely be out a difference-making DT (Hargraves) and WR (Jeffery) and possibly out an All Pro RT (Johnson) and capable DE (Barnett) and RB (Sanders), but will likely have their 1st round WR (Reagor, film breakdown here and here).]
As for the Chip part of the question … man, I wish I knew. It’s not like the Eagles jettisoned their sports science department along with Kelly.
Some of the past issues have been relying on older and injury-prone players. Philly had the NFL’s second oldest roster heading into 2019. But those factors don’t explain everything. Malik Jackson was under 30 and had never missed a game due to injury prior to suffering a season-ending Lisfranc in Week 1 last year. Hargrave, 27, has only missed one game but somehow got hurt before the team even started going through padded practices in training camp. The Eagles even made a concerted effort to hire two key new medical people from some of the NFL’s healthiest teams over the past few seasons.
This is to say … I can’t help but believe bad luck has factored in to the Eagles’ injury issues.
3. What is the QB pecking order in Philadelphia and where do you see it in a year or two? Do you think Wentz has an innate problem staying healthy or has he just been freakishly unlucky? What are the impressions of Hurts in practice so far?
As we enter the season, Wentz is the starter, Nate Sudfeld is the top backup, and Jalen Hurts is the third string guy.
Hurts looked primed to overtake Sudfeld by getting off to a hot start in training camp. But then the rookie cooled off a little while Sudfeld stepped up to re-cement himself as the No. 2.
With that said, Sudfeld is going to be on a short leash. If he struggles, there should be no hesitation for the Eagles to pull him for the guy they drafted at No. 53 overall this year. We could also see Hurts overtake Sudfeld later into the season as he gets more time to adjust to the NFL and get comfortable in Philly’s offense. I’m encouraged about Hurts’ potential based on what I saw from training camp.
As for the Wentz part of your question, I interviewed Dr. Edwin Porras this offseason and he said talk of the Eagles quarterback being injury prone is “so overblown.” (linked here). He believes that “none of the injuries that Wentz has had are going to be disabling to him in the future. And there’s very, very little reason that statistically they should happen again.”
So, yeah, I’d say he’s been unlucky. Just like the Eagles as a whole have been unlucky with injuries.
4. What do you think will be the most impactful offseason changes (good or bad) to the Eagles performance this season?
I think the most impactful change for the Eagles won’t have to do with offseason changes as much as getting a healthy DeSean Jackson will make a big difference. The Eagles sorely lacked a legitimate deep threat outside of their Week 1 win over Washington last season.
To answer your question, though, let’s say Darius Slay. He needs to rebound after not having the best season with the Lions but — in theory, at least — he gives the Eagles an answer for opposing No. 1 wide receivers that they previously lacked. I mean, just look at these numbers from last year.
Week 1 — Terry McLaurin — 5 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD
Week 3 — Marvin Jones — 6 receptions, 101 yards, 1 TD
Week 4 — Davante Adams — 10 receptions, 180 yards, 0 TD (left game early due to injury)
Week 6 — Stefon Diggs — 7 receptions, 167 yards, 3 TD
Week 7 — Amari Cooper — 5 receptions, 106 yards, 0 TD
Week 13 — DeVante Parker — 7 receptions, 159 yards, 2 TD
Week 14 — Darius Slayton — 5 receptions, 154 yards, 2 TD
Week 15 — Terry McLaurin — 5 receptions, 130 yards, 1 TD
Week 16 — Michael Gallup — 5 receptions, 98 yards, 0 TD
Wild Card — D.K. Metcalf — 7 receptions, 160 yards, 1 TD
If Slay can prevent receivers from tearing up this secondary, the Eagles’ defense could take a big step forward.
It’ll be interesting to see how Slay handles McLaurin on Sunday. He admitted that the Ohio State alumnus caught him by surprise when Washington played the Lions last year.
5. How should Washington gameplan to beat Philadelphia? Are there any particular matchups we should exploit?
The Eagles’ offensive line isn’t inspiring the most confidence in the world right now. A 38-year-old Jason Peters is back at left tackle after Andre Dillard suffered a season-ending injury. Matt Pryor will likely be making his second career NFL start against Washington either at right guard or right tackle. If Lane Johnson can’t play and it’s Pryor at tackle … I’m having nightmares of Ryan Kerrigan and/or Chase Young ripping right through him. If Johnson is able to suit up and Pryor is at guard, then that’s a spot that Washington should look to attack.
So, don’t think Washington needs to get too tricky with this. If they can dominate in the trenches, that’ll make it challenging for the Eagles’ offense to really get going. Philly could be in a bad spot if they start slow and allow Washington to tee off on Wentz.
Thanks again to Brandon Lee Gowton for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Eagles.
As of right now, Vegas has Philadelphia as 5.5 point favorites over Washington. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Philadelphia wins by more than 5 points
Philadelphia wins by 5 points or fewer
Washington wins outright
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 42.5 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
43 or more total points are scored (both sides combined)
Fewer than 43 total points are scored (both sides combined)