The Eagles' first NFC East showdown is quickly approaching. The undefeated Eagles host Washington this Sunday at 1 PM. Washington is coming off of its first win of the season, a 41-10 drubbing of the Jaguars. In this edition of 5 Things To Know Today, I'll delve into the emotion surrounding the return of DeSean Jackson, the X-factor for Sunday's game and how the Eagles have already won this week ...
1. Malcolm Jenkins: Trust Is The Key
The Eagles' defense was critical in Monday night's win as it kept quarterback Andrew Luck grounded while forcing two key second-half turnovers and getting a three-and-out on the Colts' final offensive drive. Safety Malcolm Jenkins has only played in two games as an Eagle, but he already senses something special about this defensive unit. During Thursday's training session, he was looking around at his defensive teammates and came to an important conclusion.
"There's nobody I don't trust in a clutch situation and that's a good feeling to have," Jenkins said. "You know guys a jelling together. Everybody's understanding everything. Everyone's invested."
Jenkins was accepted by his teammates as a leader almost instantly. He and cornerback Cary Williams were voted as the leaders of the secondary. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans has called Jenkins "the missing piece" on defense. Jenkins was a captain at Ohio State and a defensive captain with the New Orleans Saints. Jenkins explained that the seamless transition has been due in large part by how his teammates welcomed him with open arms.
"It's the guys accepting me and placing me into that role," Jenkins said.
2. Will DeSean Be Too Emotional?
While most people expect DeSean Jackson to play Sunday despite missing the first two days of practice with a shoulder injury, Friday is a key day for Jackson to prove how healthy and effective he can potentially be. Jackson has nine catches for 81 yards with no touchdowns thus far. Even head coach Jay Gruden said that Jackson has not been able to show how much damage he can do to an opposing defense yet. One concern that Gruden has for Sunday is how emotional Jackson is going to be making his return to Philadelphia.
"I just hope that after the whistle's blown that there are no altercations with the corners or the coaches or anything like that. We'll talk about that," Gruden said. "He's a very emotional guy as we all know. Sometimes talking about it before the game and seeing what happens during the game can be two different things, but we can't afford for him to get ejected - number one - and obviously we can't afford any 15-yard penalties for taunting to talking trash."
3. Awaiting Word On Kendricks' Status
The only player to miss Thursday's practice for the Eagles was inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Emmanuel Acho, Casey Matthews and Marcus Smith II have all rotated in at inside linebacker with DeMeco Ryans to prepare for Kendricks' potential absence.
"Things can change in a week's notice, in a day's notice. Obviously they did, they called on me in the last series of the Colts game," Acho said. "I had to be ready and with Mychal potentially down, you have to go out there and start and hopefully help lead your team to a win over a division opponent."
Ryans expressed confidence no matter who is alongside him come Sunday.
"Those guys (Acho and Matthews) have been playing in the system for a while, so they know what to do. They know how to get lined up. They know where they need to be. Whichever one of those guys lines up with me, I know they'll get the job done."
4. The X-Factor: Alfred Morris
The big storylines have focused on Jackson's return and Kirk Cousins taking over at quarterback for Robert Griffin III. But the key to stopping the Washington offense will be grounding running back Alfred Morris.
Morris entered this week ranked third in the league with 176 yards rushing (on a 4.9 yards per carry average) and two touchdowns. Fran Duffy did a marvelous job in the Washington preview edition of Eagle Eye in the Sky highlighting Morris' vision and how he meshes so well with the zone-blocking scheme. Give Jay Gruden credit. He did not drastically alter the run-game concepts to maximize Morris' talents.
"You've got to shut the run down first and foremost," linebacker Casey Matthews said. "He's a north-south runner. The zone scheme is a one cut and go. He just lowers his shoulders. You've got to be able to wrap him up and force turnovers."
5. EYP Honored With Legacy Award
In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation presented the Legacy Award and $10,000 to Eagles Youth Partnership on Thursday.
Eagles Youth Partnership was the inaugural winner of the Patterson Award in 2005. Since that time, organizations across the world have sought their assistance as a model philanthropic organization and their programming has grown to include Give Kids Sight Day which administers free eye screenings and, if needed, two free pairs of eyeglasses to uninsured children. This event is built upon the success of Eagles Eye Mobile and is indicative of how the EYP continues to address the needs of their community.
"Our mission is to level the playing field for children," said Christina Weiss Lurie, president Eagles Youth Partnership, Eagles Social Responsibility. "Our signature programs, the Eagles Eye Mobile and Eagles Book Mobile, are out in our communities every single day working to make comprehensive vision care and literacy programs accessible to these children. Critical services like these, among others, will continue to strengthen us as a community. This award will help us move this program forward once again and it is an honor to have this work recognized."