The 2019 regular season is upon us! The Eagles host the Washington Redskins this Sunday at 1 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field (FOX, SportsRadio 94WIP). Check out our extensive game preview for the storylines to watch, insight into the opponent, key statistics, and a scouting report.
1. DeSean Jackson's return to Philadelphia
Dave Spadaro documented Jackson's journey back to where his NFL career began so perfectly in our Gameday Magazine cover story. There will be a lot of emotions for Jackson as well as Eagles fans who never wanted to see him go in 2014. The Lincoln Financial Field crowd will be rocking. Jackson brings an element to the offense that was missing in 2018.
"I'm so happy to be embraced by the team and by the fans," Jackson said. "It's special to be wanted. This is where I belong. It's great to be back."
2. Carson Wentz looks to put the past behind him
The franchise quarterback, armed with a long-term contract extension, is healthy both from a physical standpoint and a mental one entering his fourth NFL season. Carson Wentz has seen his last two seasons derailed by injury. Wentz took part in all of spring and Training Camp practices as he looks to get back to the MVP form of the 2017 campaign. He is "excited" to see all of his hard work come to fruition.
"I think everyone's really excited because we know we have a lot of talent, we know we have the ability to do something special, but it's going to take us executing, putting it together on the field," Wentz said. "So that's really the word I for me personally, and for this whole thing."
3. Many happy returns
The final injury report will be revealed later on Friday afternoon, but head coach Doug Pederson indicated that players such as defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and cornerback Ronald Darby, who didn't play in the preseason due to injury, will be good to go in some capacity for the game. In fact, six of the projected 11 starters on defense are coming back from injury (linebacker Nigel Bradham, defensive end Derek Barnett, Cox, Darby, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, and safety Rodney McLeod). The only one who won't play is Grugier-Hill, who suffered a knee injury in Training Camp. Will any of the players be on a snap count? How quickly will the defense jell after not getting any preseason reps?
4. How will Eagles incorporate all of their weapons?
Wentz returns with two new receivers in Jackson and second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and two new running backs in Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders. Wentz has an extremely talented supporting cast. Now that the Eagles are gameplanning, what will head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh showcase in the opener against a stout Washington defense?
All about Washington
Washington finished the 2018 season with a 7-9 record, including two losses to the Eagles. They averaged 17.6 points per game last year, which was the fourth fewest in the National Football League.
A major reason for these subpar numbers was the inconsistency at quarterback. After losing both Alex Smith and Colt McCoy to leg injuries two weeks apart last year, these setbacks proved too difficult to overcome. Fast forward to the present day and Smith and McCoy are still not one-hundred percent ready to go. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden named Case Keenum the starting quarterback after the third preseason game.
Keenum landed in Washington after being traded by the Denver Broncos this past offseason. During the 2018 season, Keenum started all 16 regular-season games for the first time in his career. He finished his only season in Denver with an 81.2 quarterback rating, throwing for 3,890 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Keenum is eager to lead the Redskins as he returns to Lincoln Financial Field for the first time since the 2017 NFC Championship Game, when he was the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.
The Redskins' strongest position group is the defensive line, led by first-round picks from Alabama, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Allen started all 16 games as a defensive end, recording 61 total tackles (35 solo), 11 tackles for loss, and eight sacks. Payne had a standout rookie season last year. He posted 35 tackles (14 solo) with five sacks, three passes defensed, eight quarterback hurries, six tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in 2018.
The infusion of youth up front on defense is complemented by edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who has posted 37 sacks over the past three seasons. On the back end, cornerback Josh Norman has some help in the form of a former NFC East rival in safety Landon Collins. Washington signed Collins away from the Giants with a massive six-year contract in free agency. Collins was named to the Pro Bowl in each of the past three seasons in New York.
On the other side of the ball, the Redskins have an extremely talented running back group. Adrian Peterson enters his 12th year in the NFL, showing no signs of slowing down. In the 2018 season, he recorded the longest touchdown run in Redskins history with a 90-yard burst against the Eagles. Peterson closed the season ranked eighth all time in rushing yards (13,318), fourth in yards per game (89.4), and tied for fifth with Jim Brown on the all-time list for rushing touchdowns (106).
Along with Peterson, Chris Thompson is known for his stellar performances against the Eagles. In the last matchup between the two teams, Thompson led the Redskins in both receiving and rushing yards. His presence on third down is crucial for Washington's success on offense. The final weapon in that position group is Derrius Guice, who made a name for himself this summer. The 2018 second-round pick enters the season healthy after suffering a torn ACL in Training Camp last year.
With the Redskins coming off a losing season, they are hoping the new additions and talented returning players will help propel them to a successful year. This first game will help determine the competition in the NFC East and what is expected for the rest of the season.
– Olivia Schaller
By the numbers
.769 – Including playoffs, Philadelphia has recorded the second-best home winning percentage (.769, 20-6) in the NFL since 2016, trailing only New England (.862, 25-4).
108.1 – Over the last two seasons (3 games), Carson Wentz has registered a 108.1 passer rating against the Redskins (68.0%, 293.7 ypg, 8 TDs, 3 INTs).
2.24 – Since 2017, Wentz averages 2.25 touchdown passes per game, the second-best rate in the NFL behind only Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs (2.94).
116 – In 2018, Zach Ertz set the NFL record for receptions (team-record 116) by a TE, surpassing the previous mark of 110 by Jason Witten in 2012.
15.8 – The Eagles have allowed the fewest points per game (15.8) at home in the NFL since 2016 (including playoffs), marking their best three-year mark at LFF.
10.5 – Fletcher Cox led the team with a career-high 10.5 sacks in 2018, which are the most by an Eagles DT since Andy Harmon in 1995 (11.0).
9-2 – Philadelphia has won 9 of its last 11 season openers including all three with Doug Pederson as the head coach, tying both Denver and New England for the most opening day wins in the NFL since 2008.
– John Gonoude
QB Case Keenum
"He's a good quarterback. He understands who he is. He's a very persistent and efficient thrower." – S Rodney McLeod
RB Derrius Guice
"He's got some power to him. Appears to have some multidimensional skills. They're a big zone stretch team. It looks like he can run that play for them. After that, he's got some ability in the passing game, but they limited his touches in the preseason games. We'll be ready for him." – Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz
"A tremendous running back. He's a big, powerful guy, a guy we liked coming out." – Head coach Doug Pederson
LB Ryan Kerrigan
"He's a rolling ball of butcher blades. This guy is a heck of a player in all phases. Run game, he certainly creates and generates a pass rush. We have to be very conscious of where he is at. Heck of a player. High motor. He's smart. You're not going to fool him on a lot of stuff. He's one of those guys that we certainly spend time talking about. We want to make sure we got the right guys on him." – Offensive coordinator Mike Groh
"He's one of the best out there, and maybe the best. At least, that's the way I see it," Johnson said on Monday as the team returned to the NovaCare Complex after a weekend off and took part in a short practice as they began their week of preparation for Sunday's first game of the regular season. "The guy is relentless and has all the tools. I love playing against him. If I'm not at my best, he's going to get the better of me." – T Lane Johnson