This one is going to be a whole new ballgame, literally. When the Eagles kick off against Washington on Sunday at FedEx Field, they know they're going to be facing a WFT that will bear little resemblance to the team that played at Lincoln Financial Field a couple of Tuesdays ago. That Washington team started a quarterback, Garrett Gilbert, who had been with the team for only a handful of days. That Washington team had nearly two dozen players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
This Washington team is more complete from a personnel standpoint. Taylor Heinicke returns to play quarterback, with Kyle Allen as the No. 2. Both were out in the first meeting between the teams. Right guard Brandon Scherff, one of the best in the league, is going to start. The defense will have some key players back. Also, Washington is smarting after a 56-14 loss on Sunday night to Dallas, so Head Coach Ron Rivera will spend the week reminding his players that Washington is a much better football team than that.
And they are better than that. Washington won the NFC East last season and nearly defeated eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay in the playoffs. The WFT has had a season rife with injuries and COVID-related illness, with a few bad bounces and some close losses that add to a 6-9 record. But we know what this game is all about because we've been here before: In this topsy-turvy NFC East, the records don't mean a thing.
"We know this is a good football team and they're going to have Heinicke back there at quarterback. He's a proven player in this league," safety Rodney McLeod said. "They will run similar plays to what they ran against us two weeks ago, but I think with Heinicke there, it will be more efficient. He gives that entire offense a lot more confidence and I expect their best come Sunday no matter what happened last Sunday or the last time we played them. We have to be at our best."
The Eagles gained 238 yards on the ground when the teams met in South Philadelphia, but the defense missed most of its front and much of its secondary. Washington has a physical defense led by what it does at the line of scrimmage, so, yeah, it's going to be a new beginning, if you will. Don't even think about what has happened in the past.
It doesn't apply for Sunday.
"As far as talent-wise and abilities over the past years, when you see the guys they have on their D-line, it's one of the better D-lines we have (to play)," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "So, schematically, we may have had a good game plan, but I think they're going to do stuff (this time) to stop that. As far as inside with (defensive tackle Jonathan) Allen, (defensive tackle Daron) Payne, (defensive tackle Matt) Ioannidis, you've got (Montez) Sweat on the edge, (Casey) Toohill, different guys coming back, they have a superior, talented D-line.
"Going into this game, I just try to erase what happened because I think we're going to see the very best of them this week."
That means the Eagles have to be at their best to come away with a win at FedEx Field, which should have a decidedly pro-Eagles feel to it. Eagles fans are in a happy place these days and they travel well all the time, so it may be the perfect synergy for a home-game feel on the road this Sunday. Philadelphia will accept any love it can get on the road, for sure.
"Going into the last game, we were prepared for pretty much anything," linebacker T.J. Edwards said. "We didn't know who we were going to see at quarterback and other positions. Going into this Sunday, again, we're taking that same approach in terms of trying to prepare for everything that we can, knowing that we're going to get their best shot, no matter what. Knowing that they've got a lot of good skill (players), knowing that they've got a really good front in terms of their offensive line, and so we know we're going to have to play our best ball. They're a tough, scrappy team and they're a really good football team and they're prideful. They play the right way, so we know that they're going to give us everything.
"It's our job to be ready for it and to match that intensity."