Now the question is: How do the Eagles open the regular season with a win at Washington?
It's one of the many questions to think about as the football routine changes. We're now in a 17-week rhythm, a cadence that doesn't change from year to year. Even with the "new normal" of COVID-19, the goal is to keep the players on the same schedule that they've always had, which leads us to …
What do the players do this week? They were off on Sunday while the coaching staff put its practice script together and started the game plan work. With a new head coach in Washington (Ron Rivera) and no preseason tape to go on, the Eagles are relying on the scheme Rivera ran in Carolina – it's familiar, with a lot of Jim Johnson, the former Eagles defensive coordinator, in the mix. Offensively, the Football Team is led by Scott Turner, who served as the interim OC with Carolina late last season. That's what the Eagles are looking at as they prepare for what Washington might do offensively.
1. Prediction of what you're going to see around the league early in the season: A lot of breakdowns along the offensive line – teams just cannot replicate all of the missed practice reps from the spring and the lack of preseason snaps – and mostly dominance from the defenses. Offenses will hit on some big plays, particularly in the passing game, against defenses that haven't been on the field all that long together. It could be sloppy early, folks, is what I'm saying.
2. Not until Wednesday will we have any sense of which on-the-border-because-of-injuries players will suit up on Sunday. We know the Eagles have a bunch of question marks, including running back Miles Sanders, right tackle Lane Johnson, and defensive linemen Derek Barnett and Javon Hargrave.
3. "We're going to get this right," Howie Roseman said of the offensive line situation decimated by injuries to right guard Brandon Brooks and left tackle Andre Dillard. The Eagles are hosting veteran Cordy Glenn, so understand that given the rules in place the process requires three days when all is said and done. We're focused on the opener for the moment, and at this instant it appears that some combination of Matt Pryor, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Jason Peters, and Lane Johnson/Jordan Mailata will line up against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Washington was already good with Ryan Kerrigan and Co., and now that the team used the second overall draft pick on Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, Washington is fueled by its front seven. How will the Eagles counter? We will talk about it more later in the week.
4. The Eagles claimed and were awarded running back Jason Huntley off of waivers from Detroit, and they see him as a dynamic player who helps in the return game and as they create mismatches in the passing game. Great in space. Explosive as a big-play threat. Interesting addition to a young running back room that doesn't have that classic "big back" in the group. Miles Sanders, who hasn't practiced in weeks, is still an injury question mark and if he can't go on Sunday, the Eagles will turn to Boston Scott and Corey Clement and, in theory, Huntley. We'll know more about Sanders' availability on Wednesday/Thursday.
5. He was here last season and we remember him for the play on the goal line in the win at Green Bay, but you may have a chance to really get to know cornerback Craig James this season. He parlayed a strong virtual offseason into a terrific Training Camp and he's a prime backup on the outside for the Eagles behind Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox, with Nickell Robey-Coleman inside. The Eagles released Cre'Von LeBlanc on Sunday afternoon, so those are the only four cornerbacks at the moment.
Of course, the big question for Sunday is this: What will the Eagles do to slow second-year wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who had 10 receptions, 255 yards, and a pair of touchdowns in two games against Philadelphia last season? We know that Big Play Slay is here to take out receivers, but will the Eagles have him shadow McLaurin? In some capacity, they need to slow down the vertical passing game that Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who went 19-of-28 for 261 yards and two touchdowns with a 121.3 passer rating in the December game against the Eagles, had success with.
6. I will leave you with this, from Howie Roseman as he met the media on Saturday following the establishment of the initial 53-man roster: "The stuff for us that's the unknown is how the team comes together, how the team deals with adversity because we will have adversity at some point in the season. I think those are the things that you learn when we start getting into games. This has been a unique Training Camp. This has been different in the fact that the team is usually together a lot more, and we're not alone in this. There are 31 other teams like this, as well.
"I think what makes a team special is the team chemistry and the team coming together to become one and that doesn't happen overnight. And so we've got to see how that comes together over the course of the year. I think that we have enough talent to be a really good team, and we have really good people on our coaching staff to help that happen, and then we'll just have to see how the season goes and how we deal with adversity and what goes on in this unique year."
7. Game on. We're finally in a game week! It feels like forever since the Eagles played a football game …