By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – DeSean Jackson had Sunday’s date circled on his calendar
months ago. Injured shoulder or not, the new Washington Redskins receiver will
be out for revenge against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Whether they didn’t want to pony up the cash or grew tired of Jackson’s
alleged antics in the locker room, the Eagles opted to release their best wide
receiver and the Redskins soon came calling.
Jackson and many others were miffed as to why the Eagles, whose offense is
predicated on speed and talent, would cut a former Pro Bowl player. He was the
reason why Riley Cooper had such a great 2013 season with Jeremy Maclin done
for the year with a knee injury.
Now Jackson is stretching the field and keeping defenses honest with
Washington, but did suffer a shoulder injury in last Sunday’s 41-10 rout of
the Jacksonville Jaguars. The win stopped a nine-game losing streak dating
back to last season.
Jackson played his first six seasons in the league with Philadelphia and
finished with 1,332 yards and nine touchdown catches last year. Jackson, a
three-time Pro Bowl selection, is ready to roll against his former teammates
“I pride myself on not missing any games and preparing myself any and every
way I can go out there and help my team,” Jackson said. “So when it comes time
for the game, I’m going to do everything I can to get myself prepared and
Redskins first-year head coach Jay Gruden said it all depends on Jackson’s
full range of motion with the shoulder. Gruden will not put one of his top
receivers on the field in pain and said Jackson is not worth putting out there
on the field if he’s not 100 percent.
Jackson has expressed his delight with the Redskins and it will be all
business on Sunday at the Linc, his former stomping grounds. In six years with
the Eagles, Jackson had several memorable moments and racked up 356 receptions
for 6,117 yards and 32 TDs. He had three rushing touchdowns and four on punts.
“My focus is more here, on this locker room, doing what we need to do to win a
football game,” Jackson said. “I’m not here to be buddy-buddy, and I want to
win games for this football team here. Once game time comes, I could care less
about anything else. Burgundy and gold are my colors now, and that’s all I’m
going to focus on, that’s all I’m going to worry about.”
The Redskins are definitely worried about the status of franchise quarterback
Robert Griffin III and his dislocated ankle. Griffin will not play Sunday and
could be out for some time. The oft-injured former Heisman Trophy winner was
being defended by Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny when his foot got caught
in the ground. RG3 had to be carted off the field.
“It is not a fracture and we’ll know in a few more weeks as far as how long
he’ll be out,” Gruden said. “We’re going to send his results of the MRI to Dr.
Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist, and get it casted up and then we’ll
just go from there.”
Gruden has no choice but to send Kirk Cousins under center Sunday. Cousins,
who started over RG3 at the end of last season, completed 22-of-33 passes for
250 yards with a pair of touchdown passes, and even started a mini QB
controversy in training camp. Cousins brings more of a pocket-passer style to
the Redskins, whereas Griffin makes a lot happen with his feet when the
defense has tight coverage.
Cousins is not only auditioning to be a starter for the Redskins, but also
around the league if the team opts to send Griffin back to the field when
healthy. And that won’t be for a few weeks at the least. Gruden spent several
years coaching Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and drew
similarities between Dalton and Cousins.
“He is a very similar guy to Andy,” Gruden said. “They both wear rubber rings
on their ring finger, you know, but they’re quarterbacks. They’re drop-back
quarterbacks and they’re both very good, competitive, smart players.”
AT least Cousins has running back Alfred Morris to help soften the blow.
Morris has recorded 85 yards or more on the ground in both games this season
with a pair of TD runs. He has 10 100-yard rushing games in his career.
Much like the Redskins, the Eagles will begin NFC East play Sunday and needed
two second-half surges to be at 2-0. In Week 1 versus Jacksonville, the Eagles
erased a 17-0 halftime deficit for a 34-17 win, then came back to defeat the
Indianapolis Colts, 30-27, on Monday night.
LeSean McCoy ran for 79 yards and a score on 20 carries, while Eagles newcomer
Darren Sproles racked up 26 yards rushing and a score to go along with 152
yards on seven receptions in the comeback victory.
“It’s good to come back and win,” McCoy said. “Everything is not always going
to be great. There are going to be times when we’ll need to come back. That’s
what championship teams do. They’re teams that will fight back and win. That’s
what we’re doing every game. We’re fighting and clawing to win.”
Chip Kelly’s offense leads the league in yards per game (439.0) and is second
in passing yards (303.0). Sproles is a major contributor to those numbers and
was just named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. The quiet Sproles ranks sixth
in the NFL with 263 yards from scrimmage.
The Eagles have outscored opponents by a 58-10 count in the second half, and
are the first team in NFL lore to start 2-0 after trailing by 14 or more
points in the second half of each game. And don’t forget about quarterback
Nick Foles. Foles outdueled Colts QB Andrew Luck and threw for 331 yards and a
touchdown, marking his second-straight 300-yard game and sixth of his career.
“Andrew’s an outstanding quarterback, an outstanding leader, and he will be
for as long as he wants to play this game,” Foles said. “That was a great team
win tonight. I love playing against Andrew. I know what type of guy he is.”
Foles will try to lead the Eagles to their first 3-0 start since the magical
run of 2004, when they started 7-0 and reached the Super Bowl.
The Redskins lost both meetings with the Eagles last season, but lead the all-
time series, 81-73-6. Washington hasn’t won an NFC East opener since 2010 and
has lost five of the last seven matchups with Philadelphia.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Eagles will arguably face their most difficult task of the young 2014
season with Washington’s hungry defense on the prowl. The Redskins made minced
meat of Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, sacking him 10 times, including four
from linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
Henne is not swift-footed and neither is Foles. It could get ugly on Sunday
for the Eagles QB, who doesn’t have a few starters on the offensive line.
Kerrigan hopes to continue his QB surge and tied the record for most sacks by
a Redskin in a single game.
“When we started racking up those sacks in the first half (Sunday), we kind of
thought this was going to be a good day for us,” Kerrigan said. “When the
offense was moving the ball like they were and we were getting off the field
on third down, we knew this was going to be a great win for the Redskins.”
Kerrigan continued about Washington’s defense.
“We feel with the pass-rush that we have (with) guys like Hatch (defensive end
Jason Hatcher”, ‘Rak (linebacker Brian Orakpo), myself, (linebacker) Trent
(Murphy), we feel like we can win a lot of one-on-one matchups in this league
and that’s what it comes down to … guys beating blockers and getting to the
Orakpo has 3 1/2 sacks in last three meetings with the Eagles.
The Redskins lead the NFL in sacks (10), total net yards allowed (234.5) and
least yards allowed per play on first-down plays (2.93).
Philadelphia will try to counter Washington with its high-powered offense, but
has some concerns with its defense. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks suffered a
calf injury Monday night and his status for Sunday is day-to-day. Kendricks is
known for his speed and ability to cover all sides of the field. Casey
Matthews and Emmanuel Acho have filled in at practice while Kendricks rests.
If either Matthews or Acho is starting Sunday, look for Cousins to take
advantage with his tight ends and Morris out of the backfield.
After the dust settles from the hype of Jackson returning to south Philly, the
Eagles will do what they do best offensively and won’t need a second-half
comeback for its first 3-0 start in 10 years. Look for a heavy load from McCoy
and Kelly to test Washington’s amped-up defense from the jump. Cousins will
keep the Redskins competitive for about 3 1/2 quarters, but will ultimately
lose in his 2014 debut as Washington’s starting quarterback.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Eagles 33, Redskins 24