3 Standouts: Some Eagles Shined In Loss
The Eagles stunningly dropped their season opener, surrendering 27 unanswered points to the Washington Football Team through turnovers and largely inadequate play in a 27-17 loss in Landover, Md.
While the team closely resembled the Eagles of old in the second half, rather than the explosive, fast-flowing team poised to be regarded among the elite, some silver linings emerged from the wreckage.
Here are three standouts from the game:
DT Malik Jackson
When Jackson inked a three-year, $30 million deal in 2019, many expected an early return on the investment. However, Jackson’s season lasted just one game before his promising campaign ended prematurely due to a Lisfranc injury.
Committed to bolstering the trenches, the Eagles signed 27-year-old Javon Hargrave to a lucrative free-agent deal in March to play alongside Fletcher Cox. The signing relegated Jackson to a rotational role.
Jackson made his long-awaited resurgence Sunday and was part of an active defensive line that helped spearhead a tremendous first-half start. The stat sheet only credited Jackson with two tackles, but the veteran was routinely disruptive, using his hands effectively, and pushing the pocket.
Given the team’s current spate of injuries, they might have to rely on the defensive front to keep them in games – and Jackson figures to be a key component.
CB Avonte Maddox
The highly anticipated No. 2 cornerback battle that was expected to headline training never materialized. Instead, Sidney Jones spent much of camp on the mend while Maddox ran away with the starting job.
Though hardly the flashy choice due to his diminutive stature, Maddox stood tall in his first test of the season.
The 5-foot-9 cornerback drew veteran receiver Dontrelle Inman in coverage for much of the afternoon and diligently carried out his assignment. While the Washington offense caught fire in the second half, Inman was held in check. The journeyman yielded just two receptions for 21 yards on the afternoon.
Maddox, who produced four tackles in Sunday’s loss, looked extremely fluid in coverage. The third-year cornerback displayed a textbook match-and-mirror technique, closed on the ball quickly and remained disciplined against a crafty veteran.
Maddox has previously struggled to defend big-bodied receivers, so it was encouraging to see him demonstrate consistency while everything around him seemed to unravel.
S Rudy Ford
Ford’s third phase blunders from a season ago were still fresh in Eagles fans’ minds when he made the roster, drawing ire and criticism. However, Ford wasted little time redeeming himself in his first game back from a late-season abdomen injury.
While the special teams unit appeared to have its hands full containing the elusive Steven Sims Jr., who averaged 25.6 yards per kick return as a rookie, Sims never got a chance to run one back.
Ford, a special teams stalwart, might not have had a chance to prove his worth on kickoffs, but he made his presence felt on punt coverage. As a gunner, Ford was often the first player down the field. Sims yielded just 17 yards on five punt returns.
Whether he was clogging return lanes or dropping Sims for a minimal pickup, Ford was an unsung hero on Sunday.
-Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network.