ITB Scouting Report: Eagles vs. Washington Football Team
Ron Rivera became Washington’s 30th head coach on New Year’s Day, tasked with steering the perennial NFC East cellar dweller toward relevance.
The long-time Panthers coach will be accompanied on Sunday in the season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field iby former Panthers quarterbacks coach Scott Turner and veteran defensive mind Jack Del Rio, who will head the offensive and defensive units, respectively.
Washington has assembled arguably the strongest and deepest defensive line in football, which should keep them in games. However, without much to speak of in terms of established playmakers on the offensive side, a lot will be asked of second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
The Eagles are coming off a disappointing playoff loss, with an eye toward returning to prominence. The team placed an emphasis on speed over the offseason and now has a balanced offense equipped with big-play potential and the ability stretch defenses vertically.
Defensively, the retooled secondary finally features an elite cover man in Darius Slay, along with one of the top slot defenders in football, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and an intriguing blend of talent at safety. While the second level remains uninspiring, the defensive line should be a strength once again. The unit boasts a promising contingent of edge rushers and the top defensive tackle trio in football.
Eagles To Watch On Offense
LT Jason Peters: Peters graded out fairly well last season, but between his advanced age of 38 years old and spending the summer learning a new position, it’s fair to expect some early rustiness. Although the veteran could face off against rookie Chase Young, his reaction time and ability to mirror the twitchy pass rusher could be a deciding factor in the outcome.
WR Greg Ward Jr.: Ward will match up often against talented second-year cornerback Jimmy Moreland, who compares favorably in size to Ward. Moreland is a tough, hard-nosed defender with outstanding click-and-close ability. Ward developed a rapport with Carson Wentz last season and served as a security blanket thanks in large part to his terrific spatial awareness and nuance as a route runner. Between the lack of game reps with his new-look receiving corps and the relentless Washington pass rush, Wentz may look to Ward early and often.
Eagles To Watch On Defense
NCB Nickell Robey-Coleman: Robey-Coleman draws a tough first assignment in Steven Sims Jr., Washington’s second-year receiver who caught 34 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. Sims Jr. is a gifted route runner and slippery after the catch. He can benefit from the added attention on Terry McLaurin. While Robey-Coleman is among the best nickel cornerbacks in football, he will need to stay in Sims’ hip pocket.
LB Nathan Gerry: While Washington lacks offensive playmakers, two of its best reside in the offensive backfield. Running backs J.D. McKissic and rookie Antonio Gibson were singled out by new offensive coordinator Scott Turner as players he plans to exploit through creative scheming. Both players boast blistering speed and plus receiving ability, so look for Turner to capitalize on 1-on-1 matchups. This could isolate Nathan Gerry in coverage, a facet of his game that has yielded uneven results against quicker players.
The Eagles managed to retain many of their core special teams performers from a season ago, and it will take a collective effort to bottle-up the elusive Steven Sims Jr, who averaged 25.6 yards per kick return in 2019. Pay close attention to S Rudy Ford and CB Craig James, the two gunners on punt coverage.
Carson Wentz is 5-0 record against Washington since the start of 2017. He has completed 69.2% of his passes for 1,460 yards (292.0 per game), 14 touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 111.1 passer rating.
The Eagles have won each of their last six games against Washington. They are 14-9 (.609) all-time at FedEx Field.
Washington WR Steven Sims Jr.: Sims is a crafty route salesman who has a knack for finding the soft spot in zone. He can beat defenses vertically but is best on the move in space. While the Eagles will likely try everything to ensure Terry McLaurin doesn’t torment the secondary again, look for Sims to find success.
Eagles RB Boston Scott: Miles Sanders could be on a pitch count Sunday, which means Scott could be called upon for an expanded workload. With the ferocious Washington pass rush expected to push the pocket and clog running lanes, look for the Eagles to counter by taking advantage of Scott’s receiving prowess.
The new-look Washington defensive front transitions under Jack Del Rio from 3-4 to a 4-3 alignment, which best utilizes pass rushers Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan, who played out of position under the previous regime.
Under Del Rio, expect to see a much more aggressive, calculated pass rush approach than recent years. In addition to the complexity, the pass rush should include a higher frequency of stunts, which could confuse an Eagles’ offensive line that was in a state of constant flux throughout training camp.
With Jason Peters spending the summer months at right guard, questions remain about his durability at tackle against athletic speed rushers. The same could be said for rookie Jack Driscoll, who could potentially earn his first NFL appearance if Lane Johnson can’t go.
The Final Score
Washington’s formidable defensive line rotation will limit the Eagles’ ability to execute on offense, but Washington lacks the weaponry to keep pace when it inevitably falls behind. Eagles will pull away late.
– Eagles 24, Washington 16