Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Football Team: ITB Scouting Report
The Eagles (4-10-1) will host the Washington Football Team (6-9) on Sunday night for the regular-season finale at the Linc.
Rookie Jalen Hurts will look to guide a short-handed Eagles team to victory, effectively spoiling Washington’s postseason aspirations – and perhaps their own draft position.
While the game distinctly favors Washington, particularly in the trenches, this Week 17 matchup feels like a spot where the youthful energy, exuberance, and motivation of the young Eagles come together and rally to close out the season with a narrow victory.
Eagles Offense vs. Washington’s Defense
QB Jalen Hurts: Four starts hardly offers enough data to measure a quarterback’s ceiling, yet Hurts finds himself under a microscope. While Hurts has shown he can effectively move a previously stagnant offense, his lackluster second-half performances leave much to be desired. The rookie signal-caller also must prioritize protecting the football. However, Hurts’ poise, leadership, and command of the offense have been a remarkable development. He must combat a lack of offensive playmakers and a porous offensive line, so it will be interesting to see how he responds.
WR Jalen Reagor: Although I’m not crazy about Reagor’s route-running, spatial awareness, and body language, it’s still far too early to write him off. The rookie pass-catcher can quiet the skeptics by capitalizing against a vulnerable secondary and showcasing the explosive traits that made him a first-round pick. I suspect there will be a heavy emphasis on implementing Reagor into Sunday’s game plan.
Eagles Defense vs. Washington’s Offense
LB Alex Singleton: Singleton was one of a handful of feel-good stories to emerge from the wreckage of the 2020 season. While Singleton established himself as a physical, instinctive second-level defender, questions remain of whether or not he can be an effective 16-game starter or if he best fits as a role player. With McKissic expected to see plenty of targets out of the backfield, and with tight end Logan Thomas as an explosive safety valve, Singleton will once again have his coverage skills put to the test.
S K’Von Wallace: The cries for Wallace to take on a bigger role from fans grow louder each week. If the Eagles truly want to evaluate their fourth-round rookie, he’ll get the starting nod over Grayland Arnold. Touted for his versatility, football intellect, and ball skills, Wallace played merely 139 defensive snaps in 14 games. Last week, he was out-snapped by both Epps and Arnold. With Wallace in line for his first extensive action on defense, he’ll need to showcase his progress to the coaching staff – or else adding multiple safeties to the mix in the offseason becomes another priority.
Speedy, shifty wide receiver Steven Sims handles punt return duties for Washington, and he’ll be looking to rebound from an egregious fumble that gift-wrapped six points to Carolina last week. Sims has yielded 140 yards on 22 returns this season.
Reserve cornerback Danny Johnson has taken ownership of kick returns this season, returning 25 for 551 yards (22.0 YPR).
Jalen Hurts is the second NFL QB since 1950 with 800+ passing yards (847) and 200+ rushing yards (238) in their first 4 career starts, joining Robert Griffin III with Washington in 2012 (1,070 passing, 234 rushing). Hurts is the only player in that span to record multiple games with 300+ passing yards and 50+ rushing yards within their first 4 games as a starting QB.
Brandon Graham has totaled 8.0+ sacks in consecutive seasons for the first time in his career (team-high 8.0 through Week 16). He is one of only 3 NFL players with 8+ sacks, 13+ tackles for loss and 2+ forced fumbles this season, joining T.J. Watt and Haason Reddick.
Eagles WR Quez Watkins: The last time I mentioned Watkins in this space, the rookie dazzled with a 32-yard catch-and-run that required nifty footwork and short-area quickness to find the end zone. This is a game where Watkins figures to play a season high in snaps for a better offseason evaluation, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hurts uncork a couple of deep heaves in the rookie’s direction. Despite a limited sample size, Watkins remarkably adapted to the pro level nuances late in the season and put his stamp on a more prominent role in 2021.
Washington RB J.D. McKissic: Antonio Gibson has been hampered by a toe injury, setting up ample playing time for McKissic. While the diminutive McKissic doesn’t offer the versatility or three-down ability that Gibson does, he is dynamic in space and as a receiver in the screen game. The Eagles linebackers aren’t particularly fluid in the open field, over-pursue, and lack eye discipline, so it’s likely a simple Taylor Heinicke outlet pass turns into an explosive play.
Given the Eagles’ woeful offensive line play – against perhaps the NFL’s top pass-rush unit – this could be the game where Hurts could eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark for the second time in three weeks.
With tackle Jordan Mailata (concussion) ruled out for the season finale, second-year pro Brett Toth will make his first NFL start as the Eagles’ offensive line prepares to feature yet another configuration. It’s likely that Toth, who has played 28 offensive snaps this season, will play RT tackle while Matt Pryor protects Hurts’ blindside. Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, and Nate Herbig will start at left guard, center, and right guard, respectively.
A deep and talented Washington defensive front, including first-round picks Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, and Daron Payne, should have Hurts under siege for most of the evening. The expected carnage could easily yield multiple sacks for Sweat and Young off the edge.
Young, Payne, and Sweat each registered a sack last week on Teddy Bridgewater.
Many feel the Eagles should do everything in their power to come up short this week to ensure a more desirable draft positioning. However, lying down and playing dead hasn’t been part of the team’s DNA under Doug Pederson. While the season has been an exponential disappointment on many fronts, expect a hobbled Eagles’ team to keep their foot on the gas throughout the contest, providing a lasting snapshot for team brass heading into a tumultuous offseason.
Eagles 24, Washington Football Team 23
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.