The Eagles had teased the Carson Wentz to DeSean Jackson connection throughout training camp. They posted videos titled “Give The People What They Wanna See” and showcased the two hooking up on deep balls.
In the season-opening win over Washington — a 32-27 victory that was more lopsided than the score would indicate, at least in the second half — the Eagles put that connection on full display for all the world to see. Wentz hit Jackson on game-breaking touchdowns of 51 and 53 yards to begin a streak of 25 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters. From there, the rout was on.
Yes, the offense stalled early and drew a bevy of boos from the Philly faithful as the team jogged off the field after the first half. Head coach Doug Pederson told his team to “get your shit together” and everything changed.
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Eagles-Redskins: Six Key Takeaways
1. Carson Wentz Back to MVP Form
The one question everyone wanted answered was which version of Wentz would we see in 2019. The MVP-caliber quarterback from 2017? Or the injury-riddled guy who tried to do too much in 2018? It’s a small sample size, at one game, but the MVP appears to be back. Wentz went 28-of-39 for 313 yards and three touchdowns after a rocky start against Washington. He was fiery — the pre-game cameras caught him saying “We’re the best in the league. Believe that.” — and he was on target. Wentz hit eight different receivers and even scrambled for five yards. His passer rating was 121.0, the highest since Oct. 23, 2017.
2. DeSean Jackson Adds New Dimension
Jackson’s ability to stretch the football field — whether as a decoy or legitimate pass option — can’t be duplicated. It adds an entirely new dimension to the Eagles’ offense. He slipped past Redskins corner Josh Norman to get the party started on a 51-yard score to cut the deficit to 17-7, then completely outran the entire secondary a few series later to make it 21-20. He did it all while wearing fresh new cleats honoring the late rapper Nipsey Hussle. Jackson is going to be keeping opposing defensive coordinators up late all year.
3. Too Much Darren Sproles
Look, the 35-year-old veteran is one of the nicest guys in the league. Probably a future Hall of Famer. He doesn’t need nine carries. It was vintage Sproles on that nifty two-point conversion where he fooled every linebacker wearing burgundy. But it was tough to watch him dominate the backfield workload on the first few series, not when Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders were on the bench. The Eagles need to figure out how to spread the touches around a bit better. Howard was averaging seven yards per carry, while Sanders broke a touchdown that was called back. These two need to be featured as the NFL’s new thunder-and-lightning duo.
4. Bringing the Pressure
The Eagles pass-rush was another thing that looked to be an Achilles heel. They started slow, then went to work. The trio of Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox combined for 21 quarterback pressures and instilled the fear of God in Case Keenum. They were great once the Eagles got the lead, but made some mistakes prior. Barnett incurred two horrible offsides penalties, one resulted in a Redskins touchdown and the other a field goal. The group registered zero sacks despite all the hurries.
5. The Secondary Needs Help
The biggest concern from this game was the lack of consistency in the secondary. The Redskins easily moved the chains on the Eagles in the first half. The Eagles started Rasul Douglas over Sidney Jones in a somewhat surprising move and it didn’t work. Douglas got beat for two touchdowns, including getting absolutely toasted on a 69-yard strike to rookie Terry McLaurin. Not a good sign against one of the worst receiving units in football. Douglas was eventually replaced by Jones. The Eagles also were lackadaisical in their tackling, none worse than Andrew Sendejo’s weak attempt at stopping a hurdling Vernon Davis. The offense is going to have to score in bunches every week to mask the flaws of this secondary.
6. Miles Sanders Has Arrived
So the rookie out of Penn State only had 25 yards on 11 carries. Why are we crowning him the next big thing? It was the way he did the little things. He expertly diagnosed and picked up two linebacker blitzes, including a big one that led to a nine-yard completion to Dallas Goedert. Sanders showed the perfect amount of “shake and bake” that made him a preseason favorite. He was robbed of a touchdown, too, after a ticky-tack holding call on J.J. Arcega-Whiteside reversed it. Sanders should be the feature back.