Oct 2, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) is held by Cleveland Browns defensive back Joe Haden (23) while attempting to catch a pass in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 31-20. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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The Washington Redskins have a tough matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Here is a look at some of the players to watch for the game.
The Washington Redskins are going to be playing a key divisional battle on Sunday when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins are checking into the game a half game back of the 3-1 Eagles, and a win here would put them into position to have an impact down the stretch. Of course, beating the Eagles will be no easy task. The Skins need to bring their A game on Sunday, and that may be tough.
The Eagles have one of the best defenses in the NFL. They rank third in overall yardage allowed and they will have a clear advantage if the Redskins cannot get anything going. However, the team still has some advantages going into the game. They need to exploit these advantages in order to notch their fourth straight win.
With that in mind, here is a look at five Redskins players that may be able to do that on Sunday afternoon.
Oct 9, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
5. QB Kirk Cousins
The Eagles have a terrific overall defense. They ranked second in the league against the run and sixth against the pass. As a result, the Redskins are going to have some trouble moving the ball in the game. However, the team should be able to expose some weaknesses in the Eagles secondary, and it will be Kirk Cousins’ job to do that.
Following a disappointing start to the season, Cousins has picked up his play lately and has been more impressive. He looks to be at least a solid game manager and that is a huge win for the Redskins. Against the Eagles, Cousins is going to have to lead the team, as their ground game will not be able to get going.
The biggest weakness for the Eagles is at the cornerback position. Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin are only mediocre players at this stage in their careers, so the Redskins receivers should be able to beat them. That means that there will be pressure on Cousins to make sure he puts the ball in the right spot. Given how he has performed in the last three weeks, he should be able to do that. The Redskins will at least have a chance to win if that happens.
Sep 12, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) passes the ball as Washington Redskins linebacker Preston Smith (94) rushes during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
4. LB Preston Smith
Coming into this matchup, there was some question about whether or not the Philadelphia Eagles were going to have their star right tackle, Lane Johnson, available for this game. The answer is he will not be. The tackle officially lost his appeal of a 10 game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy. His first absence will come against the Redskins.
As a result, the Eagles are going to be starting rookie tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai for the first time on Sunday. Vaitai is going to have a tough matchup against the Redskins edge rushers, as they have a trio of solid rushers. If the Eagles focus too much on Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy, as I expect them to, Preston Smith could fly under the radar.
Smith has gotten off to a slow start during the 2016 campaign. After recording eight sacks as a rookie, he has been unable to post any in his second year. Perhaps this is happening because he is losing some playing time to Murphy. Perhaps opposing teams are paying more attention to him. Whatever the reason, he should be able to play a solid game against the Eagles and Vaitai.
Smith has great athletic ability and he should be able to use his speed to beat Vaitai on the edge. If he can do that, then he should be able to notch his first sack. Regardless of what he does, he should have an impact on the game and will definitely be fun to watch.
Sep 18, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis (85) runs after a catch as Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (39) defends during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
3. TE Vernon Davis
The Redskins offense seemed to be in fine shape heading into Week 6, but then disaster struck. On Wednesday, it was reported that the team’s star tight end Jordan Reed had been placed into concussion protocol. Reed had experienced the symptoms starting on Tuesday. His status for the game against the Eagles is unclear at the moment.
While not having Reed will be bad news for the Skins, the team does have a pretty capable replacement. Vernon Davis has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts with the Redskins this year. After a couple of bad years in San Francisco and Denver, the veteran has settled into his role as the backup tight end in Washington. He is a solid receiver off the bench, and he has looked more explosive and quick this year than he had in recent memory.
If Reed is forced to miss the game, Davis’ usage will skyrocket. He could play a huge role in the offense because he can move around, and he may be able to help create mismatches. He may not be quite as good as Reed in that department, but he should still be able to use his speed to beat some of the Eagles defenders.
No matter what happens with Reed, Davis should get some extra snaps Sunday. The team should be cautious with their star. That will benefit the veteran and really allow him a chance to showcase his talent.
Sep 18, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland (26) defends a pass intended for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) in the third quarter at FedEx Field. The Cowboys won 27-23. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2. CB Bashaud Breeland
Bashaud Breeland has missed the past couple of games after injuring his ankle in the team’s Week 3 win over the Giants. Now, it appears as though he is ready to come back. He practiced in a limited basis on Wednesday and seems to be confident that he will be ready to play Sunday’s game. Breeland’s presence could be a welcome addition to the team, as he will improve a unit that is already a major strength for the team.
Though Quinton Dunbar has performed well in Breeland’s absence, Breeland is a better player right now. He was beaten up through the first couple weeks of the season, and that shook his confidence a bit. After sitting for two weeks and getting completely healthy, he should have extra motivation to prove that he can be a shutdown cornerback. Against the Eagles, he may be able to do that.
Breeland seems likely to match up against the underwhelming duo on Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff. While both are capable of making plays, neither is consistent and both can easily be erased by strong secondaries. Breeland definitely qualifies as a strong player. If he can erase either of those players and Josh Norman can take care of Jordan Matthews, then the Eagles passing attack may have trouble moving the ball.
Sunday’s game will be very important for Breeland. He is out to prove that he can be effective and that he is still healthy. The young player should be able to do that, and he may emerge as one of the league’s top No. 2 corners as a result.
Sep 25, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) catches a touchdown pass as New York Giants corner back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (41) defends during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
1. WR DeSean Jackson
There are multiple reasons why DeSean Jackson is a player to watch against the Eagles. The first is the obvious one. Jackson spent the early years of his career with the Eagles before being unceremoniously released by then head coach Chip Kelly. Reports circulated that the team was worried about Jackson being affiliated with a gang. Nothing ever came of the reports.
Jackson, angry to have been released, ended up signing with the Redskins for a chance to play against his former team twice a year. He now will get a chance to do that for the first time of the 2016 season. He may not be out for revenge as much because Kelly is gone, but he should still relish a chance to stick it to his former team.
The second reason Jackson is a player to watch is because of the Philadelphia cornerbacks. The unit as a whole lacks the speed to compete with some receivers, and Jackson is one of them. He has game breaking speed and should be able to blow by them a couple of times. He may not have best game of the Washington receivers, but he will almost certainly play with the most energy.
It would be nice to see Jackson go off in Week 6. He is a solid player who was mistreated by his former franchise. Kelly never should have let him go, and maybe that is part of the reason that he is no longer coaching for the Eagles.