The Washington Redskins’ 2012 draft class was highlighted by the selection of first-round pick Robert Griffin III.
The importance of fourth-round selection Kirk Cousins grows with each passing week and each new injury, the latest of which could put Cousins in line for the majority of the team’s quarterback duties in 2014.
Cousins will start his fifth NFL game Sunday in Philadelphia as the Eagles try for their first 3-0 start since 2004.
Griffin is out indefinitely after dislocating his ankle in last Sunday’s 41-10 win over Jacksonville, which also saw wide receiver DeSean Jackson exit with a Grade 1 sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder. Jackson, though, said he expects to return to Philadelphia in uniform after being cut by the Eagles in late March and signing with the Redskins (1-1) a few days later.
"I felt I put it out on the line for them when I played there and I’ve done what I’ve done to help that organization win games, so as far as if they congratulate me, if they boo me – whatever the case may be – I’m ready for whatever it is," Jackson told the team’s official website. "If it’s all on me, I’m playing. I don’t plan on missing this game."
The Eagles’ focus might be on not missing the first half. A 30-27 last-second win in Indianapolis last Sunday made Philadelphia the first team in NFL history to overcome double-digit halftime deficits in a 2-0 start.
"No one should be patting themselves on the back anywhere," said coach Chip Kelly, whose team has totaled six first-half points. "We’re fortunate to be 2-0. We’ve done a great job of coming back in both games, but there is a lot of work in every aspect of the game that we need to work on. So that’s the great thing about this group, they understand that."
Nick Foles has led both comebacks with the latest being a 21-for-37 effort with 331 yards, though he threw his second interception to match his 13-game total from last season.
"We really need to get things going," Foles said. "There’s a lot of stuff that, even though we won like we did, there’s a lot of stuff to improve on. That’s the exciting thing for us, we need to improve."
Foles’ emergence from behind Michael Vick last year could give Washington hope for Cousins to follow suit.
After Griffin’s early exit last Sunday, Cousins went 22 of 33 for 250 yards with two touchdowns despite being without Jackson and tight end Jordan Reed, who missed the game with a hamstring injury and has yet to return to practice.
Coach Jay Gruden looks at the shift as a team adjustment rather than one individual’s responsibility.
"We were trying not to make this about Robert when Robert was the quarterback," Gruden said. "We’re going to try not to make this about Kirk now that Kirk’s the quarterback. We’ve got to make this about the Redskins moving forward."
After putting up promising rookie numbers, Cousins took a step back last season, completing just 52.3 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and seven interceptions in three starts and two relief efforts. All three starts ended in losses, though Washington’s playoff hopes had already slipped away.
"If we’re comparing last season, the last three games to right now, certainly it’s different," Cousins said. "Much earlier in the season, with a lot more to play for, and I think that creates a heightened sense of urgency."
The defense certainly provided plenty of support against the Jaguars, surrendering 148 total yards. Washington’s 234.5 average is the best in the NFL while its 13.5 points allowed average ranks fourth.
It’s likely Philadelphia will pose a more substantial test, but Washington will also be welcoming back Brandon Meriweather. The strong safety has completed a two-game suspension for an illegal hit in the preseason.
"I’m tremendously ecstatic," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "I’m just excited to have his attitude out there on the field back, the way he prepares, the preparation and we’re all comfortable with each other."
The Eagles may be without one of their top defensive playmakers after linebacker Mychal Kendricks suffered a calf injury Monday. Kendricks leads Philadelphia in tackles with 13, has one of the team’s three sacks and three of the team’s five quarterback hurries. If he cannot go, he’ll be replaced by either Casey Matthews or Emmanuel Acho.
The Eagles are 9-1 in regular-season contests since Nov. 3, averaging NFL bests of 33.0 points and 437.7 total yards. While they’re 5-0 at home in that span, Washington has dropped seven straight on the road.
Philadelphia won both meetings a season ago with LeSean McCoy running for 261 yards and three scores, but he’s not the only running back who should now concern the Redskins.
Offseason acquisition Darren Sproles accounted for nearly half of Foles’ passing last Sunday with 152 yards on seven receptions. For the second straight week, he ran for a TD and averaged 6.5 yards per carry.