Eagles look to take commanding NFC East lead
With the entire nation watching, the Philadelphia Eagles will attempt to take a commanding three-game lead in the NFC East when they host the Washington Redskins on Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles (5-1) have won four in a row and will complete a sweep of the Redskins (3-2) with another victory. Philadelphia won the season opener 30-17 at Washington.
After a hard-fought victory on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Eagles responded with a gritty 28-23 win at Carolina last Thursday night.
"It's a tremendous testament to those players in that locker room," Eagles coach Doug Pederson told reporters after the win against the Panthers. "I told them tonight after the game I haven't been part of a team that has battled through so much injury and adversity to be in the first month of the season, month and a half of the season, the resiliency of the football team started to show last year at the end of the year.
"They're learning from last year. They're learning how to finish games and just the overall consistency from the leaders leading this football team. They are sacrificing each other -- themselves for the football team. It's a fun thing to watch."
The Eagles could receive a boost against Washington with the potential return of right tackle Lane Johnson and running back Wendell Smallwood. Both players practiced Tuesday as Johnson cleared concussion protocol and the swelling subsided in Smallwood's knee.
Second-year quarterback Carson Wentz continued his stellar play against Carolina and improved his season numbers -- 126 of 207 for 1,584 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. Those statistics have vaulted him into the early conversation for the league's Most Valuable Player award.
"Having a year together with this team, under Coach, myself, everything, we're just built differently," Wentz told reporters. "We have a different character makeup in that locker room, and we just have a bunch of guys that believe that no matter the situation we can find a way to win a ballgame."
Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich was asked at his press conference Tuesday if Wentz's emergence is rare for a young player.
"Yeah, I think it's rare," Reich said. "I mean, I think those players are rare, and I think it's rare in Carson's standpoint, and obviously as confident that I feel like that's no fluke and that there's further to go down that path to go for him and that he's going to make it all the way to the end of that path, as confident as I am of that, you've still got to go out and prove it every day."
The Redskins pushed above .500 at 3-2 following a 26-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. They jumped out to a 17-0 advantage and had to rally to pull out the victory.
"Obviously, you want to close them out and put your foot on their throat, but it doesn't always work out," Redskins coach Jay Gruden told the Washington Post. "They have 46 guys on their team that are trying not to allow that to happen. They just made some plays. We made some unfortunate penalties and turnovers. The turnover was huge. You've got the ball at the 44-yard line, second and three, instead they've got the ball on your 2-yard line. It's a huge difference."
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has been quite efficient this season while completing 105 of 158 passes for 1,334 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions.
"We did a good job as an offense," Cousins told the Washington Post. "There were a lot of good decisions, a lot of good plays made, a lot of third-down conversions in big moments, a lot of crucial drives where we had to churn the clock and come away with points. So I was proud of the way our offense played today. It wasn't perfect. There were a couple of mistakes, but all in all, we did a lot of good things."
The injury bug could be a problem for the Redskins heading into this crucial matchup.
Starting cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland (knee) and Josh Norman (rib) are both questionable as is running back Rob Kelley (ankle). Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen is already out with a Lisfranc injury and he may be lost for the season.
In addition, the Redskins will feature newly signed kicker Nick Rose, who has never competed in an NFL game. He has previously been cut by the Atlanta Falcons and 49ers. Dustin Hopkins was placed on injured reserve to make room for Rose.