Five things we learned as the Eagles beat the Redkins 32-27
1) DJax Is Back
We’ll start with the front-and-center storyline - DeSean Jackson’s first game wearing an Eagles uniform in nearly six years. All throughout training camp, much was made about the blossoming chemistry between quarterback Carson Wentz and Jackson. Many hoped for and anticipated an early big play between the two, a QB/WR duo that once felt like it could only take place in an alternate reality. Then, with the Eagles shockingly down 17-0 nearing halftime, it happened. Wentz stepped through pressure to uncork a 51-yard touchdown to Jackson and Lincoln Financial Field came unglued. Jackson later caught another 53-yard touchdown from Wentz, which gave the Eagles their first lead of the season, 21-20. Jackson finished with 8 receptions, 154 yards, 2 touchdowns, an absolutely brilliant performance not even the most optimistic fans saw coming. Tormenting his former teams when facing them is nothing new to Jackson, and the Eagles can only hope that continues now in their favor moving forward.
2) Jackson is better than ever
While he is clearly still the deep threat everyone knows him to be, it’s not talked enough about what an improved all-around player he is from his first stint in Philadelphia. His intermediate route-running and efficiency is far improved from his first stint in Philadelphia. This kind of versatility opens up head coach Doug Pederson’s playbook both for DeSean as well as all the other weapons the Eagles possess. In addition, who would have guessed in 2011 that DeSean Jackson would someday be a locker room leader? Jackson reportedly gave the team a pep talk when trailing at halftime and numerous teammates have raved about his professionalism and leadership. His return to Philadelphia has been a home run so far for the team and the fans.
3) Wentz is back at 100%
Carson Wentz. Fully healthy on an NFL field for the first time in nearly two calendar years, Wentz overcame a sluggish start and boldly reminded everyone why he was the leading candidate for NFL MVP through 15 weeks of the 2017 season. Wentz, without his knee brace, looked and moved like his 2017 self all the way to 313 yards and 3 TD passes. However, something else was different. Consistent with what we heard out of training camp, Wentz is far more mature in this offense. He played almost entirely from the pocket and made the quick reads and progressions Pederson has raved about. He looked quick and fluid when he needed to escape, but he ran around far less than two seasons ago. This type of mastery and maturity in the Eagles offense is fantastic for both the team’s offensive production and Wentz’s long-term health.
4) Slow starters again
On to the not-so-good. Being down 17-0 late in the second quarter at home to an inferior opponent like the Washington Redskins is inexcusable. The slow start felt all too much like the 2018 Eagles, who were near the bottom of the league in first quarter points scored. While Sunday’s comeback was great, it’s not a smart thing to count on happening week-in and week-out. Doug Pederson, offensive coordinator Mike Groh, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz MUST figure out how to start games better on both sides of the football. Maybe call some running plays for Jordan Howard, or get Carson Wentz moving out of the pocket by design. Maybe send more pressure early on defense, something Schwartz isn’t known for doing. 17-point deficits won’t be overcome every week, and falling behind like that absolutely can’t happen in Atlanta next Sunday Night. It’s time to drastically change up the early-game play calling to get this team hitting the ground running.
5) Offensive line is a real strength
The Eagles’ offensive line is as good as advertised. Brandon Brooks returned to action less than 8 months after Achilles surgery - that is unheard of. Lane Johnson completely shut down Ryan Kerrigan. Jason Peters stayed in for the whole game and looked much better, one more year removed from his 2017 ACL injury. Once the comeback was on, they opened up running lanes left and right for Miles Sanders, Darren Sproles, and then Jordan Howard closing out the game. Carson Wentz was able to play mostly from the pocket and was barely touched all day. Offensive line play like Sunday will give the Eagles not just a chance to win every week, but to dominate. All-in-all, if the first 26 minutes of Sunday’s game were simply the Eagles preseason, then it should be a fun regular season ahead.