After an abbreviated training camp at the NovaCare Complex and no OTAs due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the Philadelphia Eagles will kick off the 2020 season on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET against the Washington Football Team.
This is the third time in four seasons that the Eagles and Washington are playing each other in Week 1. Last season, Philadelphia overcame a 17-7 first-half deficit to defeat Washington, 32-27, at Lincoln Financial Field.
However, the last time the Eagles opened up the season at FedEx Field, it was in 2017. They defeated Washington, 30-17, and ultimately went on to win Super Bowl LII.
The Eagles are hoping this season will end the same way. But first things first, they got to defeat a young and hungry Washington Football Team on Sunday afternoon.
Washington is looking to be better than were last year (3-13) under new head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera, who was surprisingly fired from Carolina last season, replaced then head coach Jay Gruden, who is now the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator.
Rivera walks into a situation where he has a young quarterback in Dwayne Haskins and a young wide receiver in Terry McLaurin, both entering their second seasons. Not to mention, he drafted standout defensive end Chase Young with the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
Those three players alone will be a point of emphasis in Sunday’s contest, let alone the rest of the season. How will the Eagles’ improved secondary defend the Haskins-McLaurin combo? Furthermore, can Philadelphia’s offense have another Week 1 outburst like they did last season?
To answer those questions and more, here are three things to watch out for in this divisional matchup:
1. The battle in the trenches
If the Eagles want to come away with the victory on Sunday, their offensive line must win the war in the trenches. For most of the summer, Philadelphia’s offensive line has been a topic of conversation.
In June, they lost All-Pro starting right guard Brandon Brooks to a torn Achilles injury. To remedy this sizable loss, the Eagles re-signed future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters to play right guard.
However, second-year left tackle Andre Dillard suffered a torn biceps injury last month, effectively ending his season. With that being said, the Eagles were put in a tough spot.
Do they leave Peters at right guard and let Matt Pryor protect Carson Wentz’s blindside? Or do they give Peters more money to go back to his natural position?
Well, to the surprise of many, Peters moved back left tackle, and the Eagles reportedly reworked his contract, which is now worth up to $8 million.
On Sunday, Peters will likely draw the fun task of defending rookie Chase Young. Meanwhile, the rest of the offensive line will have its hand full with Matt Ioannidis, Da’Ron Payne, and Ryan Kerrigan.
2. Who steps up at wide receiver?
During the offseason, the Eagles did a massive overhaul at the wide receiver position, trading for speedster Marquise Goodwin and selecting three wide receivers in the draft (J. Reagor, J. Hightower, and Q. Watkins).
Even though Goodwin will not be with the team this season as he opted out due to the coronavirus. Hightower, Reagor, and Watkins to a certain extent should play significant roles within the offense.
Speaking of Reagor, the first-round pick was diagnosed with a shoulder injury a couple of weeks and was in danger of missing the season opener.
However, he’s been a participant in practice this week and is expected to play.
Jackson missed most of last season, thanks to a core muscle injury. But he is fully healthy and ready to go. In last season’s opener, Washington’s secondary had no answer for the veteran wideout as he had eight receptions (nine targets) for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
With that being known, the 33-year-old vertical deep threat will likely draw double coverage from Washington’s secondary. Therefore, that should open up things for the rest of the wide receiver unit.
3. All eyes on Haskins
The last time the Eagles saw Haskins, he had one of his better games as a rookie.
The former Ohio State gunslinger completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 261 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. One of those touchdown passes went to McLaurin, who finished with five receptions for 130 yards.
Haskins also posted a quarterback rating of 121.3 (second-highest of the season). The 6-foot-4 quarterback followed up his Week 16 performance with a solid Week 17 outing against the New York Giants.
In that game, he completed 80 percent of his passes for 133 yards, two touchdowns, and had a quarterback rating of 143.2. Therefore, if we go by those two performances, one could make the case that Haskins is ready to break out this season.
However, not everybody is a believer in the young quarterback, hence all the mock drafts having Washington taking a quarterback. But head coach Ron Rivera believes and named him the team’s starting quarterback last week.
On Friday, the young quarterback spoke about the last year’s matchup against the Eagles and mentioned how it was the first game that he felt confident.
“That game was just me getting my feet damp,” he said (h/t John Keim of ESPN). “To make plays with my feet, calling plays in and out of the huddle, just the whole game was just my first game when I felt confident. I’m trying to build on those last two games. [It] felt a lot more comfortable, way smoother.”
The Eagles are hoping that the second-year quarterback will not duplicate his same performance from last season on Sunday because the results might be different this time around.