Eagles at Redskins: Our (cough) expert predictions

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Eagles at Redskins: Our (cough) expert predictions

After picking up their first win of the season last week, the Eagles head to Landover, Maryland, for an NFC East battle with the Washington Redskins (see scouting report).

Will Sam Bradford finally break out? Will the Eagles get their second win? Our experts give their predictions:

Reuben Frank (0-3)
There are a lot of similarities between these two teams. Shaky quarterback, decent run defense, inconsistent offense. Both are 1-2. The Redskins run the ball better, the Eagles are stronger against the pass. Neither has proven it's very good. So consider this more of a statement against the Eagles than a statement for the Redskins.

Until the Eagles put together a complete game on both sides of the football, I can't pick them to win on the road. If this game were at the Linc, I'd pick the Eagles. Against this Washington secondary, Sam Bradford should have a big game. But until he does actually have a big game, it's all a projection. I think it's a 17-13 game either way, and am going Washington only because the game is in Landover.

Redskins 17, Eagles 13

Derrick Gunn (0-3)
I don't trust Sam Bradford and I certainly don't trust Kirk Cousins. Sloppy field conditions could make for a turnover fest. The Eagles run defense is the best in the league, allowing 3.1 YPC, but the Redskins' run D is not to shabby allowing just 3.6 YPC.

The 'Skins have two bruising backs in Alfred Morris, who averages 4.1 YPC, and rookie Matt Jones with a 5.3 YPC. I'm interested in seeing if Ryan Mathews can find success on the ground similar to what he did in the first half against the Jets. I feel more comfortable about the Birds' secondary than I do the Redskins' because I believe the Eagles' D will force more turnovers than the 'Skins' D. I'm leaning the Eagles' way in this one.

Eagles 20, Redskins 17

Ray Didinger (0-3)
This should follow the same script as last Sunday's game with the Jets. Last Sunday the Eagles shut down the Jets' ground game and forced Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw and throw and throw — 58 times in all. Result: Three interceptions, four turnovers in all and an Eagles victory. If the defense is once again stout against the run — and Washington will definitely try to run it — Kirk Cousins will be chucking the ball around and that's bad news for Jay Gruden. 

Also, Washington is lousy on special teams. It already has allowed a punt return for a touchdown and had another punt blocked. I can see the Eagles making a big play here as well.

Eagles 20, Redskins 13

John Gonzalez (1-2)
It occurs to me that if I pick the Eagles each week, my record can’t be any worse than their record.

Eagles 20, Redskins 10

(Alternate prediction: Hurricane Joaquin 1, East Coast 0)

Corey Seidman (1-2)
I don't see how the Eagles lose this one. The offensive line appears to be gaining steam, and with Chip Kelly adjusting his play-calling for more runs under center, those drive-killing losses should continue to decrease.

The 'Skins have a porous pass defense and a true liability in CB Bashaud Breeland. This feels like the game that either Nelson Agholor or Josh Huff comes up with a deep ball.

Washington doesn't have a downfield passing game without DeSean Jackson and won't be able to rely on the run against the top-ranked rush defense in the NFL.

Eagles 27, Redskins 16

Andrew Kulp (1-2)
It's difficult to predict what the weather will be like, let alone what type of performance we'll get out of the Eagles' offense. However, I tend to believe the players and coaches when they say it's closer to getting in sync. The ground attack was better last week. There were opportunities through the air as well. Eventually, I think it will click — maybe as soon as this week.

The key is to get just enough of a running game going against another tough front to give Sam Bradford a chance. A wet field plays to the receivers' advantage, while Washington's secondary will be shorthanded. If there are high winds, Bradford is probably better equipped to sling the ball in those conditions than Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins.

It could be another ugly one, but the way the Eagles' defense is playing, they're built to win that way. And should the forecast happen to improve, this might be the week the offense finally opens up.

Eagles 24, Redskins 14

Andy Schwartz (1-2)
For the second straight week, the Eagles face a team with subpar QB. And this time, they don't have to worry about a receiver the caliber of Brandon Marshall. DeSean Jackson is still out with an injured hamstring.

So long as the offense doesn't take a step backward and Caleb Sturgis doesn't miss everything, the Eagles should scratch out another W.

Eagles 20, Redskins 16

NFL Notes: Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

NFL Notes: Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears added some salsa, signing former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz to a one-year contract Thursday.

The Bears were looking for help after Alshon Jeffery signed with Philadelphia.

A feared receiver with the Giants, he helped them win the Super Bowl before being slowed by injuries. He was released after seven seasons in February.

Cruz has 303 catches for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, many of which he celebrated with a salsa dance. A knee injury and a calf problem caused him to miss most of the 2014 season and all of 2015. Last year, he had 39 catches and one touchdown reception.

Giants: Beckham, Vernon miss OTAs
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York ended their first week of voluntary organized team activities missing two of their biggest stars -- wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The workout Thursday was fourth of the week, and Beckham missed them all. The team did not say whether Vernon missed all four, but the veteran who signed an $85 million contract in the offseason last year wasn't there Thursday, the only day workouts were open to the media.

The only other player missing was third-year defensive end Owa Odighizuwa, who hinted since the end of last season that he may take time away from football.

While coach Ben McAdoo said he wanted all his players at the workouts, he said he would coach the ones there.

NFL: International players to join practice squads
NEW YORK -- Four NFL teams will carry an additional overseas player on their practice squads during the 2017 season. Three players are from Britain and one from Germany.

The announcement by the NFL on Thursday is part of a new International Player Pathway program.

The international players are: tight end Alex Gray with Atlanta, defensive end Efe Obada with Carolina, defensive end Alex Jenkins with New Orleans and linebacker Eric Nzeocha with Tampa Bay.

The players have been training alongside NFL players and draft hopefuls in Florida the past three months.

Gray is a former rugby player; Jenkins and Nzeocha were recent college players. Obada was originally signed by Dallas in 2015. Each team will get an exemption for an 11th practice player, who is ineligible to be activated during the season.

Bills: LB Hodges signs, CB Gaines released
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills have signed linebacker Gerald Hodges, who started 12 games for San Francisco last season.

Team officials also said Thursday that cornerback Charles Gaines had been released.

Hodges is going into his fifth season after being drafted in 2013 by the Minnesota Vikings. He played two-plus seasons with Minnesota before joining the 49ers. He had 83 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble last year.

Gaines did not play last season but started four games for Cleveland in 2015.

Jaguars: Jags to host Bucs for joint practices
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two joint training camp practices before their preseason game in August.

The teams will practice Monday and Tuesday before playing Thursday night, Aug. 17. The Jaguars also will have two joint practices at New England a week earlier, before their preseason opener.

New coach Doug Marrone and top executive Tom Coughlin want the Jaguars to be more physical. Holding joint practices in consecutive weeks will make that clear to the players.

Marrone says he's a fan of joint practices "as long as you can make sure that it is competitive and not combative."

The Jaguars and Bucs also practiced together in Jacksonville before their preseason game last year.

With new mindset, Nelson Agholor embraces competition to prove himself to Eagles

With new mindset, Nelson Agholor embraces competition to prove himself to Eagles

Nelson Agholor’s rookie season was a disappointment, but his second year in the NFL was a disaster, the pressure of which was clearly getting to him. Now Agholor finds himself on the roster bubble as his third year with the Eagles commences, and it’s fair to wonder what the wide receiver’s mindset is like in 2017.

“Confident and comfortable,” Agholor said Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex, where OTAs had just begun.

Earlier in the day, Agholor had been involved at practice — cycling in with the first-team offense and getting plenty of looks, too. Later, he was be the last player to leave the field, continuing to run sprints alone after practice ended. Finally, back in the locker room, Agholor explained the epiphany he arrived at during the offseason, and how he knows he’s ready to put 2016 behind him.

“I just had a realization that the only thing that matters is the current situation,” Agholor said. “I’m here, I have an opportunity to get better and make myself a better football player.”

None of this means everything is about to click for Agholor and he’s suddenly going to perform up to his status as a first-round pick. The Eagles clearly weren’t counting on that, either, when they signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, then selected two more receivers in the draft.

If Agholor intends to turn his career around, a fresh outlook isn’t a bad place to start.

Failing to meet expectations and under relentless scrutiny, Agholor’s demeanor changed over the course of last season. Frustrations finally boiled over during a postgame rant after an Eagles loss to the Cowboys. Four weeks later, he was a healthy scratch against the Packers. Though Agholor suited up for the final five games, there was no discernable change from a production standpoint.

“That’s in the past,” Agholor said. “I practiced today. I got after it today. Anything that happened back then, it happened for a reason.”

Agholor — who turned 24 Wednesday — attributed the bulk of his struggles to youth and inexperience while denying mental or confidence issues were to blame for his performance. With only 59 receptions for 648 yards and three touchdowns to show after two years, the Eagles couldn’t wait for him to grow up any longer, which led to Jeffery and Smith being brought on board.

“I took it for what it was,” Agholor said. “I said, ‘This was what happened, this is the new opportunity, so every day, just focus on getting better at some aspect of it.’

“It’s all about getting better consistently each day, even if it’s just a little. At the end of the day, the whole world will be like, ‘Man, this is the product?’ Some of the best players in this league, they didn’t just become really great the first day there. It took a process and continuous progression every day.”

But how exactly does Agholor go about making that jump? Because work ethic has never been a complaint, nor was talent a problem at Southern California, where he finished with 179 receptions for 2,571 yards and 20 touchdowns in 40 games.

There’s no telling whether Agholor will ever put it all together in the NFL. He has, however, refined his approach.

“I focused on the simple grind, whether it’s conditioning, whether it was living weights,” Agholor said of offseason workouts. “I wasn’t trying to have just a miracle happen. I just started focusing on the simplest things.

“I got on the track and worked on my speed and worked on my conditioning. I was in the weight room, worked on my strength and my durability, making sure my muscles were working the right way. That’s all it was, little things like that.”

Coaches and teammates are seeing a difference in Agholor as well. Most of all, they believe competing against veterans like Jeffery and Smith will bring the best out of a young receiver still trying to find his way.

“Nelson's attitude has been great. He's worked extremely hard this offseason,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “As I've said all along, competition sharpens you, and that's what I've seen from Nelson.”

“I feel like competition is what’s going to help breed production,” Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. “If you’ve got more guys coming in and working, you don’t have time to worry about this, this and this. You have to worry about going in and keeping your job, you have to worry about going in and making plays every single day, and that goes for everybody, not just Nelson.”

Agholor does not disagree.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for me to compete vs. some really good players,” Agholor said of Jeffery and Smith. “These guys have proven themselves in the league, so if I show that I’m capable of performing the same way they are, then I’m in the conversation.”

That might seem like wishful thinking, but for this brief period in OTAs, Agholor has the upper hand — he knows the offense. And even if the Eagles wanted to move on from Agholor this year, his contract is such that a release would cost more against the salary cap than if he was to remain on the roster.

Financial ramifications aside, Agholor’s spot on the final 53-man roster legitimately appears to be in jeopardy. His hope, in the meantime, is to make himself indispensable.

“I feel like I want to be one of the best players on this team, and that takes care of it right there,” Agholor said. “I want to be a guy when you watch him on tape, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I need him.’

“The best players play, and I want to be one of the best players.”

For all of the doubts about his confidence, Agholor has seldom had any trouble expressing a general belief that he belongs in the NFL. Any doubts he did have, he obviously did not entertain for very long, based on his goals in 2017.

“I love this game, and I want to play this game for a long time, so I’m not going to allow anybody besides myself determine how long I do this,” Agholor said. “This is only Year 3, and I want to play 10-plus. The only way I do that is making myself available and making myself a good football player.”

Coming off of a season that nearly caused him to lose his swagger and cool, Agholor is doing and saying all the right things again, even as the Eagles bring in potential replacements. Perhaps the notion that it feels like a step in the right direction speaks to how poorly those first two seasons went.