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Position Breakdowns: How the Eagles stack up against the Redskins

Position Breakdowns: How the Eagles stack up against the Redskins

You will be hard-pressed to find two teams who match up more closely than the Eagles and Washington. Looking up and down the rosters, there is little to no separation in the level of talent between the two teams at multiple positions.

It should make for a tight battle between NFC East foes this Sunday at FedEx Field -- but dissect the two teams deeply enough, and we might find one side has a distinct edge in terms of quality personnel.

 

QUARTERBACK

Have to give Washington the advantage here, although that could always change. Kirk Cousins has thrown for 9,083 yards and 54 touchdowns the last two seasons, but that was with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon as two of his primary targets. How much their departures impacts Cousins remains to be seen. Carson Wentz has better physical tools, and more upside -- and much to prove after an inconsistent rookie year. Wentz is a prospect, whereas Cousins is widely considered to be established.

Edge: Washington

 

RUNNING BACK

Washington has some semblance of clarity in the backfield. The Eagles have more talent. Rob Kelley rushed for 601 yards and 6 touchdowns in 9 games after becoming Washington's starter last season, but only averaged 3.98 yards per carry. That rate of productivity was roughly in line with LeGarrette Blount in '16, except nobody was better than Blount in short yardage or at the goal line especially (18 TDs). Darren Sproles is a more dangerous third-down back than Chris Thompson as well.

Slight edge: Eagles

 

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

A trio of Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Torrey Smith for the Eagles might be relatively even compared to the combination of Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder for Washington. Jeffery's freak athleticism probably pushes the Eagles over the top, especially considering Pryor is a bit of an unknown coming from the Browns. The emergence of a credible fourth option on either side -- Nelson Agholor for the Eagles or Josh Doctson for Washington -- would swing the conversation more definitively.

Slight edge: Eagles

 

OFFENSIVE LINE

Both units are strong. Washington's Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are probably even with Jason Peters and Lane Johnson on the edges at this point. There are some question marks along the interior for both sides, but Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks is the best player there. Center Spencer Long is also dealing with a knee injury for Washington, which could be a hindrance, assuming he plays. That may or may not be a factor, but is definitely something to think about.

Slight edge: Eagles

 

DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVEN

With 58.5 sacks in six seasons, Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan might be the most impactful player in either team's front seven. However, Washington is without Trent Murphy (injury) and Chris Baker (free agency). Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Jordan Hicks are all big playmakers for the Eagles, and the hope is Tim Jernigan and rookie Derek Barnett will be, too. Even with the additions of Zach Brown and Johnthan Allen in Washington, the Eagles appear to have a lot more firepower.

Edge: Eagles

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Josh Norman is superior to anybody the Eagles have at cornerback, and a tandem with Bashaud Breeland gets the nod over Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills. That's where Washington's advantage ends. Second-year player Kendall Fuller takes over in the slot, where he is essentially an unknown, and the best safety is D.J. Swearinger after the sudden retirement of Su'a Cravens. Patrick Robinson is solid in the slot, Malcolm Jenkins will lock down Reed, and Rodney McLeod is comfortable in center field.

Slight edge: Eagles

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Eagles are better in every phase. Crowder is a quality punt returner, although even if he's right there with Sproles -- debateable -- that's one spot. Caleb Sturgis is a more consistent kicker with better range. Donnie Jones has a bigger foot and more accurate punt than Tress Way. Sturgis and Jones benefit from some of the NFL's top coverage units. And the Eagles returned two kickoffs for touchdown in '16 compared to Washington's zero.

Edge: Eagles

 

COACHING

Jay Gruden has posted back-to-back winning seasons in Washington, with a trip to the playoffs. Gruden also beat Doug Pederson head-to-head twice in 2016. Much like the quarterback position, our understanding of these head coaches could change with time, because it's not as if Gruden is viewed as some mastermind. Washington also changed both coordinators, while the Eagles assistants Jim Schwartz (defensive coordinator) and Dave Fipp (special teams) are among the best in the league. This is close.

Slight edge: Washington

 

OVERALL

Who has the ultimate edge likely depends on how large one believes the discrepencies to be at quarterback and head coach. There isn't much separating the coaching staffs as a whole, while a case could be made Wentz's stock is on the rise just as Cousins might be poised for regression. Even if we concede Washington is safely better in either area, the Eagles look slightly ahead or the same everywhere else, so it's not as if the differences at the top are insurmountable.

Slight edge: Eagles

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles drop down after Week 2 loss

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles drop down after Week 2 loss

After a strong Week 1 performance against the Washington Redskins that resulted in a 30-17 victory, the Eagles faced a formidable challenge in Week 2 — former Eagles head coach Andy Reid and a Chiefs team that took it to the defending champion Patriots on their home turf in Week 1.

A 6-3 game heading into halftime turned into a 27-20 loss for the Eagles, as Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt found his footing in a 21-point second half for Kansas City.

Now the Eagles focus their attention on an 0-2 Giants team, desperate for its first win of the season and looking to spoil the Birds' home opener at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday.

Before the second divisional matchup of the season for the Birds, here's a roundup of where the Eagles landed in this week's national power rankings:

ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio: Down six spots to No. 16
"They’ve got a chance to make it a two-team race in the NFC East," Florio wrote, "if they can manhandle the Giants."

NFL.com's Elliot Harrison: Down four spots to No. 14
“The Eagles let it rip most of the day in Kansas City, continuing the same defensive mojo they carried in Washington in Week 1,” Harrison wrote. "Carson Wentz used his mobility where appropriate, made a few intermediate throws and even received a gift to keep Philly in a tight contest. Everything unraveled late in the fourth quarter, right around the time the Chiefs' front seven decided not to let up. Wentz's protection broke down repeatedly, ultimately allowing six sacks. Then the real turning point came on the Chris Jones pick off a batted pass. Look, Doug Pederson's guys showed they will be a pesky bunch this year, but Wentz is not good enough to pull rabbits out of a hat. He needs help.”

USA TODAY: Stayed at No. 16
“Few pills are more bitter than dropping to 0-2 against former coach Andy Reid," USA TODAY wrote. "Maybe you should have treated Big Red a little nicer, Philly Fan.”

Yahoo! Sports' Frank Schwab: Up one spot to No. 11
“A lot of teams are going to lose at Kansas City this season,” Schwab wrote. “The Eagles played them tough. Carson Wentz was good on third downs against the Chiefs; the next step is becoming more consistent on first and second down.”

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: Down two spots to No. 15
“The defense has impressed in the first two weeks,” Prisco wrote. “The front four is nasty.”

The Washington Post's Mark Maske: Down seven spots to No. 17
“Why, exactly, did the Eagles sign RB LeGarrette Blount if his second game with the team was going to be a zero-carry outing? That’s what happened Sunday in Kansas City, when Coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich dialed up 46 passing attempts by QB Carson Wentz,” Maske wrote. “That’s just misguided, pass-happy offensive play-calling. The Eagles did manage to get WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith more involved in the offense. But they need to utilize Blount or get rid of him.”

ESPN: Down six spots to No. 9
“How many Eagles quarterbacks have thrown for 300 yards and multiple touchdowns in each of the first two games of the season? Four. Ron Jaworski (1982), Randall Cunningham (1994), Donovan McNabb (2006) and Carson Wentz (2017)," ESPN wrote. "Wentz does not appear to be primed for a 'sophomore slump.'"

Malcolm Jenkins says Eagles are the 'team to beat' in NFC East

Malcolm Jenkins says Eagles are the 'team to beat' in NFC East

The NFC East isn't exactly a powerhouse this season. The New York Giants look flat out bad. The Washington Redskins aren't a whole lot better. And the Dallas Cowboys got their butts kicked in week two.

So Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins didn't exactly go out on a limb when he said the Birds are the team to beat in the East this season after two weeks.

Jenkins sat down for a weekly chat with CBS Philly's Joe Santoliquito about the Eagles' defense looking better in their week two loss to the Kansas City Chiefs than they did in their week one victory over the Redskins.

“The communication was far better [against Kansas City] than it was the first week. For the most part, we had two passes that got away. The one from [Travis] Kelce involving in the beginning of the game and the one against Jalen [Mills] later in the game [on Chris Conley’s 35-yard reception with 4:42 left to play].

The Birds' defense held their own with a number of deeper roster guys in the secondary putting in impressive efforts in fill-in rolls for players who went down with injuries. 

The standings in the East are bunched after just two weeks but the Eagles host the Giants in Philly's home opener on Sunday. Jenkins likes the way things looks right about now.

“We’re home this week and we have the home opener, we have plenty of motivation this week with the New York Giants coming to our place,” Jenkins said. “If you ask me, I would say that we’re the team to beat [in the NFC East]. We obviously we have to prove that. I have confidence in these guys.”

I think Philly fans always appreciate when any player in town goes the Full Jimmy Rollins. Let's just hope this Eagles team can back it up the way J-Roll and those Phillies did.