By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The Eagles took on an inferior opponent to open the 2019 season, but divisional rivals are always tough.
Despite falling to a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter, the Eagles offense and defense came alive to prevent a blowout and start the season off right.
While winning 32-27 was probably not the type of dominance that many fans expected, it's hard to argue with the results after witnessing a game that almost looked like the Eagles hadn't shown up and were shaking off rust for the first 20 minutes.
Among the first changes to the depth chart fans saw was the fourth defensive end spot. With Daeshon Hall seemingly have locked that spot up in the preseason, he seemed the best fit for the job. Instead, he and Shareef Miller found themselves inactive as the team endorsed Josh Sweat, who has arguably the worst preseason of any defensive lineman anyone expected to see things from, as the fourth defensive end.
At running back, Jordan Howard was effective, but was used the third running back by snaps taken on Sunday. Rookie Miles Sanders took nearly half of the snaps at the position while Sproles saw far more time than he probably should have for an aging veteran coming off two major injuries.
LJ Fort, who is costing the Eagles a fourth-round compensatory pick, did not see the field on defense, despite one of the starters being unavailable. It would not be a surprise to see him cut in the coming weeks should the team feel someone on the practice squad like Alex Singleton can contribute the same on special teams and be a reliable emergency option.
The offensive line was of concern as the team kept only Big V and Andre Dillard as their only active linemen not starting. It is a huge vote of confidence in Big V as he was the only backup at right tackle, right guard and left guard. The team would have to move Isaac Seumalo to center and have Big V take over at left guard if they needed a backup center. The fact that these two were the only backups eligible to play is made even more crazy by the fact that the Eagles had already intended to pull Brandon Brooks after so many snaps - leaving Andre Dillard, who has only played left tackle, as the only backup on the bench.
Starting defensive tackle Malik Jackson suffered a foot injury toward the end of the game. He classified it as a minor "football injury", but was carted off the field and in a boot after the game. If he can't go next week, Tim Jernigan is the starter opposite Fletcher Cox again.
Buy: Miles Sanders
Sanders certainly didn't have a great game by the numbers, recording just 25 yards on 11 carries.
To call it a bad start would be ignoring his play, however. On the rushing side, Sanders had a 21-yard touchdown rush nullified by a penalty/flop that was called on fellow second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside blocking Josh Norman. On the blocking side, Sanders appears to be far more experienced than the typical rookie running back, which bodes well for his development and the team's future.
The second major example. pic.twitter.com/EZyHWJSPnw— Paul Bowman (@PhillyBallPaul) September 9, 2019
Sell: Andrew Sendejo
Sendejo did fairly well toward the end of the game and recorded five tackles in the contest, but he is responsible for both blown coverage and some of the worst tackling I've ever seen that resulted in Vernon Davis making a 48-yard touchdown run.
While the second half was promising, Sendejo better clean up his game quick. The Eagles can still recover a fourth-round pick by releasing him, so if he continues to struggle in any way, it would not be a suprise to see the team release him and go with Johnathan Cyprien as the third safety.
Buy: Jordan Howard
Howard barely saw the field, but it's hard to imagine why. Six carries for 44 yards and an additional two receptions for 11 yards. The Eagles have been missing a strong back since they let LeGarrette Blount go, but Howard looked to be a fit for the part.
With more speed and patience than Blount, Howard should continue to thrive behind this line and it may be in the best interest of both parties for Howard and the Eagles to come together on an extension at some point.
Sell: Rasul Douglas
Douglas got beat quite a few times. The Redskins scored 14 points off throwing over him to an open receiver, including allowing a 69-yard touchdown pass. That, quite simply, cannot happen.
Douglas is physical, much like Jalen Mills, and does not have the speed to keep up with fast receivers like McLaurin, so his stock falling is at least partially due to Jim Schwartz not allowing him to play on the line and hit the receivers early.
Buy: DeSean Jackson
154 of the team's 313 yards through the air went to DeSean Jackson. Of course, he added two touchdowns on highlight reel plays.
Perhaps bigger news is how effective Jackson was other than those two deep plays as the receiver garnered another 50 yards on six additional receptions. He wanted to prove that he wasn't just a deep threat and he's done just that.
- While Miles Sanders was excellent, he was played quite often in situations where the Redskins defense could sell out on the run or the offensive line failed to open large holes. This contact meant that Jordan Howard was more effective. Going forward, Howard should see more snaps and the Eagles should better ease Sanders into the NFL rather than expect a guy who only played a year of college ball to play half of the snaps in every game right away.
- The defensive line in this one was not nearly as good as it should be. While they did manage seven quarterback hits, the team as a whole recorded only one sack - a late one from Tim Jernigan. The left side of the Washington offensive line consisted of a guy as old as Jason Peters without the same level of skill and a guy who couldn't play on a terrible Giants line last season. If they can't beat those guys, there might well be some concern going forward.
- While Big V was serviceable at guard, what really kept him from being above average was his two holding penalties on his first drive. The Eagles cannot afford to have their primary backup at four positions on the line start off in games so sloppily.
- The Philadelphia defense forced no turnovers, which is not a good sign for playing tougher opponents. Ronald Darby should have had two interceptions, but allowed the balls to bounce off of his hands instead. This will need to be addressed to give this team the best chance to compete.
- While they didn't have the best third-down conversion rate, we saw a much more aggressive Doug Pederson than we did in 2018 and that paid off a few times. Many of the team's explosive plays happened on third downs, too. The second half is what you'd like to see out of this team.
- DeSean Jackson took a stupid personal foul that helped end an early drive for the Birds. While he is a good receiver, this raises some behavior concerns and it is fair to wonder how Jackson might act if he's not being targeted as much as he was in this one. Hopefully this was a one-time mistake, but doubts linger.
The Eagles will head to Atlanta next week. They will need to focus on stopping the receiving corps of the team that employs Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu and Calvin Ridley along with tight end Austin Hooper.
The teams will face off in Atlanta next Sunday night at 8:20 p.m.