Week One Preview: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

It’s finally here. Week one of the regular season has already kicked off, and the Birds will begin their quest for the franchise’s second Super Bowl (man that felt good to say) this Sunday. We are so close to watching Carson Wentz drop 60-yard dimes to DeSean Jackson, Fletcher Cox bully offensive lineman and punish opposing quarterbacks, Merrill Reese give us memorable calls and Jason Peters having his inevitable half-second too early false start.

The Birds open up the season at home against a divisional foe in the Washington Redskins. Zach Ertz expects the Linc to be rocking, “I expect a playoff atmosphere, and I’m sure our fans won’t let me down.”

Folks, if that doesn’t have you ready to run straight through a brick wall all the way down Broad Street and into the Linc screaming “Go Birds” at the top of your lungs, then you are simply not rooting for the right team. This Eagles team has that special feeling to it. We’ve been hearing about them and analyzing them all offseason, now it’s time to see them prove it on the field.


Eagles Offense vs. Redskins Defense

Simply put, Carson Wentz, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Darren Sproles, Alshon Jeffrey, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert form one of the most dangerous skill position groups the league has to offer. Oh, and the offensive line is littered with depth and experience, matched with the perfect amount of youth.

Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson will start this weekend for certain. The right guard position will be determined by Brandon Brooks’ availability. It is looking like Brooks is going to be ready to go, as he wasn't even listed as questionable on Friday's injury report. What an incredible recovery for Brooks, who suffered a torn achilles in mid-January.

As for the Redskins defense, that unit is probably the strength of their team. Their defensive line is young and raw, but extremely talented. They are lead by Alabama standouts Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. The linebacking corps is solid and filled with veteran leadership such as Jon Bostic and notorious Eagle-killer Ryan Kerrigan. Their secondary is well above-average, boasting big names such as Josh Norman and free-agent signing Landon Collins.

Expect the Eagles to run the ball early to set up the play-action passing game. Zach Ertz should get his usual double-digit targets, as the Redskins have consistently had trouble covering Ertz in past match-ups.

Even remembering the regular season finale last season against Washington, the Eagles attacked the middle of the field like there was no such thing as a sideline. Nick Foles, who started in place of Wentz, torched the Redskins defense to the tune of 25 straight completions, tying the NFL record for consecutive completions.

While I don’t expect the Eagles offense to break any records this week, I definitely give them the advantage over the Redskins defense. I expect Washington’s defense to play well enough to keep them in the game, but they won’t hold Doug Pederson’s offense down long enough to win the game.


Eagles Defense vs. Redskins Offense

The Eagles defensive line is easily one of the best in the league. With it looking more and more like Derek Barnett is going to be able to play, the Birds starting line-up will include him as well as Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and new addition Malik Jackson.

Nigel Bradham is back after not playing all preseason. Doug Pederson confirmed that he will play this weekend and will not face any suspensions for skipping the Eagles final preseason game. Former Redskin Zach Brown will start at one of the other linebacker spots. I expect Nathan Gerry to get the other starting position with Kamu Grugier-Hill still nursing a leg injury.

The Eagles secondary brings back defensive captain Malcolm Jenkins. We will also see the return of Rodney McLeod at the safety position after suffering a torn ACL last season. With Jalen Mills out at least the first six weeks of the season, Pederson said that the starters this week will be Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones on the outside, with Avonte Maddox in the slot. As has been the case the last couple of seasons, the cornerback position will be the weakness of the defensive unit.

The Redskins offense is, to put it nicely, not great. They will be led by journeyman quarterback Case Keenum. Keenum has been the poster-child for inconsistency as an NFL quarterback, as he had a great 2017 season with Minnesota, but a horrible year last season with Denver. The Redskins are Keenum’s fourth different team in four years. You never know which Case Keenum you're going to see from week-to-week. It’s also worth mentioning that Keenum’s last game in Philadelphia was the 2017 NFC championship. You may remember that game.

The Redskins receiving corps is led by Paul Richardson Jr., Trey Quinn and the often injured Jordan Reed. Reed has been limited in practice this week with a concussion, but with his injury history, you probably could have guessed that. Not the best unit in the league, to say the least.

The Redskins running backs are lead by a past-his-prime Adrian Peterson, but he is still more than capable of running between the tackles. LSU product Derrius Guice, who missed all of his rookie season with a torn ACL, will make his NFL debut Sunday. Chris Thompson should see time in his usual role as a third-down back, assuming he stays healthy throughout the game. It’s worth mentioning the Redskins also have former Eagle Wendell Smallwood.

The Redskins offensive line is questionable to say the least. With starting left tackle Trent Williams continuing his holdout, the Redskins will trot out 36-year old Donald Penn at left tackle. To his right is former disgruntled New York Giant Ereck Flowers. Expect the Eagles defensive line to dominate that side of the line. Redskins right guard Brandon Scherff is very good, but he can’t play all five offensive line positions.



RELATED READING: Injury Report: Redskins at Eagles


My Prediction

The Eagles are just too talented of a team to lose this game. They hold the advantage over Washington in just about every single facet of the game: offense, defense and special teams. I would be flabbergasted if the Redskins came into Philadelphia with this squad and left with a win. Eagles win, 31-17, and DeSean Jackson has a 50+ yard touchdown. I’m speaking it into existence.


Broadcast Information

Time: 1:00 p.m.

TV: FOX

Radio: 94.1 FM WIP

Online: NFL Gamepass


Preseason Preview Week Four: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

Ladies and gentlemen, the regular season is almost here. A week from now, we’ll be discussing the Eagles week one contest against the Redskins. Unfortunately, there is still one more week of preseason to get through.

The birds will travel two hours north to East Rutherford to take on the New York Jets on Thursday night. The final week of the preseason is typically the game that decides the fate of the guys at the bottom of the depth chart and who will make the final 53-man roster.

All 32 NFL teams must have their final rosters set by Saturday at 4 p.m. So, let’s take a look at some roster competitions that should yield a winner after Thursday night.



Who Will Get the Final Defensive End Spots?

Last season, the Eagles kept five defensive ends on their final roster, and I expect them to do the same this season. There are only three of those five spots that I think are secured: Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Vinny Curry. I expect there to be three guys competing for the final two spots.

If preseason performances mean anything, then Daeshon Hall should be feeling pretty good about his chances. There could be a serious debate made that Hall has had the best preseason performance of any Eagle defensive player. Hall leads the team in sacks (three) as well as forced fumbles (two) this preseason.

If Hall doesn’t make this team, then he must have had a dramatically different performance on the practice field. The only way Hall doesn’t make this team is if he has a disastrous final preseason game.

Where we’ve seen Miller make the most strides has been rushing the passer. Miller was not known as much for his pass rush coming out of Penn State. Yet, he is second only to Hall in sacks for the Eagles this preseason, with two. If he has a decent game Thursday, he should lock up a roster spot.

As for 2018 fourth-round pick Josh Sweat, he has done next to nothing this preseason. After contributing two tackles in week one, Sweat has yet to appear on the stat sheet in weeks two or three. While Sweat did appear on the Eagles unofficial injury report after week two, he still played the following week, leading me to believe the injury was insignificant.

Sweat was reportedly having a good start to training camp, but unfortunately for him, he has not translated that to the game field. He is going to have to play very well Thursday night and hope one of either Miller or Hall doesn’t if he wants to make the final roster.


Who Makes the Cut at Wide Receiver?

In 2018, the Eagles held onto six receivers on their final roster. I think that five of those six spots are locked up: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Mack Hollins.

Arcega-Whiteside had a heck of a performance last week, topping 100 yards with a touchdown, so he’s shown more than enough. I believe that Hollins provides too much value on special teams for the Eagles to cut him.

The final spot should come down to Greg Ward, Marken Michel and Carlton Agudosi. Agudosi has dropped a few passes and has at times looked lost on offense. While he does have good size at 6’6”, the Eagles have not seen nearly enough from him to keep him on the roster.

Michel had a 75-yard touchdown in week one against Titans starting cornerback Adoree Jackson. While that was quite impressive, considering he outran a player known for his speed, we haven’t seen much of Michel since then. Following that touchdown, he has recorded just one catch for 12 yards.

Heading into the final preseason game, I think the final spot is Greg Ward’s to lose. Ward is second on the team in receptions (6) and yards (87) this preseason. With the explosiveness that we’ve seen from Ward, especially on his touchdown in week two against Jacksonville, along with what he could add on special teams, he is the front-runner. While he is currently in the lead, this race is close enough that a strong performance this week from any of these three guys could catapult them onto the roster.


Broadcast Information

Time: 7:00 p.m.

TV: NBC

Radio: 94.1 FM WIP

Online: NFL Gamepass


Week Three Preseason Preview: Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

The Eagles will host the Baltimore Ravens for their third game of the preseason Thursday night. Through two games, we’ve seen some good play from younger players, some really ugly performances from other young players and next to nothing from the starters. After the injuries to both Nate Sudfeld and Cody Kessler, I’m starting to think that’s a good thing.

While the third game of the preseason is traditionally the game where the starters play the most during the preseason, I’m still not sure what to expect. Given the way that the coaching staff has handled playing starters this preseason, we probably won’t know the playing status of any starters until a couple hours prior to kickoff.

Continue reading "Week Three Preseason Preview: Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles" »


Week Two Preseason Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at Jacksonville Jaguars

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By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

The Eagles travel south to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars for their second preseason contest. Thursday night's contest is not lacking in the storyline department, despite the game not meaning anything in the standings. The birds will see a familiar face at TIAA Bank Field in former teammate, Super Bowl MVP and fan favorite Nick Foles.

Fortunately for Eagles fans like myself, we will not be forced to root against Nick quite yet. Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone announced Tuesday night that Foles, along with many other Jacksonville starters, will not be seeing the field Thursday night.

There are plenty of other reasons to tune into the game Thursday night. While this team does look good on paper, there are some areas of the team that need answers. According to John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia, we should not expect many starters, including quarterback Carson Wentz, to play much, if at all, against Jacksonville. Therefore, this will be another game that the team will be doing a lot of evaluating the depth of the roster.


Young Eagles on the Offensive Line

The Eagles have already announced that Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks will be out for all of the preseason. Couple that with the strong possibility that the Eagles will not play any starters on the offensive line on Thursday night, and that will lead to another chance for evaluation of some young Eagles.

First-round pick Andre Dillard really impressed in last week's game against the Titans, dominating in both the the run and the pass game. He looked good in every facet of the game and did not seem like a rookie at all. The most encouraging thing about Dillard's performance last week is that at no point during the game did the Washington State product look lost.

Don't be surprised if Dillard turns in a similar performance this week, as he will likely be playing against Jacksonville's reserves. While Dillard did make some headlines this week after getting into scuffles with teammates two days in a row, Doug Pederson diffused the situation.

A lineman that I will be watching like a hawk this week is Matt Pryor. Pryor struggled in multiple ways last Thursday, as he had both a false start and a hold, while also having issues in pass protection. If the 2018 sixth-round pick does not improve this week or throughout the rest of the preseason, it will be tough to imagine him making the team.

Another guy to watch closely this week is rugby-turned-football player Jordan Mailata. The 2018 seventh-round pick had his best performance as a professional football player last week. While he had some good moments, there were some plays where he struggled with pass protection. Keeping in mind that Mailata is a project, having never played football in his life before last season, growing pains are expected. Hopefully, Mailata will continue to trend in the right direction with the abundance in playing time he'll be getting this preseason.


Defensive Line Depth

With six defensive line positions seemingly locked up (Cox, Graham, Barnett, Jackson, Jernigan, Curry), that leaves three, possibly four spots for the 53-man roster on the d-line. I expect Josh Sweat to occupy one of those spots, along with Hassan Ridgeway, who had a strong performance last week.

I think one of the final spots will come down to third-year vet Daeshon Hall and 2019 fourth-round pick Shareef Miller. Both players had up-and-down moments in last week's game.

Hall contributed a sack and a forced fumble last Thursday night. However, many of his opportunities in the backfield came due to poor offensive line play by the young Titans. While there is something to be said about taking advantage of an opportunity, which Hall did, I'd still like to see if he can make some plays that aren't due to the inability of the other team.

As for Miller, he made some nice plays in the run game last week, but seemed to struggle in pass rush situations. This is consistent with his play at Penn State, as he was known as more of a run stopper than a pass rusher. Still, if Miller wants to make the team and see the field, he will have to get more out of rushing the passer.


What Will the Eagles Get Out of Their Quarterback Play?

With Carson Wentz unlikely to play Thursday night, prepare to watch a whole lot of Cody Kessler and Clayton Thorson. Unfortunately for the team and for those of us who have to watch, Nate Sudfeld suffered a broken wrist last week. The injury will sideline him for at least six weeks, which will go through the beginning of the regular season. It's a tough break for Sudfeld, as he played well in his first chance to be the front-runner for the back-up quarterback position.

So, someone is going to have to step up at quarterback. To put it mildly, neither Kessler nor Thorson impressed at all last week. It may be due to this offense being new to both guys, but then again there is a reason that they were the third and fourth string quarterbacks coming into training camp. Hopefully, at the very least, they improve this week. It would be ideal for at least one of them to have a good performance.

If one of them is able to turn in a good game, then that will take the pressure off the front office. With Sudfeld primed to miss the beginning of the regular season but coming back in October at the latest, the front office will obviously want to avoid needing to go out and get a new option at back-up quarterback. With that being said, if neither Kessler or Thorson show a pulse throughout the rest of the preseason, that may force Howie Roseman's hand to go find a rental until Sudfeld returns.


Broadcast Information

Time: 7:00 p.m.

TV: NBC

Radio: 94.1 FM WIP

Online: NFL Gamepass


Week One Preseason Preview: Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

Eagles football is finally back! For the first time since an agonizing playoff loss in New Orleans, the Eagles will be taking the field against a team not wearing their colors. The Eagles will be hosting the Tennessee Titans at Lincoln Financial Field at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night.

Now, obviously this game doesn't count, given that it is a preseason game. However, it would be foolish to think that because this game doesn't mean anything toward the standings, that the game doesn't matter. I'll be highlighting some things to keep an eye on in Thursday night's contest.

Continue reading "Week One Preseason Preview: Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles" »


Celtics 96, 76ers 82: Observations from 76ers' Second Summer League Game

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

The Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 96-82 in the preliminary round of the NBA's Summer League. The Connor Johnson led Summer Sixers had some good moments, some coachable moments, and some downright ugly moments.

BOX SCORE

Continue reading "Celtics 96, 76ers 82: Observations from 76ers' Second Summer League Game" »


Sixers Offer Ben Simmons Max Contract Extension

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

According to ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Philadelphia 76ers have offered Ben Simmons a five-year maximum contract extension. Under new salary cap projections, the max contract offer is worth $170 million over those five years, according to Wojnarowski. The Sixers and Simmons' agent, Rich Paul, are reportedly working through the details of the contract, and an agreement now seems inevitable.

Continue reading "Sixers Offer Ben Simmons Max Contract Extension" »


Breaking Down Sixers Free Agency Rumors

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

With the start of free agency just a week away, there are plenty of rumors swirling around the NBA about who will go where. Naturally, with the Sixers currently having the cap space to go out and spend money, there are a multitude of players that have been linked to Philadelphia. Some of these players will command a maximum contract. However, other players may be looking at teams who are in their prime, such as the 76ers, and could take a cheaper contract if it means playing for a championship caliber team.

Obviously, the main plan of this offseason for Elton Brand and the Sixers front office has been to re-sign both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Brand made that clear after he swung each deal, for Butler in November and for Harris in February.

The players that will be mentioned in this article are players that would most likely only take contracts in a range of money that would place the Sixers out of signing both Butler and Harris. With there being a possibility, however small, that the Sixers lose out on Butler, Harris, or both, it is key for the Sixers to have a back-up plan. According to a multitude of NBA insiders' rumors, the Sixers have options.


Kawhi Leonard

Oh, how the tables have turned. According to ESPN's Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Kawhi Leonard "May very well take visits in free agency with" the 76ers. Wojnarowski reported this live while he was covering last Thursday's NBA Draft on ESPN. The implications for Philadelphia and the rest of the league here are huge. While Leonard has mostly been linked to the Toronto Raptors as well as both Los Angeles teams, a star free agent in the prime of his career wanting to take a visit with the Sixers is quite notable.

Leonard would fit perfectly with the Sixers. He can play any forward position or possibly even line-up as a big shooting guard. He is a prolific scorer who also plays defense with a tenacity that is rare in this league. He has won two NBA Finals MVP's (2014, 2019) as well as two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards (2015, 2016). He has received first team all-NBA honors in 2016 and 2017, as well as making second team all-NBA this past season. He is the type of player that can take over a game (as Sixers fans just painfully witnessed) while also making every player around him better. He wouldn't hinder either Ben Simmons nor Joel Embiid from their abilities if they shared the court together.

Are the Sixers the current front-runners to land Leonard? Absolutely not. Could that change? Absolutely. The NBA free agent landscape is an ever-changing place where anything can happen. Always expect the unexpected. The fact that Leonard is even willing to take a visit with Philadelphia gives the 76ers a shot. Sometimes, a shot is all you need. If you don't believe that, just take a look at Leonard's shot in game seven against the Sixers (no, I am not over it).


Al Horford

No, I am not intentionally doing a list of players that have dominated the Sixers. According to Wojnarowski, "Horford is prepared to enter free agency to find a three or four year deal elsewhere." In other words, he is not likely to resign with Boston. That alone should be cause for celebration for Joel Embiid and the 76ers. But, according to Shams Charania of the Athletic, Philadelphia is one of the four favorites to land the free-agent big man.

This would be an interesting fit. Depending on what else the Sixers would do in free agency, Horford would most likely start at power forward. He could also find himself playing center while Embiid is not on the floor. Horford is a stud of a defender who is relentless in his man-to-man defense, while also possessing an extremely efficient offensive game. Horford is a career 52.5% shooter from the field while also shooting 36.8% from beyond the arc, an impressive number for a big man.

While Horford is 33 years old and is sure to command a decent amount of money, this could be a risk worth taking for Elton Brand. Horford's veteran leadership would be welcomed on a Sixers team with two young superstars. Combine that with his efficient, team first play style and Horford could be a good match for the Sixers.


Danny Green

According to 94WIP's Howard Eskin, the Sixers have interest in signing two-time NBA champion Danny Green. Green would fill a huge need for this Sixers team: a wing who can shoot the three ball and play defense. The most important thing to take away from this is that if the Sixers were to sign Green, that would likely signal the end of the Sixers' interest in resigning JJ Redick.

While Green would likely cost more than Redick, there are notable upsides. Green is three years younger than Redick, plays the same position and blows him out of the water on the defensive end of the floor, and that's putting it mildly. Green was a member of the NBA's all defensive second team in 2017.

Green also shoots the three ball exceptionally well, as he shoots 40% for his career from beyond the arc. So, in theory, the Sixers would be adding a player that can do everything Redick can do while also playing high caliber defense. Green would be a welcomed veteran addition who fills a big need for the Sixers. Sign me up.

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