Heading into their Monday Night Football contest against the Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles are feeling good. Building around a budding superstar in Carson Wentz and a stellar front seven, head coach Doug Pederson has the Eagles in position to return to the playoffs.
There is no such thing as an easy NFC East game, though. So, what are the burning questions as we get ready for some football? (And, no, one isn’t how many times ESPN’s Jon Gruden will mention how well prepared his brother, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, is.)
How healthy is Trent Williams?
In the season opener, the Eagles sacked Kirk Cousins four time. In case you’re wondering, that’s a lot. Philly’s defensive front has done a nice job of getting pressure on quarterbacks since, but haven’t always been able to get home.
Williams, Washington’s Pro Bowl left tackle, has a knee injury that will require surgery at some point. He’s trying to play through the pain until after the season. His health is a big deal for the Redskins since his backup, Ty Nsekhe, is out after having surgery for a core muscle injury.
Cousins’ offensive weapons have been inconsistent this season, so making him rush his throws can play into the Eagles hand. The more hobbled Williams is, the easier that will be.
Is This Alshon Jeffery‘s Breakout Game?
Jeffery was signed to give Wentz a weapon who would keep defensive coordinators awake at night. The former Bears’ star has been just okay so far, with 24 catches for 317 yards and a pair of scores.
With Josh Norman around, the Redskins held Jeffery to just 38 yards and kept him out of the end zone. The star corner and Samsung pitchman cause headaches for a lot of receivers, though.
Norman has been ruled out for the Monday night tilt, however, and that makes a big difference. Both Jeffery and fellow starter Torrey Smith have had their moments, but haven’t had a “wow” game yet.
With Washington’s secondary shorthanded and a prime-time audience watching, now would be a good time for Jeffery to prove his worth.
Can Anyone Run the Ball This Time?
When the teams met to kick-off the season, Washington managed 64 yards on the ground, while the Eagles were held to just 58. Cousins was the game’s second-leading rusher with 30 yards.
Since then, Philadelphia has started to get a push-up front. Stefan Wisniewski has stabilized the left guard position (although he’s still rotating some with Chance Warmack). Lane Johnson should be back after missing a week with a concussion, so the Eagles offensive line should be full strength.
LeGarrette Blount has rushed for at least 67 yards in each of the last four games. That might not sound like much but considering the Eagles’ reliance on the passing attack, it’s enough to keep defenses honest.
On defense, Philadelphia is leading the league in rushing yards allowed, giving up just 65.7 yards on the ground per game.
Washington’s rushing attack still is hit-or-miss, but third-down back Chris Thompson has proven that he can be dangerous. He did little against the Eagles last time, but he’s gone for more than 100 receiving yards in two of his last three games.
Is Carson Wentz a Class Act?
There are still some in the national media who are slow to embrace the Wentz Wagon. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns against just three interceptions and is on pace to break most Eagles single-season passing records. That seems good.
Still, there are those who look at his throwing mechanics or his habit of initiating contact against defenders, and think his upside is limited.
What should no longer be in question, though, is Wentz’s character. Not after this.
I think you'll be moved by the tale of Carson Wentz and the Dutch Destroyer. Hope everyone can tune in: https://t.co/MBJ8xKdm3x
— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) October 21, 2017
Wentz has the potential to be a great NFL quarterback. He’s already got being a decent human being down pat.
Is There a Race in the NFC East?
It’s still early(ish), but Philadelphia is currently the only one-loss team in the NFL. The Eagles’ 5-1 record includes a 4-0 conference mark and 2-0 in the division.
The rest of the NFC East has struggled. The Giants are a disaster and Dallas is mired in Ezekiel Elliott suspension muck.
Washington at least has a winning record at 3-2. Considering that many observers picked them for last in the NFC East, that’s a positive. The threat of losing Cousins to free agency at the end of the season hasn’t caused them to implode.
That said, the Eagles are more talented than Washington and should be able to beat them at home. If Philly remains undefeated in the conference, they will start to put a stranglehold on the NFC East.