WASHINGTON — The Redskins hit the road for the second time in the first three weeks of this young season and are set to face the NFL’s number one offense in the Philadelphia Eagles. There are a few story lines to keep an eye on in this one.
Kirk Cousins takes over
This is the exact reason the Redskins wanted to hang on to Kirk Cousins this past offseason. Robert Griffin III went down last week with a dislocated ankle and will miss several weeks. Enter the backup quarterback. Cousins came in last week and the Redskins didn’t miss a beat in dismantling Jacksonville, 41- 10.
We saw Cousins get his first chance last year during the final three games of the year, and he was not that good. The season was a disaster and Mike Shanahan was on his way out. This year, however, is a completely different story. It’s only week three, and he knows he will have control for the foreseeable future so it’s his turn to show everyone what he can do. There was a lot of talk during the preseason about whether or not Cousins was better suited to run Jay Gruden’s offense than Robert Griffin III. Now, we will find out.
One of the knocks on Cousins has been his ability to avoid the pass rush. The Eagles defensive line isn’t the strong point of that club and linebacker Mychal Kendricks did not practice all week due to a calf injury and isn’t going to play, which is a plus.
We saw how efficient Cousins was last week coming off the bench. This week, the Eagles will have had all week to prepare for him.
DeSean Jackson returns to Philly
Only a few people know the real reason that DeSean Jackson isn’t with the Eagles anymore, but instead playing against them on Sunday in a Redskins uniform.
“Burgundy and Gold are my colors now,” Jackson said this week.
There’s no doubt that he wants to have a huge game against his former team, but we don’t know how much he will be able to contribute after being limited all week in practice due to the shoulder sprain he suffered in the win over Jacksonville.
“I don’t plan on missing this game,” Jackson said on Wednesday.
I think he will play, but might not be full strength, so we don’t know how much he will be able to stretch the field. Cousins will rely on him quite a bit if he’s out there. Meanwhile, tight end Jordan Reed has been ruled out for a second straight week due to a hamstring injury.
The league’s number one defense
That’s right folks, you read that correctly. The Redskins are ranked number one in defense through two weeks, having allowed only 234.5 yards a game. The test gets a lot tougher, however, on Sunday. The Eagles have racked up nearly 440 yards a game and have two of the most explosive backs in the league in LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Those two can change a game very quickly and McCoy has done so over the past couple years against the Redskins. Sproles was a pretty good pickup for Chip Kelly this offseason, a guy that Jay Gruden and the Redskins had targeted in free agency.
Brandon Merriweather makes his return to the Redskins secondary this week after serving his two-game suspension. We will have to keep an eye on him and see how he’s changed his approach to hitting. He says he knows he has to make a conscious effort to go low and not head-hunt anymore, something he has said in the past. It’s important to the success of this defense that he stays on the field. Each time he draws a personal foul penalty for helmet-to-helmet contact, it’s going to cost him games.
This defense has been impressive the first two weeks against pretty weak offenses. If it wants to continue to head in the right direction and prove it belongs in the top of the league, then this is the week to do just that. It’s a formidable test against a pretty explosive offense that arguably hasn’t played its best football yet. Chip Kelly loves to go up-tempo and run a lot of plays. It will be a great test for Jim Haslett’s squad.
Division game number one and is coming early in the season against last year’s champion. This Redskins team looks to win back-to-back games for the first time since the end of the 2012 season and will be tested early and often on Sunday. Let’s see how they respond.