Eagles

Eagles-Redskins predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Redskins predictions by our (cough) experts

For the second straight game, the Birds are in prime time. And this time, it's in front of the home fans. 

Following last week's Thursday night win over the Panthers, the 5-1 Eagles host the 3-2 Redskins Monday night (8:30 p.m./ESPN).

It's a massive opportunity to sweep the Redskins and take control of the NFC East. 

Our experts provide their predictions for Week 7:

Reuben Frank (6-0)
Do you really think I’m going to pick against the Eagles now? Heck, I might not pick against them the rest of the year. Maybe at Seattle. Honestly, I look at the schedule and the way they’re playing? The way Carson Wentz is playing? Unless something fundamental changes — which in this league is always possible — it could be a while before they lose a football game. The Eagles are rolling in all phases, and Monday night will be a good test — the Redskins are 3-1 since losing the opener to the Eagles, with the only loss to the same Chiefs team that handed the Eagles their only loss. The 'Skins are sixth in offense and 12th in defense. They lead the NFL in yards per pass play. They can be explosive. They’re eighth in rush defense. Nothing will come easy for the Eagles Monday night. But the Redskins are not coming into the Linc and winning. Eagles go to 6-1 and virtually clinch the NFC East Monday night with a win.

Eagles 31, Redskins 21

Dave Zangaro (4-2)
Washington seems like a much more dangerous team than the one the Eagles faced in the opener on Sept. 10. 

But the Eagles are a heckuva lot more dangerous too. 

Since the Eagles went to Washington and came away with a win in the opener, Washington has gone 3-1. But the Eagles have gone 4-1 with the one loss coming to the Chiefs. The Eagles have the best record in football. 

So sure, they shouldn't head into this Monday night game expecting a cakewalk but they should absolutely expect to win. They're the better team. 

Kirk Cousins has played well as of late but the Eagles' defensive line was able to get after him in Week 1. If that group does it again, it won't matter how good Cousins is throwing the ball. As good as Cousins has been recently, Wentz has been equally impressive, vaulting his name into the forefront of the MVP conversation. This week he'll go against a banged up Washington secondary. 

The Eagles have a chance to further extend their lead in the NFC East and they shouldn't have a problem doing it. 

Eagles 31, Redskins 23

Derrick Gunn (5-1)
Because they have the best record in the NFC, the Eagles have a huge target on their backs and everybody is gunning for them. On Monday night, the Redskins are hoping to take them down a notch. The ‘Skins come limping to the Linc. Their star rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen is done for the year with a Lisfranc injury. Their starting cornerbacks Josh Norman (rib) and Bashaud Breeland (knee) both might miss this key divisional showdown — Norman is already out. 

Wentz has the Eagles' offense rolling, and the defense has been rock solid against the run. Cousins will go after a Birds secondary ranked 29th against the pass (273.5 yards per game). One of the key matchups to watch closely is how the Eagles will try to defend against ‘Skins running back Chris Thompson, who is Washington’s leading rusher. More importantly, he’s their leading receiver, averaging 18.9 yards.

In Week 1, the Eagles sacked Cousins four times, but since then he’s only been sacked four times. The Birds broke the ‘Skins jinx in the season opener. I look for the home team to make it a season sweep.

Eagles 28, Redskins 24

Ray Didinger (5-1)
The Redskins are playing better now than they were when the Eagles defeated them in Week 1. The offense is more balanced and they have found an explosive weapon at running back in Thompson, who is averaging almost 19 yards per reception. The defense is not making as many mental mistakes but it will miss top draft pick Allen, who broke his foot last week.

Still, the formula for beating the Redskins is the same as it was a month ago and that is getting pressure on Cousins. The Redskins quarterback is having a good year — his 106.4 passer rating trails only Alex Smith and Tom Brady — but if the Eagles can harass Cousins as effectively as they did in the opener they will complete the season sweep of the Redskins. I think they will.

Eagles 30, Redskins 21

Andrew Kulp (5-1)
Everything points to the Eagles here. They’re a hot team, well rested, the offense is clicking and the quarterback is absolutely feeling it. Washington will be without Norman and possibly Breeland at cornerback as well, among other injuries, so this is a shorthanded group.

The only concerns are it’s a divisional matchup, which tend to be close games, and whether the extra few days off knocks the Eagles out of a rhythm. Otherwise, it’s clear which is the healthier and more talented squad. Oh yeah, and the capacity Lincoln Financial Field crowd is going to be extra lathered up for a Monday night.

Eagles 41, Redskins 24

Corey Seidman (3-3)
The Eagles are getting healthier and the Redskins are not. First-round defensive lineman Allen is out for the season, and both of Washington's starting cornerbacks (Norman and Breeland) are banged up.

Add in the fact that the Redskins haven't yet been able to get Terrelle Pryor or Jordan Reed going and this just looks like an Eagles win, which would give them a commanding lead in the NFC East and go a long way toward helping them secure a playoff bye. Yep, I'm already going there.

Zach Ertz dominates the 'Skins again, Alshon Jeffery finds pay dirt and the Eagles improve to 6-1.

Eagles 31, Redskins 23

Andy Schwartz (5-1) 
No suspense here.

After an impressive victory over the Panthers, how can we pick the Eagles to lose?

Which doesn’t mean they won’t. Every team throws in a clunker now and then. But until this team does, I’m not going to predict it. Especially when it's well rested and playing at home against a team it's already beaten this season.

The Eagles are favored by 4.5 with an over/under of 48.5. Seems about right. A late Jake Elliott field goal covers the spread but isn’t enough for the over.

Eagles 27, Redskins 20

5 realistic options for Eagles at No. 32

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5 realistic options for Eagles at No. 32

There’s a chance the Eagles don’t even pick tonight. They own No. 32 but could try to move back to gain more draft picks. Very possible. 

But if they don’t, here are five options at 32 from Paul Hudrick and Dave Zangaro: 

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
PH:
Guice is a bell cow back that will make an impact immediately at the NFL level. If there wasn’t an athletic freak like Saquon Barkley at the top of the draft, Guice would be RB1. He’s powerful, explosive and has outstanding vision.

Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
PH:
Michel shared the backfield during his time at Georgia, but was productive every time he received an opportunity. The tape that stands out is his game against Alabama. He showed elite quickness and elusiveness against the highest level of competition. Michel is a complete back, but just a notch below Guice.

Eagles RB situation
DZ:
The Eagles bring back Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement this season, but after that? There’s nothing in stone. LeGarrette Blount left in free agency. Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey are on the roster, but aren’t locks. Kenjon Barner is back on the street, along with Darren Sproles, who might be a candidate to bring back in the summer. Even if the Eagles don’t draft a RB in the first, it would be somewhat surprising if they don’t take one at some point.

Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
PH:
Harrison has phenomenal size, length and athletic ability. He’s physical and fluid in his movements. Discipline has to be the biggest concern. At times, he’ll take poor angles or go for the big hit leading to missed tackles. He should excel against tight ends in coverage at the next level.

Eagles S situation
DZ:
Safety is one of the more under-the-radar needs. The Eagles have Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, but Jenkins is getting older and McLeod’s cap number is rising. With how much the Eagles moved Jenkins around last season, and with Corey Graham gone, the Eagles’ third safety is important. Chris Maragos isn’t the answer; he’s too important on special teams. And despite how much the team has talked up Tre Sullivan, is he really the guy? A safety at 32 makes sense. He wouldn’t start but could play a lot.

D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
PH:
I have Moore as WR1. He has unbelievably quick feet and reliable hands. He’s tremendous after the catch, always looking to turn up the field. He also shows serious toughness from the wide receiver position. He’ll have to refine his route running, but he could become an elite WR on the outside or in the slot. Moore also has experience returning punts and kicks.

Eagles WR situation
DZ:
Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins. Good start, right? But after that, the Eagles have a bunch of unproven guys, starting with Shelton Gibson. Even Hollins has more to prove. Agholor finally lived up to his draft status last year but it’s time to start thinking about this future. And Wallace is on a one-year deal. The Eagles could use another weapon … especially one who can return.

Connor Williams, OT, Texas
PH:
This pick represents great value. Williams’ 2016 tape had him as the best tackle going into 2017. An injury derailed his season and draftniks began questioning whether he had the length to succeed at OT. The 2016 version of Williams is an elite lineman, whether at tackle or guard – or even center.

Eagles OL situation
DZ: The starters are set, but Jason Peters is aging and Halapoulivaati Vaitai is the only solid depth piece at tackle if you don’t include super-versatile Isaac Seumalo. The interior depth guys are Seumalo and Chance Warmack. The Eagles always emphasize building along the lines, specifically the offensive line.

Eagles taking a RB at No. 32? History suggests it's unlikely

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Eagles taking a RB at No. 32? History suggests it's unlikely

The last running back the Eagles drafted in the first round was Keith Byars. That was 32 years ago.

The last running back they took anywhere in the first three rounds was LeSean McCoy. Believe it not, that was nine years ago.

It’s been true for decades, and it’s still true today. The Eagles simply do not believe in using premium draft picks on running backs.

And it’s hard to blame them.

The Eagles have had 61 picks in the first three rounds over the last 20 years and used just four of them on running backs – McCoy in the second round in 2009 and Brian Westbrook (2002), Ryan Moats (2005) and Tony Hunt (2007) in the third round.

Shady, who is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career, is actually the only running back the Eagles have taken in the first two rounds since Charlie Garner back in 1994.

“I think running backs the last few drafts you’ve been able to see guys contribute from every part of the draft,” vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said. “You think about third-round picks, guys like Dave Johnson, Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara. Those guys weren’t first- or second-round picks.”

A lot of mock drafts and experts had the Eagles taking a running back in the first round of last year’s running back-rich draft.

But they took a lineman, Derek Barnett, for the 19th time in their last 25 first-round picks.

And they managed to cobble together a running back corps that wound up third in the NFL in rushing yards despite not a single back taken in the first four rounds of the draft in a key role.

“Coming out of the draft everyone thought last year we needed to get a [running back] high,” Douglas said.

“And we ended up addressing it acquiring one player in the draft (fourth-rounder Donnel Pumphrey, who didn’t play), another player after the draft (Corey Clement) and then two more veterans after the draft (LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi). So there’s a lot of different ways you can get those guys.”

Blount and Clement came into the NFL as undrafted rookies. Ajayi was a fifth-round pick. Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood were both late-round picks.

Add it all up and you have a Super Bowl backfield without a running back taken in the first 148 picks of a draft.

“We thought maybe there would be an opportunity to get one of those running backs [last year], maybe a different guy than Pump,” executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said.

“But we went and as a staff attacked it, getting LeGarrette, who had a great year and was really a huge part of our team, and then making a trade and getting Jay. 

“We’re going to attack it in the draft, we’re going to attack it in June, we’re going to attack it in August, and we’re going to attack it at the trade deadline. … This is not the end of talent-acquisition season. It’s really just starting.”

Teams often will bypass even the most talented running backs in the first round simply because their shelf life is so limited.

For every Adrian Peterson, there are 10 Larry Johnsons, C.J. Spillers or Beanie Wells.

The last running back the Eagles took in the first round to rush for 750 yards in a season was Steve Van Buren.

They’ve drafted 10 since taking him in 1944.

But Douglas said the Eagles aren’t philosophically opposed to taking a running back in the first round, although it’s almost impossible to imagine them actually taking one.

“Great running backs are difference makers,” Douglas said. “We’ve seen that in today’s NFL. Special guys coming out of the backfield and can hurt you in the pass game. If it’s the right player, we’re not opposed to taking him.”