DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon gone, but Redskins still have weapons

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DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon gone, but Redskins still have weapons

The Redskins have won five straight games against the Eagles, but extending that streak to six Sunday is going to prove difficult without DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.

Jackson and Garcon were two of the only constants for Washington’s offense during a winning streak that spans over parts of three seasons. Kirk Cousins was not the starting quarterback in 2014. Jordan Reed was a little-known tight end prospect at the time, and slot receiver Jamison Crowder was still in college. That first win over the Eagles was so long ago, running back Alfred Morris was still fantasy-relevant.

But Jackson and Garcon were the wide receivers through it all, accounting for nearly 50 percent of Washington’s production through the air during the streak. And now, both players are gone, departing for greener pastures as free agents – Jackson to Tampa Bay, Garcon to San Francisco.

The Eagles couldn’t be more thrilled by those developments.

“I'm not sorry to see [Garcon] gone,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “DeSean, the same way. They've replaced those guys and moved up draft picks and things like that, but I think that I'm not going to be disappointed not to see those guys on the field.”

You could always count on one or both of them giving the Eagles fits. In the last five meetings, Jackson and Garcon accounted for 40 percent of Washington’s completed passes (44), 47 percent of the receiving yards (655), and 50 percent of touchdown catches (8).

“Those two were great receivers,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “They had both over 1,000 yards (in 2016). DeSean had big-play ability, and obviously, Pierre’s deep-end ability were very good for us.”

It’s not as if the Redskins aren’t trying to replace them. The concern in Washington is whether Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson are up to the task and if those changes threaten to alter the entire look of the offense.

Washington certainly added more size on the perimeter. Jackson is listed at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds; Garcon, 6-0, 211. Pryor is 6-4, 228 pounds; Doctson, 6-2, 206.

As Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills astutely observed: “You can’t teach height.

“It’s a lot different trying to go at DeSean Jackson than the guys they have because he was just a natural sprinter, so for sure, it’s a lot different,” Mills said.

“I think they’ll definitely use [Pryor and Doctson] differently just because of the body types. Some guys do good things better than others. DeSean, he was a streaker. Garcon was a big, strong guy. You have different body types from last year to now, so I think they’re just going to use those guys the best way they can.”

What Washington’s offense gained in stature, it might be losing in big-play ability. With 57 receptions of 40 yards or more in nine NFL seasons, Jackson is one of the league’s preeminent deep threats. His speed forces opponents to defend every blade of grass on the field.

As the Eagles found out firsthand after Jackson’s release in 2014, his presence changes the game. Now, Washington is counting on Pryor to instill the same fear in defensive backs and coordinators.

“He runs a 4.3 (in the 40-yard dash),” Gruden said. “He’s 6-foot-5. I think he can stretch the field. It’s just a matter of him getting into the system and becoming comfortable with Kirk.”

The Redskins signed Pryor to a free-agent contract in March.

“They’re different-type receivers, these big receivers with the long strides,” Gruden said. “They run a lot faster than it looks, so it just takes a little bit of time for us to get used to each other. We’re going through that right now, but he definitely can stretch the field.”

For what it’s worth, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins still thinks Washington is going to try to push the ball downfield and agrees Pryor has that ability (see five matchups to watch).

“Their offense has always been built on that, even when it was D-Jack and Garcon,” Jenkins said. “Terrelle Pryor is still someone who can stretch the field. He’s a long strider who can cover a lot of ground, so he’s probably going to be the guy to take the top off and allow Crowder to work underneath. I don’t see that part of their game changing.”

Even conceding Pryor and Doctson are big and can run fast, there is a massive drop-off in experience from Jackson and Garson as well.

Jackson is a three-time Pro Bowl selection, and Garcon averaged 70 receptions and 880 yards over the last eight seasons. A converted quarterback, Pryor eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving for the first time last season with the Browns, where he was the offense’s only viable weapon, and Doctson – a first-round draft pick in 2016 – has two career receptions.

At the very least, Pryor and Doctson are an unknown, and Washington’s offense will be entering uncharted territory when it takes the field in Week 1. The lack of continuity alone could cause problems getting out of the gate – never mind Jackson’s and Garcon’s outsized roles in beating the Eagles in the past.

Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

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Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

We're deep into free agency, the draft is rapidly approaching and the 2017 Super Bowl champion Eagles are being reshaped into a new team.

Which means it's a perfect time for a Roob's 10 Observations.

1. As the Eagles move on from LeGarrette Blount and reshape the running back position, it’s intriguing to ponder just how good Corey Clement can be. From what I saw last year? I think the kid can be a stud. His touches were limited until late in the season, but how many rookies have had 300 rushing yards, 200 receiving yards and averaged at least 4.4 yards per carry and 13 yards per catch? Would you believe three in the last 40 years? A guy named Jesse Clark with the Packers in 1983, a guy named Adrian Peterson with the Vikings in 2007 and a guy named Corey Clement. It’s tough to project, but he can run, he can block, he can catch, he’s got a real flair for making big plays and a terrific knack in the red zone. Can’t wait to see him in an expanded role.

2. As for Blount, you can’t understate his value to the Eagles last year, both as a running back and a leader. For a guy with his resume to come into that locker room and not once complain about his workload – even when he had no carries against the Chiefs – was remarkable. His selfless attitude really resonated with the young guys in the locker room. And I know a lot of fans were upset to see him go, but as incredible as his Super Bowl performance was, you can’t forget that in the seven games leading up to the Super Bowl he averaged 2.9 yards per carry. And he’s 31 years old. If the reported numbers are correct, Blount’s $4.5 million 2018 salary makes him the 12th-highest-paid running back in the league. Good for him. I wish him well. He was a huge part of that 2017 team. But it made no sense for the Eagles to bring him back.

3. It’s amazing how much money teams keep throwing at Sam Bradford. He’s got 34 wins in eight seasons, he’s never had a winning record, he’s never made a postseason, and on the rare occasions when he’s been healthy, he’s won only 43 percent of his starts. Oh, and he’s missed 42 games since 2013. “He’s our guy!”

4. Speaks volumes that both Blount and Torrey Smith singled out Duce Staley in their tweets or Instagram posts saying goodbye to Philly after joining new teams. Staley wasn’t even Smith’s position coach, and he still singled him out. Blount wrote: “To my main man Coach Duce Staley – You have impacted my life on and off the field and pushed me to be the best version of me I can be and for that I thank you!” Staley is such a natural leader and such a big part of what the Eagles accomplished in 2017. He’s going to be a head coach one day.

5. The Eagles lost Vinny Curry, but they have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett and Chris Long. They lost Trey Burton and Brent Celek, but they have Zach Ertz. They lost Smith, but they have Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins. They lost Blount, but they have Jay Ajayi and Clement. They lost Patrick Robinson, but they have Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Ronald Darby and Daryl Worley. They’ve lost a lot, but they’re still stocked at every position where they lost someone. Pretty darn good roster planning.

6. I feel like in the wake of Nick Foles’ brilliant postseason, people are forgetting exactly how good Carson Wentz was before he got hurt. So here’s a list of every quarterback in NFL history with 33 or more touchdown passes and seven or fewer interceptions in a season before his 30th birthday: Carson Wentz.

7. I wonder how much Haloti Ngata has left. He’s 34, he’s coming off a torn biceps, and he’s five years removed from his last Pro Bowl. Beau Allen was quietly a solid backup defensive tackle and played a big role in that D-line rotation the second half of the season after Tim Jernigan hurt his ankle. I don’t mind the signing. Ngata comes cheap and there’s really nothing to lose. But it’s been a while since he’s been a dominant player, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits in.

8. If you’ve never been to Canton, Ohio, plan your trip now. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a great place to visit any time. But the weekend of Brian Dawkins’ induction is going to be unforgettable. Dawk’s speech is going to be epic.

9. The Philly Special may be the greatest play in Eagles history, but where does the fourth-quarter fourth-down conversion rank? The Eagles trailed with 5½ minutes left and faced a 4th-and-1 inside midfield when Foles converted a short completion to Ertz. If they don’t convert, they lose. That’s gotta be a top-10 all-time play. Maybe top-five.

10. Tight ends with more catches than Ertz in their first five NFL seasons: Kellen Winslow Sr., Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates.

Torrey Smith says Carson Wentz is going to get PAID

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Torrey Smith says Carson Wentz is going to get PAID

We all know just how good Carson Wentz is. Heck, the entire NFL knows just how good Wentz is after the Eagles' QB put together a remarkable season with 3,296 passing yards and 33 TD tosses … in just 13 games.

But we and the entire league also know what that means: Wentz is going to get a lot more zeros added to his paycheck soon.

Wideout Torrey Smith, recently traded by the Eagles to the Panthers, knows full well what Wentz's worth is and isn't shy to talk about it, as he did at his charity basketball event in Maryland Saturday evening.

"When Carson's time comes, they're going to need a Brinks truck the size of this arena," Smith, who caught 33 balls for 692 yards and two TDs from Wentz last season, told ESPN's Jamison Hensley while noting the Eagles are taking full advantage of Wentz's discounted rookie deal right now.

Wentz is in the middle of a four-year, $26.6 million deal signed after he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2016. The deal expires after the 2019 season, but obviously, Howie Roseman and crew know this all is looming. And they also know recent QB contract numbers have continued to skyrocket.

San Francisco recently made Jimmy Garoppolo, he of seven career starts but also of five straight wins to end last season after his trade from New England, the richest QB in league history with a five-year, $137.5 million deal. Detroit gave Matthew Stafford a five-year, $135 million deal prior to last season, a few months after Oakland gave Derek Carr a five-year, $125 million extension. Those three are the top-paid QBs in the league.

Long story short: With the way Wentz has performed with 7,049 passing yards and 49 TDs in 29 career starts, he's going to get paid.

And Roseman's acts of salary cap magic are going to have to continue because Wentz is going to get paid sooner than later, and the whole league knows it.