Eagles

Eagles-Redskins 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Redskins 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles haven't fared well against Washington in recent years. In fact, the Birds have lost their last five contests against their division rival, including both games last season. 

The two losses against Washington last season came by a total of 12 points. 

This is a big game for the Eagles. A win could start off their season on the right track, especially before a really tough game against the Chiefs on the road in Week 2. 

So here's a look at five matchups that will play a major role on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field: 

Lane Johnson vs. Ryan Kerrigan 
You probably remember what happened in the first matchup between the Eagles and Washington last year. Back on Oct. 16, Johnson's 10-game PED suspension kicked in and the Eagles were left with rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle. Eventually, Vaitai ended up having a pretty decent rookie season but it didn't get off to a great start. In fact, his introduction to the NFL was pretty ugly and he can thank Kerrigan for that. Carson Wentz was sacked five times in the game and half of them belonged to the veteran pass rusher. 

After missing both games against Washington in 2016, Johnson is back and hoping for a little revenge. In fact, he's already said the Eagles are going to "whup some ass" in the opener. 

"First of all, [Kerrigan] is a great player," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's a high-motor guy, a relentless finish. That's what you have to identify with him. It's good to have Lane back. Obviously, that was V's first start last year and he struggled in the game. To have Lane back, a little confidence there. Should be a good matchup all day, and just have to give the guy respect. He's a good pass rusher."

Jamison Crowder vs. Patrick Robinson 
After a terrible start to training camp, Robinson rebounded once Ronald Darby was acquired. That move pushed him inside and he found a home in the slot position for the Eagles. For the most part, that will be a position by committee this season, but against a shifty player like Crowder, Robinson should get first crack, while Malcolm Jenkins will have to deal with tight end Jordan Reed. 

For as much attention as DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon got over the last couple years, Crowder has turned into a really solid option. He had 67 catches for 847 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. Against the Eagles last year, he had five catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. He's a big part of Washington's offense. 

Brandon Scherff vs. Fletcher Cox
Scherff, Washington's right guard, went to his first Pro Bowl in 2016, a year after he was taken in the first round out of Iowa. It's a big matchup, because there's a good chance Scherff will go 1-on-1 against Cox, who doesn't see a ton of 1-on-1 matchups anymore. 

"[Scherff] does the little things right," Cox said. "You just have to study him and watch the things that he's gotten beat on. Just study him and just study their line because I think they have a solid group of guys that play together on the same page." 

Kirk Cousins always seems to bring his best games against the Eagles, so Cox's ability to generate pressure could potentially change the game. 

Zach Ertz vs. Redskins safeties
Ertz had one bad game against Washington in 2016 and one great game. In the first matchup, he had one catch for 22 yards, but the next time, he had 10 for 112. Of course, that second game was in December, when Ertz seems to come alive. But there will be chances for Ertz on Sunday, especially because Washington will be without safety Su'a Cravens, who is contemplating retirement. That leaves Washington with D.J. Swearinger and Deshazor Everett at safety. Neither are known for their cover skills. 

Alshon Jeffery vs. Josh Norman
Expect Norman to travel and stick with Jeffery for the entire game on Sunday. Washington head coach Jay Gruden on Wednesday said he didn't know if that's what he would do, but it seems pretty clear that's what will happen. 

Last year when Jeffery faced Washington as a member of the Bears, Norman stayed with him all game. Jeffery ended the game with five catches on 10 targets for 92 yards. 

"Alshon won his share and Josh won his share," Pederson said. "It's a good battle. I think those two have a lot of respect for each other and it's great competition."

Duce Staley would have been the easier choice

usa-duce-staley-doug-pederson-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Duce Staley would have been the easier choice

The right choice isn't always the easy one. Ultimately, we won't know for some time if the Eagles' tabbing Mike Groh for the job of offensive coordinator over Duce Staley was the correct call. But we know they didn't take the easy way out.

Staley has spent 14 seasons with the Eagles as a player and coach. He's been in charge of the Eagles' running backs since 2013 and even interviewed for the head coaching spot after Chip Kelly was fired following the 2015 season. He has the utmost respect of the guys who have played for him and from the organization. His time coaching in Philadelphia has spanned three head coaches (Andy Reid, Kelly, Doug Pederson). That tells you how the folks in the executive offices feel about him. He would have been the easier choice. He juggled egos and the Eagles' crowded backfield skillfully. He smoothly integrated Jay Ajayi into the Birds' system after a midseason trade.

Duce checked a lot of boxes. But Pederson and the Birds chose to go with Groh, who has been with the club for just one season. (They did, according to a league source, reward Staley with a new title: Assistant head coach/running backs.)

The 46-year-old Groh coached the Eagles' wide receivers last year and is credited with helping Nelson Agholor find his game and confidence. Groh has coached in college and the pros for 18 seasons, including a stint as the offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Virginia. Perhaps that gave him the edge in Pederson's and the team's eyes. 

Despite Pederson's calling the plays, the job of offensive coordinator is not just a title. Frank Reich played a huge role game-planning and acting as a sounding board. 

Can't imagine Staley is too happy about this development. It will be interesting to see if he chooses to stay or go elsewhere. But if the track record of Pederson and Roseman is any indication, they did a pretty good job putting together the staff that helped them win their first Super Bowl. So they've earned some trust on the hiring end.

Eagles reach decision at offensive coordinator

ap-doug-pederson-eagles.jpg
AP Images

Eagles reach decision at offensive coordinator

Doug Pederson has made his decision. 

The Eagles are promoting wide receivers coach Mike Groh to offensive coordinator, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the move.  

On Monday, Pederson interviewed Groh and running backs coach Duce Staley for the vacant offensive coordinator job after Frank Reich became the Colts' head coach earlier this month. 

Groh, 46, just joined the Eagles last offseason, taking over for Greg Lewis. In his first year in Philly, he did a masterful job with the Eagles' receivers and had a bigger role in the offense and game-planning than a typical receivers coach. 

There had been a report that Pederson was thinking about not having an official offensive coordinator for the 2018 season. He already calls the plays. But it looks like he saw the value in filling Reich's old spot. 

Staley did get a consolation prize though. According to league sources, the longtime Eagle will get a new title of assistant head coach/running backs. Staley has been with the Eagles as a coach since 2011 and has been in his current role as running backs coach since 2013. He has previously expressed interest in moving up the ladder. ESPN's Josina Anderson first reported the new title for Staley. 

When Pederson hired Reich to be his offensive coordinator, he said he was interested in what Reich could bring to the downfield passing game. If that's still important, it would make sense for him to hire a receivers coach with a background as a quarterback over a former running back and running backs coach. 

The 2018 staff is starting to come together. Press Taylor is expected to be named the team's quarterbacks coach (filling in for John DeFilippo), Groh is OC and Staley will stay with the running backs. The last shoe to drop appears to be filling Groh's old post of receivers coach.