Eagles

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.

Nick Foles vs. Tom Brady matchup headlines Eagles' 2nd preseason game

Nick Foles vs. Tom Brady matchup headlines Eagles' 2nd preseason game

Will it actually finally happen? Will Tom Brady actually shake Nick Foles’ hand?

That might be the biggest drama going into the Eagles’ second preseason game, Thursday night against the Patriots at Gilette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

Brady famously blew off Foles after the Eagles beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII Feb. 6 in Minneapolis.

Instead of meeting his counterpart at midfield for the customary postgame handshake, Brady slunk back to the Patriots’ locker room, never to be seen again.

Foles has downplayed the lack of a postgame handshake, but it was definitely perceived by many as a lack of class by the four-time Super Bowl MVP toward the 2017 Super Bowl MVP.

“It’ll happen when it happens,” Foles said after practice Tuesday. “We practiced with the Patriots (in 2014) and I got to stand there and talk to Tom quite a bit he’s a great guy. I have all the respect in the world for him.

“I think everyone’s making a big deal about this and it’s not a big deal at all. I’ve already talked to him before, he’s a guy I’ve always looked up to. You’ve got to admire someone who’s probably the greatest ever and still going strong at even at his age.

“He seems to get better and better. I already had a conversation with him before when we practiced. If we have one in the future, we have one and it’ll be cool.”

Foles didn’t play in the preseason opener against the Steelers because of neck spasms, but he’s practiced this week and will start Thursday night in Foxboro.

Head coach Doug Pederson wouldn’t say how long Foles will play or which of the other quarterbacks would play.

“I do expect him to get in the game,” Pederson said. “For how long I don't know, but I do expect him to get a few plays in this game.”

Obviously, Carson Wentz won’t play and presumably Christian Hackenberg isn’t ready, so Pederson will have Foles, Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan available.

And even though Foles won’t say it, there is a certain irony that he’s making his 2018 debut against the team he beat six months ago in one of the most exciting and dramatic Super Bowls in history.

“Pretty familiar with the opponent,” Foles deadpanned.

But as far as seeing deep meaning in a Super Bowl rematch? Foles isn’t having any of it.

“We’re in training camp right now, we’re grinding through it, we’re growing as a team, we have new players, guys rotating in and out, so you stay pretty busy throughout the day.

“Now that we’re getting closer to gametime, we’ll be honing in on who they are and what they do, what coverages they like, what they like to do on defense, but not any reminiscing.

“This is a new season, new people, new players. Obviously we wear the same logos as last year but we both have a new identity. This is the time of year we grow together as a team and that’s really all I’m focusing on.”

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On the latest edition of Roob Knows, Reuben Frank explains why this is the deepest roster Doug Pederson has had in Philadelphia. The Eagles are loaded at wide receiver. Why there is absolutely no downside signing Christian Hackenberg. Also, Roob tests Jason Kelce with trivia questions about Jason Kelce.

1:00 - Deepest team Doug Pederson has had.
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