Fantasy implications in Eagles' Week 1 matchup with Redskins

Fantasy implications in Eagles' Week 1 matchup with Redskins

If you have Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill or Mike Gillislee in fantasy, you're off to a great start heading into the first NFL Sunday of the season. (Here's a crazy stat on Hunt.)

Each week, we'll take a look at the Eagles and their opponent from a fantasy perspective to help with any lineup-related decisions.

Obviously, Alshon Jeffery is a must-start, but what should we expect in his Eagles debut? Which Redskins are in position to feast this Sunday?

We'll evaluate the key players on a matchup scale from 1 to 5 stars:

WR Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery is likely to get a heavy dose of Josh Norman in Week 1. When they last matched up on Christmas Eve 2016, Jeffery caught 5 of 10 targets for 92 yards, including a 37-yarder. 

As Doug Pederson said earlier this week, neither player won the matchup but both had their moments.

Obviously, Jeffery is playing with a better quarterback than he had last season in Chicago. And because his size always makes him a threat in the red zone, one play could allow him to overcome a tough matchup on any given week.

Jeffery has a 3-inch and 18-pound advantage on Norman. But Norman is used to holding in check bigger opponents, and last season he allowed completions on just 45 of 84 targets (53.6 percent).

Because the Eagles have other weapons that match up well with the Redskins' weaknesses, this might not be an explosive debut for Jeffery.

Matchup: 3 stars

Projected Jeffery stat line: 5 catches, 80 yards, 0 TD

• • •

TE Jordan Reed
Reed is a monster when healthy and was Kirk Cousins' favorite target even when he had DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Reed doesn't have huge numbers against the Eagles because he's had so much trouble staying on the field, but he did destroy them two meetings ago with 9 catches, 129 yards and two TDs on Dec. 26, 2015.

Reed last season missed four games altogether and played sparingly in three others. But in his nine healthiest games, he averaged 7 catches for 70 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Cousins especially likes to involve Reed early in games. Last season, 38 of his 53 catches came in the first half. The year before, when he scored a career-high 11 TDs, he had his most receptions (25), yards (300) and touchdowns (4) in the first quarter.

In 2016, the Eagles' defense actually surrendered the fewest catches (44) and yards (414) to opposing tight ends. The flip side of that fact, though, is that they didn't face many good tight ends. They saw Kyle Rudolph and Jimmy Graham — and that was pretty much it. Reed missed one of the meetings and barely played in the other. 

Matchup: 4 stars

Projected Reed stat line: 7 catches, 90 yards, TD

• • •

TE Zach Ertz
The Redskins last season were so, so, so much worse against tight ends than the Eagles were.

TEs vs Eagles: 44 catches, 414 yards
TEs vs Redskins: 108 catches, 1,119 yards

You did not read that wrong. 

The last three seasons, Ertz has done little against the Redskins in the season's first meeting, then torched them in the second.

2014: 3 catches for 14 yards, then 15 catches for 115
2015: 2 catches for 11 yards, then 13 catches for 122
2016: 1 catch for 22 yards, then 10 catches for 112

The guess here is that the pattern changes in 2017 and Ertz opens up with a big game. The Redskins have a weak defense and won't be able to commit an over-the-top safety to Ertz much if at all. Why? Because the Eagles have a speed threat on one side in Torrey Smith, a deep threat on the other side in Jeffery, and Washington will have to stay home, especially in play-action situations, because of its shaky run defense.

Ertz's matchup: 4.5 stars
Projected Ertz stat line: 6 catches, 80 yards, 0.75 TDs

• • •

RB LeGarrette Blount
There might not be many great matchups for Blount this season because of the Eagles' crowded backfield, but this is one of them. 

Washington's run defense last season was abysmal. The 'Skins allowed 1,741 rushing yards (4.52 per carry) and 15 touchdowns to running backs. And, quite frankly, the run defense could be even worse this season. Chris Baker is now in Tampa Bay, and nose tackle Phil Taylor is out for the season. Washington will go with a weak front three of Jonathan Allen, Ziggy Hood and Stacy McGee. 

I like Blount to score a TD this week and have one of his better rushing afternoons of 2017.

Matchup: 3.5 stars 

Projected Blount stat line: 75 rushing yards, TD, 5 receiving yards

• • •

WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Jamison Crowder
Crowder has the better matchup this week, both because of the cornerback matchup and the fact that he has much more of a rapport with Cousins than Pryor.

Pryor finished with 1,007 receiving yards last season but his year wasn't as impressive as many think. He scored just once in his final 10 games, and in his last eight games averaged 4.5 catches for 59.5 yards. Those aren't even WR2 numbers in fantasy.

Pryor is playing with a better quarterback this year, so I do expect him to exceed last year's totals. But in Week 1, I'd rather be the Crowder fantasy owner than the Pryor fantasy owner.

In three-receiver sets, Crowder will likely spend much of his time in the slot against Patrick Robinson, a winnable matchup for the third-year WR. 

Crowder is listed as questionable for Sunday's game with a hip injury, but he expects to play.

Pryor matchup: 2.5 stars
Projected Pryor stat line: 4 catches, 52 yards

Crowder matchup: 3.5 stars
Projected Crowder stat line: 6 catches, 90 yards

• • •

RBs Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson
Kelley hurt the Eagles last season, rushing 21 times for 122 yards and a TD in the two meetings. When the Eagles and 'Skins first played on Oct. 16, he wasn't yet the feature back, but a 45-yard run late in that game helped push him up the depth chart.

Kelley had a couple huge games last season, notably the 137-yard, 3-TD performance vs. the Packers. But he also averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in four of his final six games, which is why a lot of fantasy analysts are high on his backup, rookie Samaje Perine.

This isn't a great matchup for Kelley against a strong Eagles defensive line. Pass-catching back Chris Thompson could end up with the juicier stat line.

Kelley's matchup: 2 stars
Projected Kelley stat line: 45 rushing yards, 0 TD

Thompson's matchup: 3 stars
Projected Thompson stat line: 20 rushing yards, 4 catches, 45 receiving yards

Will Eagles try to bring back Mike Wallace from IR this year?

USA Today Images

Will Eagles try to bring back Mike Wallace from IR this year?

The Eagles officially signed Jordan Matthews on Wednesday morning and in order to make room for him, they placed Mike Wallace on Injured Reserve. 

Wallace, 32, fractured his fibula on Sunday, apparently needed surgery and his time with the Eagles could end rather unceremoniously without a catch. 

If Wallace can recover quickly, though, the Eagles will have the option to bring him back later in the season. Head coach Doug Pederson on Wednesday didn’t rule out a possible return for Wallace this year. 

Injured Reserve
Mike Wallace
Mack Hollins
Richard Rodgers 

NFL teams used to have to designate players for return when they placed them on Injured Reserve, but that’s not the case anymore. The Eagles will be allowed to bring back two players who were on the 53-man roster back from IR later this season. That means they might have some decisions to make later this season between those three players. 

If Wallace gets healthy enough to return this season, the Eagles would probably be interested in bringing him back. Even after adding Jordan Matthews, they still don’t have a speed option on the outside. The earliest Wallace could come back is Week 11 vs. the Saints

The interesting thing here is that the clock starts from when the player is placed on IR. They can’t be activated until eight weeks have passed and they can’t start practicing until six weeks have passed. That means Hollins and Rodgers will be eligible for return before Wallace. At that time, if Hollins and Rodgers are healthy, the team will need to weigh its options and try to figure out if it’s worth waiting for Wallace. 

The Eagles also have Gannon Sinclair, Toby Weathersby, Elie Bouka and Paul Worrilow on their IR, but none of them were on the 53-man roster and aren’t eligible to return. 

Non-football Injury
Tim Jernigan

Physically Unable to Perform
Chris Maragos 

The NFI and PUP have their differences, but in this regard, they’re the same. Jernigan and Maragos are out for the first six weeks of the season. The earliest possible return is Week 7. 

After six games, there’s a six-week window to either get the player back to practice or send him to IR. Once the player starts practicing, there’s another three-week window to either add the player to the roster or send him to IR. 

More on the Eagles

Eagles lose Joe Walker, add Asantay Brown to their practice squad

AP Images

Eagles lose Joe Walker, add Asantay Brown to their practice squad

The Eagles on Wednesday signed rookie linebacker Asantay Brown to their practice squad to replace Joe Walker. 

Walker was signed to the Cardinals’ 53-man roster and is already off to Arizona. His locker was cleared out yesterday. Walker was a seventh-round pick out of Oregon in 2016 but missed his rookie season after an ACL tear. He played minimally last year and ended the season on IR with a neck injury. 

Walker originally made the Eagles’ 53-man roster this year but was released in favor of D.J. Alexander, whom the Eagles claimed off of waivers. Walker was then put on the practice squad. 

Brown is a rookie from Western Michigan. He was with the Eagles this summer but missed a lot of time with an injury. 

After calling up running back Josh Adams to the active roster earlier in the week, the Eagles’ practice squad has nine players, one shy of the maximum. 

Here’s an updated look at the Eagles’ practice squad: 

LB Asantay Brown

WR Reggie Davis 

DT Treyvon Hester

WR Braxton Miller

WR Dorren Miller

DE Joe Ostman

CB Chandon Sullivan

S Tre Sullivan

C Jon Toth 

The most notable names on this list are Miller and Tre Sullivan. Sullivan made the Eagles’ initial roster and played in the opener, but was then cut to create space for Deiondre’ Hall, who was picked up in a trade with the Bears. 

Miller is the former Ohio State QB and third-round pick. But even with the Eagles in what seems to be a dire situation at receiver, they haven’t called him up. Doug Pederson earlier this week explained that Miller hasn’t had a chance to learn the offense yet. During the week, practice squad players run the scout team and mimic opposing offenses for the Eagles’ defense.

More on the Eagles