Eagles

Nelson Agholor jump-starts Eagles' season-opening win over Redskins

Nelson Agholor jump-starts Eagles' season-opening win over Redskins

BOX SCORE

LANDOVER, Md. — The Eagles finally snapped the streak. 

Who cares if it wasn't pretty? 

The Eagles did just enough Sunday afternoon to take down Washington, 30-17, their first win against their division foe since Sept. 21, 2014. 

The Eagles jumped out to an early lead before Washington recovered. But eventually, the Eagles were able to walk out of FedEx Field with a big opening day win. 

With the win, the Eagles start their season with a win for the sixth time in their last seven seasons and snapped a five-game losing streak to Washington. 

Carson Wentz didn't have his best game but made some spectacular plays with his feet to extend plays. He was 26 for 39 for 307 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating was 96.8.

The game was extremely close until the end. The Eagles extended their five-point lead to 13 with less than two minutes left when Brandon Graham forced a fumble (that appeared to be an incomplete pass), and Fletcher Cox picked it up and returned it to the house. The Eagles tacked on a two-point conversion. 

Turning point
Washington was driving early in the fourth quarter, down two, with a chance to take a lead late. But Jim Schwartz dialed up the blitz and brought Jordan Hicks up the gut. Kirk Cousins threw the ball to the goal line but Jalen Mills was waiting to pick it off. 

Key stat
The Eagles were 8 for 14 on third downs, while Washington was just 3 for 11. 

First half 
The Eagles had a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter before allowing Washington to score the next 14 points. 

Caleb Sturgis, who missed an extra point, capped a late first-half drive with a 50-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 16-14 halftime lead.

The Eagles came out firing. On their first offensive drive of the game, Wentz somehow avoided a rush and hit Nelson Agholor deep for a 58-yard touchdown catch. Then a little later, Jamison Crowder muffed a punt, the Eagles recovered and scored when LeGarrette Blount caught his second-career touchdown pass to cap a 39-yard drive. 

But then things got ugly.

Ronald Darby left the game with a nasty ankle injury, and on the next possession, Ryan Kerrigan picked off a tipped pass and took it 24 yards for a pick-6. On the next drive, Washington went 69 yards on eight plays, scoring on a 29-yard touchdown catch from Chris Thompson. The Eagles missed several tackles on that play. 

Offensive stud
Agholor had a 58-yard touchdown pass and already had a career game before the first half ended. Agholor had a career high in catches (six) and receiving yards (86). 

Zach Ertz also had a big afternoon. It was just his second 90-yard game before December in his career. 

Offensive dud
We'll give this to Alshon Jeffery. The Eagles' prized free agent acquisition didn't have much of an impact in his debut with the team. Blount, aside from his receiving touchdown, didn't really do much on the ground either. 

Defensive stud
The Eagles lost Darby, but Jalen Mills more than held his own. He had his first-career interception and provided really solid coverage on Terrelle Pryor. He was very competitive. 

The Eagles' front four also had a great game and capped it off when Graham forced a fumble and Cox picked it up and rumbled into the end zone for his second career touchdown. 

Defensive dud
Nigel Bradham struggled Sunday. He missed a tackle on the Thompson touchdown and was later hit with a defensive holding on a big third down. 

Injuries
Early in the second quarter, the Eagles lost cornerback Ronald Darby to a right ankle injury (see story). The starting CB needed to be carted off the field after it looked like his right foot got caught in the turf. It was an ugly injury. 

UPDATE:

Jason Peters came out of the game late in the second quarter with a groin injury. He returned for one play at the start of the second half but then shut it down. 

UPDATE:

DT Destiny Vaeao (wrist) left in the second half and was listed as questionable to return. 

The Eagles came into the game incredibly healthy. All 53 players on the roster practiced in full all week, including Brandon Graham and Jordan Hicks, who had both been banged up at the end of the preseason. 

Up next 
Next week holds a tough test for the Eagles. They'll have to travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs, who are coming off a big upset win over the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots in Foxboro. Oh yeah, and Andy Reid has three extra days to prepare for the Birds. Whenever Big Red has extra time, he normally makes the most of it. 

10 reasons the Eagles will repeat as Super Bowl champs

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10 reasons the Eagles will repeat as Super Bowl champs

Over the next couple months, you’re going to hear virtually every NFL expert explain why the Eagles can’t win Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in February.

You’ll hear how nobody has won back-to-backs since the Patriots in 2003 and 2004. How no NFC team has won consecutive championships since the Cowboys in 1992 and 1993. How no NFC East team has even won consecutive division titles since the 2003 and 2004 Eagles.

You’ll hear about the short offseason. You’ll hear how Super Bowl champions grow complacent and lazy after a few months on the banquet circuit. You’ll hear how the Eagles’ quarterback situation will be a distraction. 

You’ll hear every reason on Earth why they can’t. But I think they can. I think they will.

Here are 10 reasons why:

1. The roster is better

The Eagles should be better at wide receiver (Mike Wallace for Torrey Smith), defensive line (add Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett), offensive line (presumably Jason Peters for the entire season) and tight end (Dallas Goedert for Brent Celek). Linebacker may be weaker, but with Jay Ajayi for a full season running back is a push even without LeGarrette Blount, adding Sidney Jones and losing Patrick Robinson is a push and safety and quarterback are pushes. Better roster. The Eagles have 17 starters back from a championship team, and they seem to have the pieces in place to fill those spots seamlessly.

2. They are clearly the class of the NFC East

The Giants were 3-13 last year and have a 37-year-old quarterback who hasn’t won a playoff game in six years. The Redskins were 7-9 last year and have a 34-year-old quarterback who’s 2-5 in the playoffs in his 13-year career. The Cowboys lost Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, and Dak Prescott has to prove to me he’s elite without them. The most recent NFL.com league rankings have the Eagles No. 1, the Cowboys No. 14, the Redskins No. 18 and the Giants No. 26. Sounds about right. Dominate your division and you have a terrific shot at a first-round bye.

3. Doug Pederson is by far the best coach in the division

Pederson is 3-0 as a playoff head coach. Jay Gruden, Jason Garrett and Pat Shurmur are a combined 1-3 as playoff head coaches.  

4. Peerless skill players

This may be the most talented group of skill players the Eagles have ever had. How do you stop an offense with Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Wallace, Goedert, Darren Sproles, Ajayi and Corey Clement?

5. Staying hungry

Pederson won’t let them get complacent. As early as two days after the Eagles won Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Pederson had already addressed the team about staying hungry, about continuing to work as hard as it did in 2017, about moving on quickly from the Super Bowl and preparing for 2018. We saw last year that Pederson has a remarkable kinship with his players and a unique understanding of when to be tough on them and when to go easy, and that will serve him well as they make a run at another title.

6. Carson Wentz

Before he got hurt, Wentz was playing some of the best football in NFL history. In his last nine games, he had 27 touchdown passes and five interceptions, went 8-1 and fashioned a 107.6 passer rating. Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are the only other NFL quarterbacks who’ve ever had 27 TDs and five or fewer INTs in any nine-game stretch in NFL history. He might be the best quarterback in football this year. 

7. Home-field advantage

They’re the best home team in the NFL at 13-3 over the last two regular seasons, with one of those losses coming against Dallas last year in a game they weren’t trying to win. Including the playoffs and not including that Dallas game, they’re 15-2 at the Linc under Doug Pederson. The last time they went into a fourth quarter at the Linc trailing by more than four points was Chip Kelly’s final game as head coach. They’re capable of going 7-1 or even 8-0 at the Linc. Do that and go 5-3 on the road and you’re home for the playoffs. And that means the road to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta has to go through South Philly. And that means see ya in Atlanta.

8. Doug has done it before

Only two NFC teams in the last 25 years have reached back-to-back Super Bowls, and Pederson was a backup quarterback on one of them — the 1996 and 1997 Packers. He knows what it takes.

9. The Injured Guy Factor

If you can win a Super Bowl without Wentz, Jordan Hicks, Sproles, Peters and Chris Maragos, you can sure win one with them. You never know how these things will go, but the Eagles are optimistic all those guys will be ready either for the start of the season or soon after. And that's a Hall of Famer, two Pro Bowlers, a borderline Pro Bowler and a special teams ace. 

10. Because everybody is going to say they can’t.

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Third safety

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Third safety

As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer. 

Today, we’ll look at the third safety. 

Names to know

Tre Sullivan, Chris Maragos, Jeremy Reaves, Corey Graham

What to watch

We know the top two safety spots are claimed already. Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins are going to be on the field. But Jenkins’ versatility makes things trickier. The Eagles used Jenkins as a nickel corner and a linebacker plenty last year, but the only reason they were able to do that is because they felt comfortable leaving the back end with McLeod and Graham. A lot of Jenkins at linebacker was out of necessity without Jordan Hicks, but Jim Schwartz won’t want to lose that versatility. That makes the third safety position so important. 

So who are the players? Well, for now, Sullivan is probably in the lead. The second-year guy from Shepherd University is highly respected in the NovaCare Complex. But is he really ready to go from practice squad to serious contributor? The Eagles should really see what they have but that’s a big jump. 

There’s also Chris Maragos and Jeremy Reaves. One is a veteran special teamer coming off a serious injury. The other is an unproven undrafted — but talented — rookie. It seems unlikely either of them are going to be given this responsibility. Just a few years ago, Maragos was a real player on defense, but he struggled in that role and he’s probably better off making his contributions as a special teamer. He’s really one of the best in the league. 

And, did we mention that Graham is still on the street?

Prediction

I think the Eagles sign Graham to another one-year deal to take back that spot. He was a really underrated free agent pickup a year ago and as long as he still wants to play, the Eagles need to make this work. They need the depth at this position and while it would make sense for some teams to go with younger depth, this guy will play this year and could help them win another championship. 

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