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El-Bashir and Zangaro share keys to Redskins-Eagles

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El-Bashir and Zangaro share keys to Redskins-Eagles

The Redskins travel to Philadelphia Saturday for a showdown with the Eagles. The NFC East matchup has major playoff implications -- if Washington wins, they're in. If the Eagles win Saturday and win their final game against the Giants, they'll be the ones representing the division in the postseason. 

For an expert preview of Saturday's action, our Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir compares notes with CSNPhilly.com's Eagles reporter Dave Zangaro. Here are their keys to the game:

EL-BASHIR

1. Put the ball in DeSean Jackson’s hands. All of the Redskins are going to be super motivated given what’s at stake, but no one will be more amped up than Jackson, who can help lift Washington into the playoffs while simultaneously sticking a fork in Chip Kelly and Philadelphia. Jackson is healthy, in sync with quarterback Kirk Cousins and on a roll, having hauled in four touchdown passes in the past five games, including a scintillating 77-yarder last week against Buffalo. Philly’s pass defense, meanwhile, has allowed 30 touchdowns (T-29th) and has some injury concerns at corner. Indeed, all signs point to another big game for Jackson against his former team. (He’s averaged 122 yards in two prior meetings vs. the Eagles.)

2. If the Eagles do manage to blunt Jackson’s impact, the Redskins could find an opportunity on the ground. Philly’s 30th-ranked run defense yielded a combined 382 rushing yards to the Bills and Cardinals the past two weeks. But to take advantage of that vulnerability, the Redskins will need a strong performance from Alfred Morris and/or Matt Jones—something they haven’t gotten on a consistent basis this season. Overall, though, the Redskins’ ground attack has been trending in the right direction. In fact, after mustering a season-low 14 yards at Carolina, it’s averaged a 100 yards per game over the past four contests. Not great, obviously, but much better.

3. Ryan Kerrigan and Co. must get after Sam Bradford. In the teams’ first meeting—a 23-20 Redskins’ victory in Week 4—Washington’s pass rush sacked Bradford five times for a combined loss of 37 yards. The Redskins also pressured Bradford 15 times, according to ProFootballFocus.com. The result? Bradford had a mixed afternoon, tossing three touchdown passes while completing only 53.6-percent of his 28 pass attempts. The Eagles’ signal caller has been more consistent of late as his comfort level in Chip Kelly’s offense has grown. The Redskins’ pass rush, meanwhile, has also shown signs of improved consistency, and it had another big game last week, sacking Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor five times. If the Redskins make Bradford uncomfortable, it could be a long day for the Eagles, who haven’t won a game in which Bradford was sacked multiple times.

ZANGARO

1. Stop DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed. The Redskins' two biggest weapons have been dynamic recently. Together, they form such a dynamic duo because safeties have to make sure Jackson doesn't blow the top off (among players with 20 catches, Jackson is third in the league with an 18.8 yards per catch average), which means they can't help as much on Reed, who has become nearly as deadly as any tight end in the league. Byron Maxwell is a question mark coming into the game because of injury, which means the Eagles are light in the secondary. And who's gonna cover Reed? Kiko Alonso? Mychal Kendricks?

2. Sam Bradford needs to play better. Bradford, statistically speaking, had one of his best games of the year the last time these two teams played. He threw for 270 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. But Bradford's problem all season has been inconsistency. He made some great throws last week against Arizona but was responsible for three turnovers. During his career, Bradford hasn't been involved in very many big games, so this is something relatively new for the 28-year-old. This game won't just determine the NFC East; it could also determine his future in Philadelphia.

3. The Eagles' special teams needs to make an impact. At times this season, the Eagles' special teams, in general, have been dynamic. At other times, they haven't played up to the high level we've all seen since Chip Kelly took over in 2013. They have to make at least a couple plays against the Redskins on Saturday in a game that should be close. It could really end up being the difference. Darren Sproles is someone to keep an eye on. The recently name Pro Bowler is the best return man the Eagles have had since … DeSean Jackson. If he breaks off a punt return Saturday, it could be the difference in the game and the division.

MORE REDSKINS: 'What a baller!': Kirk Cousins shows hilarious side while mic'd up

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As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper on Monday, and with that, alarms go off around the NFL that it's wheeling and dealing season. The trade deadline hits in one week, and for teams looking to bolster their squad before the second half of the year, it's time to see what areas could improve. 

For Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, the injury situation at wide receiver means that his team could use help at the position. 

"We could probably use one more there if we could," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast. 

Asked if there was one area the team could bolster via trade, the coach explained that if wideouts Jamison Crowder or Paul Richardson could come back from injury right away, the Redskins would have no need to trade for another receiver. Unfortunately for the Redskins, neither injury situation is very clear, and some reports show that Crowder could miss a few more weeks working back from an ankle injury. 

"I think if you look at our team right now with the injuries to Crowder and obviously the uncertainty with Richardson you might want to add another receiver, but I like what [Michael] Floyd’s done coming in here," Gruden said. 

Floyd had one catch for 20 yards in the Redskins win on Sunday over the Cowboys, but he's a physical veteran that has the coach excited. Gruden also complimented what Maurice Harris and Brian Quick have done in the absence of Richardson and Crowder.

While the Cowboys struck first in the receiver trade market, more players remain reportedly available, including Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas and Dolphins WR DeVante Parker. 

Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowler in Denver, but at 30 years old and with some trade value, it makes sense for John Elway to consider his market. The Broncos are 3-4 and have an underperforming offense. 

Parker was a first-round pick in 2015 but has not had a 1,000-yard season in Miami. Making matters more complicated, Parker's agent Jimmy Gould called Dolphins head coach Adam Gase "incompetent" to a host of different media outlets. Parker has only been active twice this season though he contends health is not an issue. 

Gruden remains confident that 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson will get going, and he is a similar big target as Thomas and Parker. Should Richardson miss significant time, the Redskins would lack a true speed threat.

There's certainly no clear indication that Washington will make a move before the NFL trade deadline, but as things stand now with injuries, there is a need. Remember, too, the Redskins are long on 2019 draft picks with 10 selections in seven rounds.



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A day after loss to Redskins, Cowboys trade for Raiders WR Amari Cooper

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A day after loss to Redskins, Cowboys trade for Raiders WR Amari Cooper

The Dallas Cowboys are in desperate need of a playmaking wide receiver. The lack of talent at wide receiver has been evident throughout the first seven weeks of the 2018 NFL season, with wide receivers accounting for just five of the Cowboys' eight passing touchdowns.

Following the 20-17 loss to the Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys decided to make a quick fix, trading a 2019 first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for star wide receiver Amari Cooper, according to multiple reports.

Cooper, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has just 22 catches for 280 yards and one touchdown in the first six games. The former Alabama star had an equally disappointing 2017 campaign and has grown frustrated with his role in John Gruden's new regime.

Cooper will instantly become the Cowboys best deep threat and will allow Cole Beasley to shine both in the slot and spread out wide. Beasley leads the Cowboys with 33 receptions for 350 yards and two touchdowns.

Rookie Michael Gallup, who scored the Cowboys' only passing touchdown against the Redskins, has the second most targets among Dallas receivers, hauling in 10 of his 22 targets for 190 yards. Tight end Geoff Swaim has 19 catches for 205 yards and running back Ezekiel Elliott has 25 catches for 175 yards.

Prescott is averaging just 202.2 passing yards per game, and while Cooper may not be a true top-tier wide receiver, he is the next best thing and will allow the offense to be more dynamic in its play-calling.

Cooper will make an estimated $13.9 million in base salary in 2019, meaning the Cowboys will have to pay a pretty penny to keep him.

The move makes it clear that the Raiders are shifting toward a full rebuild. It also shows that Dallas understands it didn't have enough firepower to compete for a divisional title.

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