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3 players to watch in Washington's next NFC East showdown

DeAndre Carter follows his blockers during the Washington Football Team's game against the Dallas Cowboys. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
DeAndre Carter follows his blockers during the Washington Football Team's game against the Dallas Cowboys. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

The Washington Football Team heads north to face the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC East game. Here are three players who could have pivotal roles in the Week 15 matchup.

Shaka Toney

The defensive end made a splash a couple weeks back with his first-ever NFL sack against Russell Wilson, and there's a good chance he could find himself in the spotlight again on Sunday against the Eagles.

Toney played 61% of the defensive snaps against the Dallas Cowboys, which was more than all of snaps in his previous five games combined. Toney recorded four tackles in his first career start, but there were flashes earlier in the season that provided a glimpse of his talent. During Washington's Monday Night Football game against the Seattle Seahawks, he recorded his first sack against Russell Wilson.

"I see a little explosive quickness off the edge," said head coach Ron Rivera. "He's got a little bit of a natural slither to him in terms of his movement skills. And he's a guy that if he can get into a rhythm, especially for a young guy, he could help make an impact."

With 21 players now on Washington's Reserve/COVID-19 list, seven of which are on the defensive line, Toney will likely see even more playing time on Sunday. The positive is that the seventh-round rookie has proven he can make the most of his situation.

DeAndre Carter

Part of the reason this NFL season can be declared a breakout one for Carter is because he has shown he can make big plays in the open field. He's been a pleasant surprise for Washington all year, and his skills will be needed once again against the Eagles.

With Terry McLaurin in the concussion protocol and Cam Sims on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, there's a good shot Carter, who is also tied for second on the team with three touchdowns, will see a heavy increase in targets.

The stats show that Carter has 279 receiving yards on 21 receptions, but his impact goes far beyond that. He's made one clutch catch after the other, going all the way back to Week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons. While his usage has lessened over the past two weeks, he accounted for at least 40 yards in three of four games from Weeks 8 through 12.

When Carter is active in the game plan, it normally means good things for Washington's offense. He's been a solid target for Taylor Heinicke in the receiver rotation. Sunday could be a chance to show how he can handle being a top option.

William Jackson III

Like the defensive line, much of Washington's secondary has been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list with Kendall Fuller and Kamren Curl being two of the most notable additions. That means veterans like William Jackson III will need to step up in their absence.

But that's not the only reason Jackson is a player to watch this week. The cornerback has had quite the turnaround since the start of the season. Since the bye week, he's recorded 18 tackles, all but one of them were solo, and broken up three passes. He also recorded an interception against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"He's got a tremendous combination of size, speed, foot quickness, body control," said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "He's been continuing to work and learn how we do things and where he belongs. He's been much more consistent in terms of being where we need him."

Playing without Fuller will be difficult, seeing as he received Washington's highest grade against the Cowboys by Pro Football Focus. But now that Jackson has become more settled in his role with Washington, the hope is that he and the rest of the secondary will be up to the task of playing against the DeVonta Smith-led Eagles' receiving corps.

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