The Redskins on Sunday take on the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField. PhiladelphiaEagles.com Senior Content Producer Chris McPherson gives us an insider's look at the major storylines for the opposing team heading into the matchup.*
Redskins.com:** What's the feeling like around the facility now that the Eagles got the monkey off their back and got that first victory last Sunday vs. the Jets? Was there any sort of impatience or frustration building after those first two weeks, or was there a collective mission to stay the course and they knew good things would happen?
McPherson: "**The week leading up to the Jets game was a litmus test for the team. Would the Eagles hold together after the disappointing 0-2 start or would the team come apart at the seams? Sunday's win over the Jets wasn't pretty, but all three phases contributed. The running game finally got off the ground as Ryan Mathews stepped in for the injured DeMarco Murray and had over 100 yards. The defense forced four takeaways, including two from rookies. And Darren Sproles' 89-yard punt return touchdown provided the spark to really get things rolling. The offense is still jelling, but it's shown signs of progress. The defense has made significant strides from last season. They just needed that first win. History has not been kind to 0-2 teams. An 0-3 start was not something the Eagles wanted to encounter."
Redskins.com:How has Sam Bradford looked as a quarterback in Chip Kelly's system? Everybody knows he has all the skills to be a good NFL quarterback, but health has obviously been his issue. Is leaning on a strong running game going to be his M.O. to get the passing game going?
A look back at some of the top images in games between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.
McPherson:** "Sunday's win was good for Sam Bradford for him to experience that winning feeling for the first time in almost two calendar years. I think we've seen glimpses of what Bradford can do. In the second half against Atlanta, the offense was humming as Bradford went 21-of-25 and nearly rallied the Eagles to a come-from-behind win. His touchdown pass to Ryan Mathews against the Jets displayed perfect anticipation and touch. I think Bradford has had his struggles, but I also think players need to step up around him. Mathews dropped what would have been a big gain against the Jets. Sproles dropped what would have been a touchdown last week. The wide receivers? Jordan Matthews was the only one with a catch in the win. Sure, there are some passes that Bradford would like to have back, but someone needs to make a play for him."
Redskins.com:Despite some early struggles offensively, the defense, at least against the run, has really been pretty solid through three games. What do you attribute to this factor?
McPherson: "The Eagles allowed the most explosive pass plays a year ago and they went into the offseason knowing that had to change. First, they hired Cory Undlin and promoted Matt Harper to coach the secondary. Undlin held the same title with John Fox's staff in Denver and coached three Broncos DBs to the Pro Bowl last year. Next, they upgraded the personnel. They signed Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond in free agency and used three draft picks on the secondary, including second-round pick Eric Rowe. The Eagles have five interceptions thus far, only two teams have more. For the pass defense to hold up, the run defense has to be stout. The Eagles lead the league in average yards per carry allowed. Fletcher Cox should be a household name as a 3-4 defensive end. Bennie Logan is an up-and-coming nose tackle. The line is winning the battles up front forcing teams to be one-dimensional."
Redskins.com:Give us one or two players that don't get a lot of attention that could be big factors on Sunday vs. the Redskins. What do these guys bring to the table?
McPherson: "**This will be interesting with the potential for bad weather on Sunday. On offense, I'll go with tight end Zach Ertz. He missed the preseason with a core muscle injury, but still has the playmaking talent similar to Jordan Reed in Washington. He had a franchise-record 15 receptions in the Week 16 meeting between these two teams last year. Even with DeAngelo Hall out, Chris Culliver – if he's able to play – and Bashaud Breeland provide a tough cover corner duo for the wide receivers. The Eagles may have to work the middle of the field and Ertz could be key.
On defense, I'll go with rookie linebacker Jordan Hicks. In his first career start, Hicks had 10 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception. He played every snap and was in charge of calling the defense in the dime package when he was the only linebacker on the field. That's an impressive assignment for a player who was supposed to be only a special teams contributor this season. Mychal Kendricks will return to the lineup from a hamstring injury, barring a last-minute setback, but the rookie has inserted himself into the playing rotation moving forward. With DeSean Jackson likely out, Reed will be the top target and Hicks will be one of the players charged with the task of keeping him in check."