By: Russ Taliaferro
As the title says, football officially back & it feels extremely good to say that. It was a beautiful day & an awesome way to experience my first live NFL game. Being there was a total out of body experience. I’m a Giants fan & I found myself cheering for the Redskins, but I’d like to think I was just cheering for football being back.
Both QB’s came out the gate to take a shot & look for their weapons early as Cousins & Wentz looked for Pryor & Smith, respectively, on deep pass on each other’s first play of their first drives. The Redskins eventually punted as Wentz found Agholor deep 2 plays later after their attempt for a 58 yd touch down. Even though both teams failed on their early attempts looking deep, they would still try a few more times later in the game. The Redskins came out looking to mix it up on offense, as they had a good mix of run & pass plays. Their runs didn’t get too much on the ground though, at least not their designed runs. Cousins line failed him more than a few times causing him to find a lane for himself. He ended up being tied with Rob Kelley(10 attempts) with 30 yds to lead the team for the game on 6 less attempts. Philly tried themselves to get their run game going, but couldn’t find much success themselves, rushing for less yds(58) as a team than Cousins & Kelley had combined(60). I will say that Blount did find more solo success than Kelley, rushing for 46 yds on 14 attempts.
The passing game was a little more successful for Wentz & the Eagles. There were times that the line did make Wentz work for his yards down the field, but he made the best with what he had. There were numerous times that Wentz had to escape the pressure to extend a play to find an open Ertz or Agholor. Wentz’s connection with those 2 definitely seems to have improved over the offseason, especially as Agholor (6rec, 86yds, 1TD) was a nice surprise in the opener. Ertz (8rec, 93yds) has been developing into a solid TE for the last few years & looks to continue evolving with this start here. One thing I will like to keep an eye on is how Wentz can mesh with Alshon Jeffrey (3rec, 38yds, 7tgts) & integrate him into the offense. He only had 1 less target than Ertz & Agholor, which shows that he definitlty realizes how much of a threat he can be.
Outside of the sacks & a key interception on their first possession of the 4th quarter, Cousins himself looked decent, I’d blame the sacks more on Philly’s defensive pressure rather than Cousins holding the ball too long. The Philly defense, Brandon Graham & Fletcher Cox in particular, put heavy pressure(4 sacks, 8 qb hits) of Cousins from the word go. After seeing the way they played, I wouldn’t be surprised if Morgan Moses had to run extra laps in practice because Graham & Cox both blew by him several times. Unlike Graham, Cox didn’t have the stat line to show his dominance as he registered only 1 total tackle, but most definitely made his presence felt with a strip-sack on Cousins & a fumble he returned for a touchdown to seal the game in the 4th. Graham on the hand finished with 4 total tackles, 2 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 qb hits & the other forced fumble (another strip-sack) on Cousins. Did I mention that both turnovers that Graham & Cox caused happened when Moses was blocking them? It just wasn’t a good day for Morgan Moses.
The game had its ups & downs for both teams & even though there can only be one winner, there are some positives to take away from this game for both teams. For the Eagles, they can look forward to an improving offense this season. When Nelson Agholor can have a better game than their big offseason signing Alshon Jeffrey, the sky is the limit for that group of receivers. They could definitely go for a better rushing attack, but as they showed for most of the game, that O-Line is a top 5 unit in the league & it will certainly get better. On defense, they will look to keep repeating the near perfect performance they had. The secondary can always rest easy when the D-Line can get the kind of pressure they had. For the Redskins, a positive they can take away from the opener is the fact that Kirk Cousins is still there, even for the last season. As rough as the Philly defense treated Capt. Kirk, he stood in there & never seemed to give up. As I said to Darrell in the press box during the game, there is something big to admire in Kirk Cousins because he truly believes in himself & never gives up. He also targeted Pryor a good number of times. Even if this is his only season with a weapon like Pryor, you have to like that Cousins didn’t waste any time trying to establish a rapport with him. A positive on defense is that Ryan Kerrigan continues to show that he is more than capable of playing at a high level in this league. He is very much underrated LB who just keeps his nose on the grindstone & gives his all every play.
Zach Brown seems to be a heck of a steal from the Bills after he finished the game 12 combined tackles. Someone like him on the inside can only help Kerrigan on the outside. As I said before, they did make Wentz work for the plays he made, but they got to stay focused in the backfield & things like the Agholor touchdown won’t happen. It’s too obvious that their O-Line needs to do better, run blocking & especially pass blocking. If they want even the smallest chance of keeping Cousins around for the future, they need to do better upfront. Either that or hope that Darnold, Rosen, or Jackson establish themselves as top prospects & come into the draft healthy because they’ll be picking one of them with their top pick next year otherwise.