- The Washington Times
Thursday, September 7, 2017

ASHBURN — Redskins wide receiver Terrelle Pryor cut off a question Thursday regarding potential problems with timing between him and Kirk Cousins.

“We won’t worry about that,” Pryor said. “We’ll see Sunday.”


The time for worrying, or downplaying any worries, is over. The Redskins face the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at 1 p.m. and many players inside the locker room have repeatedly stated they need to prove themselves on the field.

Boastful and confident after a playoff appearance in 2015, the Redskins opened last season by getting twerked-on by the Pittsburgh Steelers in a nationally televised 38-16 “Monday Night Football” rout.

This year, the Redskins aren’t in the national spotlight, but they still face a heated NFC East rival.

“You kind of know them a little bit, but you never know,” linebacker Mason Foster said. “People can throw new wrinkles in their game, new stuff they’ve been working on throughout camp. You have to be prepared for everything.”

What do the Redskins have to be prepared for? Here’s what to watch.

Philly’s new tools

Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz seemed like a near-lock for the NFL’s rookie of the year over the course of the first four weeks last season, but that changed once teams got more film to study and tackle Lane Johnson was suspended 10 games.

To help Wentz, the Eagles went out and signed wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to one-year deals. They also added running back LeGarrette Blount as an upgrade over the oft-injured Ryan Mathews.

The Redskins are waiting to see how exactly the Eagles are going to use their new playmakers.

“Those guys like Alshon and Torrey, everybody knows those guys,” Foster said. “You know what types of players they are. Torrey is fast and going to stretch the field. Alshon, 50-50 balls, jumping up and making plays. We just have to expect that. … It’s going to be a challenge, but we have the players to do that.”

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said he’s noticed a difference in Wentz’s play.

“He is operating like he is a five-year vet right now,” Jenkins said. “His command with the team is very, very strong compared to last year. Last year he wasn’t forced into or he didn’t try to force himself into a leadership role. This year, it has really come quite naturally and organically.”

Defense finding a rhythm

How long will it take for the Redskins’ defense to adapt to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s new scheme?

“I think it’s a little bit ASAP,” Manusky said.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Manusky’s unit, particularly safety D.J. Swearinger, is doing a great job of communicating on the field.

The Redskins’ pass defense was shaky last season, finishing 24th in DVOA, which best measures a team efficiency across the league. Their run defense ranked exactly the same.

In 2016, the Eagles‘ offense ranked 24th in yards gained, but sixth in pass attempts. Wentz threw 28 touchdowns to 12 interceptions.

Washington has already had some unexpected gaps to fill in recent weeks with nose tackle Phil Taylor suffering a season-ending injury and Su’a Cravens mulling retirement on the exempt/left squad list.

The Redskins will rely upon safety Deshazor Everett and lineman Ziggy Hood to start instead. In Everett’s case, he’s eager to pick up where he left off against the Eagles.

Everett had his first career interception last season off Wentz in the end zone.

“You look at [Quinton Dunbar], he picked off Eli Manning his first time, his first interception and then the next year, he did it again,” Everett said. “It’s definitely something to build off of.”

Being aware of Philadelphia’s front-seven

When running back Rob Kelley watches film, he doesn’t like to identify players by name — he uses numbers instead. That way, Kelley said he doesn’t let the reputation of a player creep into his mind while studying.

But Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox and the rest of the Eagles‘ front seven all stand out.

“[They] cut off a lot of run lanes and force the back to make decisions faster than normally,” Kelley said.

In Cox, the Eagles have a player who racked up 57 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, and had 6 1/2 sacks last year. The Eagles ranked fourth in DVOA on defense as a unit in 2016.

“He gets off the snap count extremely well,” Gruden said. “He’s one of the best three techniques in the league, if not the best. He can play the run equally as well as he can play the pass. That’s what we’re hoping to get around here.”

Kelley said the Eagles try to pass rush every time and they will have to use that against them.

OK, but the timing

Pryor didn’t want to talk about the Redskins being out of sync in the preseason, saying it was common for most teams in August. Pryor, though, is new to Washington and former 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson barely saw the field last year.

There are questions and the offensive rhythm bears watching.

Still, Pryor said he plans to be very physical with the Eagles‘ cornerbacks to see if they can match the intensity. The games are real now, Pryor said.

“We don’t have any excuses,” Pryor said. “Right now, we’re taking it very serious to come out here and be on fire, give people a show.”


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