5 matchups to watch as Eagles open 2020 season in Washington originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Eagles will kick off their season against Washington for the third time in four years.
The Eagles have won their last six games against Washington after losing twice to them in 2016
Washington not only lost its nickname this offseason but also hired a new coach and has plenty of new players.
The Eagles opened as 6-point favorites, according to PointsBet.
Here are five key matchups to watch:
The Eagles have to feel way better about this than a potential Matt Pryor vs. Young matchups. This is more of a fair fight. Sure, maybe Peters isn’t the All-Pro he once was but he’s still a really good left tackle and the best option the Eagles have going into the 2020 season. And at 38, he knows every veteran trick he can use against the rookie.
But the rookie is really good. There’s a reason he was the No. 2 pick in the draft and there’s a reason many expect him to come into the NFL and be a major contributor from Day 1.
When Young was born, Peters was getting ready to enter his senior year at Queen City High School as he got recruited to play defensive line at the next level.
“Chase, we just kind of have to go off what he did in college and study his college tape to get a feel for him as a pass rusher, as a defensive end, an edge setter and go play,” Doug Pederson said. “And then make those adjustments as we go.
“You're not sure if he's going to be on our right or our left but at the same time, we have to go play and execute and do our jobs and stay within our rules and all of that, and do the best we can against that. And like I said, in-game adjustments are going to be important in games like this."
Washington will have Young on one side and Ryan Kerrigan on the other. Thats’ a formidable duo.
Eagles’ guards vs. Washington’s interior DL
As much hype as Young is getting (and rightfully so) Washington’s interior line is very good too. Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne and Matt Ioannidis form one of the best defensive tackle rotations in the NFL.
Now, it’ll be Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce and (likely) Matt Pryor going against them. While Pryor is relatively unproven, Seumalo has been a starter for a while now and a pretty solid one. He has had a couple disastrous performances in his career but aside from them, he’s settled in to be a pretty good left guard. Big test early this season.
The Eagles traded for Darius Slay and gave him a big contract because they want him to be able to cover the top receivers in the NFL. He’ll get a nice test in Week 1 against Washington’s Terry McLaurin, who gave Slay some trouble last year.
In Week 12 of 2019, McLaurin caught five passes for 72 yards against the Lions. Against Slay, he had three catches on 10 targets for 42 yards and also dropped another. Slay had a PBU.
"To be honest, that whole year, besides Keenan Allen, [McLaurin] was my hardest one that I covered that whole year," Slay said earlier this year. "He probably would have scored on me two times."
In his career, Slay has traveled with top receivers and the Eagles plan on doing that again with him this year, especially when they face the Cowboys and Amari Cooper. Slay has had great success against Cooper in his career and he attributes it to his extensive film study. He has watched every snap Cooper has ever taken.
But last year when he faced McLaurin, there wasn’t even a year’s worth of tape.
“The rook kind of surprised me,” Slay said. “He’s a lot faster than what I thought on film."
Antonio Gibson vs. Eagles linebackers
In a surprise move just before final cuts, Washington cut future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, meaning they’re going into the season with a running back by committee system that features Antonio Gibson, Peyton Barber, Bryce Love and JD McKissic.
It seems like Gibson’s emergence was the real catalyst for the decision to get rid of Peterson. Gibson was a third-round pick out of Memphis, where he played mostly receiver and a little bit of running back. With Washington, he’s going to be a dual threat player.
The Eagles’ linebackers are young and athletic but relatively unproven. They’re going to start Nate Gerry, Duke Riley and T.J. Edwards in 2020. Good first test for those guys against a young but really athletic running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield as well as anyway.
Brandon Scherff vs. Fletcher Cox
It’s an oldie but a goodie. These two battle twice per seasons and it’s always fun to watch. Scherff (6-5, 315) has made the Pro Bowl in three of the last four seasons, while Cox has been a Pro Bowler in the last five seasons.
Cox didn’t have a sack against Washington in their two meetings last year. He had three against them in the 2018 regular season finale but Scherff didn’t play in that game.
In his career, Cox has 12 1/2 sacks against Washington, his highest total (by far) against any team in the NFL. The next closest are his 4 1/2 against the Cowboys.