So much for 16-0. Not like an undefeated season was an actual consideration, but performing well at FedEx Field is needed for a positive season. The Washington Redskins didn’t. Miscues in all three phases including a brutal fourth quarter interception from quarterback Kirk Cousins led to a 30-17 Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon.
Here are four observations from the Redskins losing their fourth consecutive season opener under head coach Jay Gruden.
Oops – It’s rarely a good idea putting blame for any NFL result on any one player and we won’t here. For example, the offensive line struggled against Philadelphia’s strong front-7 as Cousins often ran for his life. Yet it’s hard overlooking the play of the quarterback especially in key moments. With the Redskins trailing 19-17 entering the final period, Cousins led a promising drive that included completions of 16 and 28 yards. On third-and-six from the Eagles 14, he threw off his back foot while retreating and threw over the head of 5’9” Jamison Crowder. Philadelphia defensive back Jalen Mills intercepted the ball in the end zone. Turns out Washington that moment was its last hope offensively as the Eagles later returned the second of two fumbles from Cousins for a touchdown. Cousins finished 23 of 40 for 240 yards with one touchdown pass and an interception. He had help putting up such a lackluster stat line, but the lack of rhythm was a thing all summer as well. Don’t panic, but you can be concerned, sure.
Stepping Up – Ryan Kerrigan is the answer to a future trivia question: Who scored Washington’s first touchdown in the 2017 season? The linebacker intercepted a Carson Wentz pass that was tipped by lineman Stacy McGee for a touchdown. Chris Thompson’s pinballed off defenders for a 29-yard touchdown as the Redskins went from trailing 13-0 to leading 14-13 with 1:26 left in the first half, though the Eagles added a field goal before halftime. While Terrelle Pryor was inconsistent, Josh Doctson a non-factor and Crowder a fumbler on punt return duty, wide receiver Ryan Grant had four receptions for 61 yards. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland and linebacker Zach Brown shined defensively.
Third and Ugh – Washington’s defense needed a boost in several areas after the 2016 campaign. Point to a specific scenario and third down defense is first of mind as the Redskins finished last in the NFL last season. Opponents converted 47 percent of their attempts. Based on the 2017 opener, the issue isn’t solved. Philadelphia went 5 of 7 in the first half, including the 58-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor off a broken play that opened the scoring and finished 8 of 14. Pass rush pressure wasn’t the issue and inside linebacker Zach Brown’s speed stood out , but taking down Wentz (26 of 39, 307 yards, two touchdown passes) was problematic at times. The Redskins finished 3 of 11 on third down attempts including 1 of 5 in the second half.
Eagles Nest – My pal Dan Steinberg with the Washington Post this week wrote a column about whether anyone is excited for the season. My take is more apathy than disinterest. The distinction being folks are long-time invested so they’re not jumping ship for other teams in town, but the emotion is packed away for the moment. The why is a topic for standalone post. The mention here is because the lower bowl at the regular season/home opener was loaded with Eagles fans. It’s not a long drive from Philadelphia, but there would be no reason for Eagle nation to make the trip most years. Seats galore this time.