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Eagles defense actually played pretty well, considering, but didn’t make big plays to turn the tide

A solid effort, despite injury losses, was sabotaged by constantly having to face poor field position.

Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson had minor ankle surgery in August and will miss Sunday's opener against the Washington Football Team.
Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson had minor ankle surgery in August and will miss Sunday's opener against the Washington Football Team.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

LANDOVER, Md. --- A defense hasn’t spent this much time in its own end since the seventh game of the Flyers-Islanders series.

Jim Schwartz’s Eagles D did a lot of things right in Sunday’s season-opening 27-17 loss to host Washington. But when your opponent starts six of its last nine possessions on your side of the 50, you are really under the gun.

As expected, pass coverage was better than last season; Darius Slay held Terry McLaurin to five catches for 61 yards, and Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw for only 178 yards, with a longest completion of 21.

The pass rush wasn’t great, but there was no Javon Hargrave (pec and hamstring) or Derek Barnett (hamstring), and the Eagles lost Vinny Curry (hamstring) and Brandon Graham (probable concussion) during the game. The young linebackers didn’t get trampled; Washington ran 36 times to gain 80 rushing yards.

But with the Eagles offense imploding and the field seemingly tilted, the defense couldn’t manage an interception or a fumble recovery that might have saved the day. That part did feel like last year.

“Sometimes we got to be firemen” and come up with a big stop, Jalen Mills said after his debut as a starting safety, which was uneventful.

No Lane to victory

The Eagles were without their two starting offensive tackles.

Lane Johnson, one of the best right tackles in the league, was inactive. The 30-year-old was limited all week in practice and was questionable going into the game because of an ankle cleanout last month.

Jack Driscoll started at right tackle in Johnson’s spot, with Nate Herbig starting at right guard. Driscoll was the fourth-round pick out of Auburn, and Herbig was an undrafted free agent last season who played three snaps, all in the regular-season finale.

Jalen Hurts, Alshon Jeffery, Miles Sanders, Javon Hargrave, Derek Barnett, and Casey Toohill were also listed as inactive. Sanders and Barnett were questionable going into the game before being ruled out Saturday. Both players missed most of training camp with hamstring problems and were limited in practice all week.

Without Johnson, the team was missing three of the five starting offensive linemen it expected to have going into the spring. Right guard Brandon Brooks tore his left Achillies in June, which caused the team to sign Jason Peters to start in his place. Peters has since moved to left tackle because of Andre Dillard’s season-ending biceps injury.

The team chose Herbig over Matt Pryor, who played last season when Brooks got hurt. Pryor is presumably the backup at right guard and right tackle. Herbig got reps alongside Johnson during practices last week. Driscoll got the right tackle spot over Jordan Mailata., who then entered in the second half, after Driscoll limped off.

The patchwork offensive line gave up eight sacks, as Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan took over the franchise career sack record, with 92. Dexter Manley had 91.

Hurts' being inactive signified that Nate Sudfeld is indeed the backup quarterback. Sudfeld and Hurts split reps with the second-team offense during training camp, with Sudfeld taking a slight majority of the work.

Anthem activities

The teams gathered across from one another for “Lift Every Voice” more than 30 minutes before kickoff. Later, when “The Star Spangled Banner” was played, Washington players stood on the sideline, some with upraised fists. The Eagles stayed in the locker room.

Overall, Washington did not seem to pump in crowd noise. Snippets of music played on the PA between snaps.