The Eagles’ regular season is finally here, and maybe you’re looking ahead to the weekend with apprehension, thinking, “Alas, it has been so long since I watched the real Eagles starters play a game, it is difficult to remember exactly what I should be focusing upon, forthwith.” Have no fear, we are here with a handy list of pertinent topics! Print it out if you’d like, so you can refer to it Sunday even if your phone battery dies.
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- Carson Wentz. He wears No. 11 and if he makes it through the day upright, the Eagles have avoided the worst possible case scenario for their opener. Beyond Wentz not getting hurt, you’ll want to pay attention to his attempts to get the ball to DeSean Jackson, as they appear in a game on the same team for the first time. The thinking is that Jackson is going to help open up the Eagles’ offense, maybe by catching a bunch of long touchdown passes, or maybe by catching an occasional long pass but looking dangerous enough that the opponent has to keep safety help deep and leave the middle of the field open for Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, and any running backs who might wander onto the field.
- Brandon Brooks. The Eagles’ Pro Bowl right guard has made an amazing recovery from an Achilles tear suffered last Jan. 13 in the playoff loss at New Orleans. Is he really going to start in the opener? Can he play every down? Is he going to be effective? If Brooks isn’t in the lineup or doesn’t take every snap, his backup is Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
- Derek Barnett. The third-year defensive end is supposed to blossom into a star this season, but he did not play in the preseason and missed a lot of practice recovering from shoulder surgery. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was cagey about what he expects this week from Barnett, who was not available to reporters Wednesday or Thursday. The Washington offensive line, minus disgruntled left tackle Trent Williams, would seem to be an ideal group for Barnett to launch his big season against.
- Lane Johnson vs. Ryan Kerrigan. The Eagles have talked a lot about the Redskins’ four-time Pro Bowl edge rusher, for good reason. Johnson, the Eagles’ seventh-year right tackle, said that Kerrigan has been the heart of the Redskins for as long as Johnson has been in the league. Then offensive coordinator Mike Groh called Kerrigan “a rolling ball of butcher blades.” That sounds dangerous. So watch out!
- The official return of DeSean Jackson to the Linc. This was alluded to in No. 1. Obviously, it’s gonna be lit.
- Who are the corners? Early in the week, Eagles coach Doug Pederson seemed to indicate that if Ronald Darby is full go — and Darby said he is — Darby and Sidney Jones will be the outside cornerbacks, with Avonte Maddox in the slot. This could leave Rasul Douglas with no significant role again, as was the case last year this time, though this year, Douglas had an excellent training camp. Jim Schwartz would not reveal his thinking, except to reiterate his view that everyone active on game day has a role, of some sort.
- Miles Sanders? Derrius Guice? The Eagles and the Redskins both want to see what they have in second-round running backs making their NFL debuts. Guice was drafted in 2018 but missed last season with a knee injury. Sanders clearly was the Eagles’ most electric back in the preseason.
- Alshon Jeffery vs. Josh Norman. Two veteran antagonists. Jeffery managed eight catches for 90 yards in the two games against Washington and its shutdown corner last season. Jeffery turned up on the injury report Thursday with the notation “biceps,” but he indicated in the locker room that all was well.
- Nigel Bradham. Will the Eagles’ top linebacker be held out of anything over his decision not to make the trip to North Jersey for the final preseason game? Probably not. More compelling, after not playing in the preseason and not practicing all that much, is he fully recovered from the foot injury he suffered in the playoff loss at New Orleans? The Redskins can run a little, the Eagles need someone to step up. If not Bradham, ex-Redskin Zach Brown.
- Andre Dillard. Jason Peters is feeling frisky, but will Doug Pederson find ways to get his first-round rookie offensive tackle on the field? Maybe Peters takes a series or two off? Maybe Dillard is the third tight end on the goal line?
Doug Pederson is 3-0 in opening games as a head coach. The Eagles have won seven of their last eight opening games and nine of their last 11.
The Eagles defeated the Redskins in the season opener in 2017, 2013, and 1996. They lost to Washington in the 1988 opener.
Eagles linebacker L.J. Fort was Antonio Brown’s teammate with the Steelers from 2015 through last season. Fort said he was surprised to hear about Brown’s on-field tiff with Raiders general manager Mike Mayock, which reports say could end up with Brown being suspended or even released.
“It’s wild. You don’t expect that,” Fort said Thursday, as social media buzzed with news of Brown threatening to punch his GM, then punting a ball and telling Mayock to fine him for that. Mayock presumably approached Brown to discuss Brown’s angry social media post about being fined over missed practices, in which Brown posted the letter from Mayock informing him of $54,000 in fines. “He was a good teammate when I was there and great to all the guys.”
Last season, the Steelers suspended Brown for the final game of the season after he quarreled with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and skipped practices.
“Just competitive stuff,” said Fort.
Have any of the players the Eagles released been picked up by other teams? — Jim Maloney, via email.