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Domo: Redskins' D-Jax shows value of deep-threat receiver

TRAILING THE Eagles by six points midway through the third quarter Sunday, Jay Gruden did what coaches that have a legitimate vertical receiving threat do.

Washington Redskins' DeSean Jackson runs off the field after an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Philadelphia. Washington won 27-22.
Washington Redskins' DeSean Jackson runs off the field after an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Philadelphia. Washington won 27-22.Read more(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

TRAILING THE Eagles by six points midway through the third quarter Sunday, Jay Gruden did what coaches that have a legitimate vertical receiving threat do.

He sent him deep.

DeSean Jackson lined up wide right on a second-and-9 play and did his roadrunner thing right past helpless cornerback Leodis McKelvin on a post route. Quarterback Kirk Cousins' pass wasn't perfect, but Jackson was able to haul it in for an 80-yard touchdown that gave the Redskins the lead.

As they are currently constructed, the Eagles don't have the capacity to score in the blink of any eye. They have a young quarterback - Carson Wentz - with one of the strongest arms in the league. But he doesn't have anybody like Jackson who can make defensive backs eat his dust.

That was apparent yet again in their 27-22 loss to the Redskins.

The Eagles are the equivalent of a station-to-station baseball team that needs four base hits to score a run.

They entered the game with the sixth fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards in the league (34). Wentz completed 32 of 46 passes in the Eagles' eighth loss of the season, but just one of them gained more than 16 yards.

This is a tight end- and slot receiver-centric offense that needs 12 plays to cover the ground that Jackson did in one play.

Ball control has a lot of pluses, but the more plays a team needs to score, the better the chances are of something going wrong before you get to the end zone.

We saw that twice Sunday. We saw it the beginning on the Eagles' second possession of the game when they drove down to the Washington 3 only to have Wentz throw his first red-zone interception of the season.

And we saw it again at the end when, trailing by five and the clock ticking, it took the Eagles nine plays to travel from their own 25 to the Washington 14.

On play No. 10, Wentz fumbled the ball away when he was sacked by Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who beat right tackle Matt Tobin, who was subbing for injured Allen Barbre, who had replaced injured Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who had replaced suspended Lane Johnson.

A breakdown of Wentz's numbers clearly underscore the Eagles' need to upgrade their wide receiving corps during the offseason. Twenty-nine of his 32 completions were caught by either tight ends Zach Ertz (10), Trey Burton (seven) or Brent Celek (two), slot receiver Jordan Matthews (eight) or running back Darren Sproles (two).

The other three wide receivers who were active Sunday - Nelson Agholor (two receptions) and undrafted rookies Paul Turner (one) and Bryce Treggs (none) - combined for three catches for 38 yards.

In last week's 32-14 loss to the Bengals, the Eagles used two- or three-tight end formations on 62 of 80 plays. On Sunday, they used them on 45 of 76 plays.

On their final drive, eight of the Eagles' 10 plays were with "12" personnel (one RB, two TE, two WRs). One of the two plays in which they went with three wide receivers was the last one when Kerrigan sacked Wentz and knocked the ball loose.

Asked after the game about the Eagles' heavy reliance on multiple-tight end sets, coach Doug Pederson said, "Some of it is a lack of depth (at wide receiver). Some of it is the youth there, the (lack) of game experience.

"I know Carson feels like he's got a lot of time invested with both Trey and Zach. A lot of times, you end up doing what's best for the team, what the quarterback feels comfortable doing."

That was the case last year when Sam Bradford relied heavily on Ertz and Matthews in the second half of the season. And it's the case again this year with Wentz.

On Sunday, just 11 of Wentz's 32 completions came out of three-wide receiver sets. Those 11 catches gained a grand total of 93 yards.

Ertz, Matthews and Burton combined for 25 catches Sunday, but averaged just 10.2 yards per catch and didn't have a touchdown.

I think (multiple-tight end sets) sometimes just limits what (the defense) can do a little bit," Wentz said. "Plus, I think some of it was Trey. He can just do a lot of different things for us. You saw that last week as well."

Given the limitations of an offense without outside weapons and an offensive line that not only lost Barbre (hamstring), but also was without right guard Brandon Brooks for the second time in three games due to an unspecified illness, Wentz played very well Sunday.

The red-zone interception on a pass to Ertz cost the Eagles points. But the rookie had his best third-down performance of the season, completing 11 of 13 third-down passes for 122 yards and a season-high nine passing first downs on third down.

"I thought Carson probably had his best game of the year, quite honestly," Pederson said. "We were down to our fourth right tackle by the end of the game. We were down to one running back.

"The way he hung in there and battled the adversity with the changes up front (was impressive."

Now, if they can just get the kid a receiver who can do what DeSean Jackson did Sunday, we might find out how good he can really be.

By the numbers

* The Eagles gave up multiple rushing touchdowns for the first time this season.

* The Eagles gave up three more pass plays of 20-plus yards, including an 80-yard touchdown by DeSean Johnson. That makes 50 in 13 games for the Eagles. Going into the game, they had allowed the second most 20-plus-yard pass plays in the league.

* Fletcher Cox ended an eight-game sack drought with 1 1/2 Sunday. His last sack had been against Lions in the fourth game of the season. He has 5 1/2. His career high is 9 1/2 in 2015.

* Trey Burton's seven receptions were a career high.

* The Redskins converted just two of seven third-down opportunities against the Eagles. Kirk Cousins was 0-for-4 on third down. In the Eagles' three previous games against Seattle, Green Bay and Cincinnati, opposing quarterbacks had completed 26 of 33 third-down passes against the Eagles and had averaged 12.1 yards per attempt.

* Redskins tight ends had just two receptions for 11 yards. In 13 games, opposing tight ends have 32 catches for 330 yards and four touchdowns against the Eagles.

* The Redskins had four double-digit-yard runs against the Eagles, including 22- and 25-yard touchdowns.

* Carson Wentz threw 46 passes against the Redskins. That was the third most attempts of the season for him. He had 60 last week against the Bengals and 47 against the Giants. In his last seven starts, Wentz has averaged 44.7 pass attempts per game. In his first six starts, he averaged 30.8.

* Eleven of Wentz's 12 interceptions have come in the last eight games.

* Sunday's loss was just the Eagles' second in six home games.

* Wentz completed 11 of 13 passes on third down for 122 yards. He had a season-high nine passing first downs on third down.

* The Eagles have scored on their first possession in seven of their 13 games, including Sunday. They have scored just twice on their second possession.