With a few months until the kickoff of the NFL season, we will preview matchups we can’t wait to see in 2014. This is the first in our new, weekly series.
Washington vs. Philadelphia (Week 3, Week 16)
One of the top stories of this offseason has been Philadelphia’s suddenly parting ways with wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Whatever the reason, Jackson and the Eagles’ six-year marriage is over, and Jackson has a new contract with their division-rival Washington.
They might not say it publicly — or, maybe they will — but there is no love lost between these two. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly simply called it a football move, while NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith decried Jackson’s final days in Philadelphia as an uncertain environment that wasn’t fair to the former California star. Either way, this sets up a great narrative for their first meeting in 2014, on Sept. 21 in Philadelphia.
Although we’ll hear about it way more than we’d like during the days leading up to Sunday of Week 3, the first meeting between the two since the Eagles sent Jackson on a nine route right out of town isn’t compelling just because of their breakup story. Their matchup will also be an early test of Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is now fully healthy for the first time since 2012. Oh, and did I mention who he’ll be targeting in the passing game? Washington’s receiving corps is suddenly deeper than ever, with Jackson joining longtime Redskin Santana Moss and 2012 addition Pierre Garcon.
But let’s not get carried away just yet — the Eagles boast plenty of their own talent on both sides of the ball. While Jackson is an explosive playmaker, capable of turning the outcome of a game in a single play, Kelly has taken the steps necessary to stock his roster with plenty of skilled players. Just ask the guys over at NFL.com — Kelly has structured his offense to make guys like Jackson expendable.
Plus, 2014 will be the first season in which Eagles quarterback Nick Foles — rated No. 70 in this year’s NFL Top 100 — will be the undoubted starter heading into Week One. Foles came off the bench last season when incumbent starter Michael Vick went down with multiple injuries, and Foles was impressive to say the least, leading the Eagles to a division title before losing in the first round of the playoffs to New Orleans.
Now, with Vick a New Jersey Turnpike away in New York — pushing quarterback Geno Smith for the starting job with the Jets — Foles has the Eagles offense to his own. If he remains near the numbers he put up last season — 2,891 yards passing, 64.0 completion percentage and a staggering 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio — the Eagles should again be in playoff contention, even without Jackson. But even if the Eagles soar without him, don’t think he’ll fly under the radar of the fans at Lincoln Financial Field. The home crowd famous for snowballing Santa Claus will likely have no problem piling on DeSean — no matter how he performs in his return to The Linc. We can’t wait.