Eagles-Washington Preview Q&A: Rich Tandler

Discussing who will win, DeSean Jackson's free agency future and more.
DeSean Jackson and Zach Ertz.

Zach Ertz and DeSean Jackson. (USA Today Sports)

In this week’s installment of Opposition Research, we talked to CSN Washington’s Rich Tandler. We discussed Kirk Cousins’ inconsistent start to the season, what to expect from DeSean Jackson on Sunday and who will win, among several other topics.

What are Washington’s strengths?

“Offensively, so far it’s been the passing game. Kirk Cousins has been off and on. He’s had some moments where he looked as good as he did at any time last year, but we’ve also seen the early 2015 Kirk Cousins when he started off slowly. Nobody really quite seems to have a handle on his inconsistency. Just from looking on the outside, I think there’s a degree of pressure on him to perform. Obviously, he’s making the big money this year, and if he does well, he could be making a lot more than that down the road. I don’t think he’s one of those guys who goes out there and worries about how much he’ll get paid necessarily, but I think it’s in his head to an extent. Another working theory is that he has some pretty good targets — DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder — and with so many different guys to throw to, it seems like he’s hesitating a little bit trying to figure out who to throw to and he ends up throwing late.”

What are Washington’s weaknesses?

“There’s just no consistency in the run game. In the last half of the game against the Giants, they got going. In the entire game against the Browns, Matt Jones had the best day of his career. But then he disappears against the Ravens — Jones averaged 2.2 yards per carry. The offensive line’s strength is pass blocking, and they still haven’t really come together in the run game. This goes back to last year, when they had a stretch of running the ball 30 or 40 or 50 yards a game. On the other side, they are dead last in yards per carry (5.1) against them. It seems like whenever anybody wants to, they can rip a 15-, 20-yard gain against them.”

What’s Jordan Reed’s status for the game and what impact will that have if he’s out?

“Even though Jay Gruden would not rule him out, I would say there’s a very, very slim chance he’ll be ready to go. If it was another player, they may proceed a little bit quicker, but this is his sixth concussion. I think they’re going to go very, very slow with him. Even if he’s feeling great Friday and Saturday, I’d just be very surprised if he’s cleared to play on Sunday. They did get Vernon Davis in the offseason; Davis is older than he was in his prime, when he did a lot of what Jordan Reed does. But I think there’s a good amount of confidence in him stepping in. You have Niles Paul who filled in well when Reed missed time in 2013 and 2014. In the short-term, between Paul and Davis and maybe giving a few more targets to Crowder, they could get by. But if he’s out for an extended period of time, that’s going to be a problem.”

Any other injures or suspensions?

“The only other player who has missed practice this week is first-round pick Josh Doctson, who’s in a mini-shut down mode. That achilles has been nagging him. In fact, they’re getting back Bashaud Breeland, their corner opposite of Josh Norman. Norman has been dealing with a little bit of a wrist injury, but he’ll be good to go for the game. Other than the guys they lost for the season like DeAngelo Hall, they’ll have pretty much all their starters on both sides of the ball, with the exception of Reed.”

How has DeSean Jackson been playing, and what do you expect from him this week?

“He’s been somewhat frustrated. If you look at film, he’s been open an inordinate amount of times when Kirk either hasn’t seen him or when Kirk just overthrew him. But in the game against the Giants, they had the ball on their 25-yard-line, and all it took was two passes to DeSean and they scored a touchdown. He’s still very capable of doing things like that. Kirk’s gonna say he’ll go where his reads take him, but I’m sure there will be more of an effort to try to get the ball to Jackson a little bit more often. I think the animosity, especially with Chip Kelly gone, has faded somewhat, but if he’s going to do well in a division game, he wants it to be against the Eagles.”

What’s your sense of what will happen to DeSean once his contract expires after this season? Will Washington want him back?

“I think they still want to see; there’s 11 games left. I think that will go a long way. After last year when he missed about half the season with a hamstring injury and there were some whispers that maybe he had not worked hard enough to get into shape to prevent an injury like that, I think the vibe was if his contract was up after last year, they would have decided to move on. This year, they haven’t gotten a whole heck of a lot out of him, but it’s interesting because both Jackson and Garçon are going to be 30-years-old by the end of the season and they’re both going to be free agents. It doesn’t seem like they’ll keep both of them. It seems like they’ll keep one of them or neither of them, and the last 11 games will go a long way in deciding which way they want to go.”

Back to Sunday’s game: Who do you think will win?

“Because the Redskins are at home, I think they’ll win, but I’m very curious to see how the Eagles play. They had that game against the Steelers, but let’s see how Carson Wentz does on the road in his first division game. I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen out of him. This will be a big test for him, and if he passes it, the Eagles will prevail. But I think the Redskins should be able to do enough to win. It’s a 50-50 game in a lot of ways.”