Eagles-Washington Preview Q&A With Rich Tandler

Plus: Will DeSean Jackson make it to free agency or will Washington re-sign him?

DeSean Jackson. (USA Today Sports)

DeSean Jackson. (USA Today Sports)

In this week’s installment of Opposition Research, we talked to CSN Washington’s Rich Tandler. We discussed how Washington is different now versus the last time the Eagles played them, what DeSean Jackson’s future could hold and who will win, among a few other topics.

How is Washington different compared to the last time these two teams met?

Kirk Cousins and the offense in general has improved since then. At that time, they were trying to get their feet under them. Cousins didn’t struggle horribly, but he hadn’t found his rhythm yet when he played the Eagles. He threw that pick-six, and every game he had something like that. But since then, he’s really started to play well with a few exceptions — Arizona last week being one of those exceptions. On the flip side of the coin, the defense has started to unravel a little bit. The Eagles caught them in a very good stretch when they held opponents to 20 points or fewer five games in a row. In the last two games, they’ve allowed 31 points each. It’s both running and pass defense that’s going in the wrong direction, while the offense is going in the right direction.”

From the outside look in, it seems like a relatively safe bet they’re going to lock up Cousins in the offseason.

“They’re still trying to say through reporters that they’re not really sold yet and they haven’t really decided yet. There are four games left and whether or not they make the playoffs will factor into it, but they’re going to try. It’s a situation where Cousins has a lot of leverage. Cousins has the $24 million tag this year and $34 million next year. There is talk it could get too expensive for the Redskins’ blood. I do think there’s a good chance they will either sign him long term or they might franchise him again.”

On the other side of the ball, what’s wrong with the defense?

“The line is really dreadful. [Defensive end] Chris Baker is a quality player. [Defensive end] Ziggy Hood and [defensive lineman] Cullen Jenkins are high-character guys, but the fact that those guys are getting so many snaps is an indication that the line is just not what it should be. David Johnson of the Cardinals took advantage of that last week when he got going. The safety play, same kind of thing. Will Blackmon, a journeyman, converted from cornerback. They picked up Donte Whitner in Week 4 off the street and he’s either been starting or playing a lot of snaps for them. Those two areas have been weak all year long and it’s been a question of how well they can cover for those areas.”

There’s been talk in Philly about a potential DeSean Jackson return via free agency. Does Washington plan to let him go and not re-sign him?

“I would say the general consensus is it’s unlikely they’ll bring DeSean back. He’s had his moments; he caught a long touchdown against the Cowboys and he caught a 59-yard pass against the Cardinals to set up a touchdown, but they’re not getting much else out of him other than that. That was his only catch against the Cardinals, and he had three other fairly short catches against Dallas. I don’t think they’re getting what they want out of him. This gets into maybe the same stuff it got into in Philly as far as how in the offseason, he’s one of a small handful of players that doesn’t attend OTAs. He’s kind of in and out for them. Scot McCloughan, the General Manager, is trying in his second year on the job to build a culture where his veterans show accountability, set the way for the younger players and that’s just not DeSean. It just isn’t him. For culture reasons and for production reasons, I think they’ll bring back Pierre Garçon and let DeSean go.”

Is Washington battling any notable injuries for this game?

Jordan Reed had that shoulder separation against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. He really gutted it out to finish the game, but he couldn’t go last week against the Cardinals. He practiced on a limited basis (on Wednesday), and I think if he shows some degree of progress this week he’ll go against the Eagles. I think it’ll be a matter of pain tolerance and he showed in that second half on Thanksgiving that he has that to a high degree. So I think Reed will be back in there.

“Their starting center, Spencer Long, is in the concussion protocol. They have long-time Vikings center John Sullivan as the backup, so he can step in there. He played the second half against the Cardinals and he was more than adequate. Will Blackmon, the starting safety, is in the concussion protocol, too. They actually had a long injury list (on Wednesday) with around eight guys who didn’t practice, but I think by the time Sunday rolls around, everyone except the guys with the concussions should be able to go.”

Who do you think will win?

“I think it’s a game the Redskins should win. I’m getting the impression from what you Eagles guys are putting on Twitter that this is more of a rebuilding team than a contender, and I think the Redskins are a little bit better. But they’re certainly not clearly superior to where you can say, ‘There’s no way they lose this game.'”