The bitter taste of Week 5’s one-point loss to the Lions is still lingering for every Eagles fan and player after the quarter-season mark passed last week.
But at 3-1, it’s hard to complain — especially when considering the team is being led by a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach.
The Eagles will show what they’re really made of Sunday afternoon, when they start their conference schedule against Washington. They’ll also see Carson Wentz take the field after his first career NFL loss and interception.
Here are three things to watch for as the Week 6 battle approaches:
Welcome to the NFL, Big V
The Eagles finally lost Lane Johnson to a 10-game suspension, and named rookieHalapoulivaati Vaitai the starter at right tackle. He’s never stepped foot into a regular season NFL game, but the Eagles coaching staff expect him to make a seamless entrance to the Eagles O-line.
“Big V [Vaitai] looks good,” Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.”Big, strong guy; smart, athletic, natural pass setting ability. I’m excited for him to have his opportunity.”
Being thrown into the fire on an away game against a bitter rival could be intimidating — and could be asking for trouble. It’s a risk the Eagles are not hesitant to take.
“We’re practicing with the noise all the time out here,” Reich said.”Obviously, this weekend, it isn’t optimal. He’s going up against a pretty good pass-rusher who, when they are in nickel defense, will be on his side. Honestly, when you’re a player, you kind of get excited about that: ‘Hey, if I’m going to go, I might as well go on the road and start off the right way.’ That’s what a warrior’s mindset is. Guys who play in this league, I think that’s how they think.”
After Sunday’s game against 3-2 Washington things get no easier for the Eagles schedulewise, facing seven teams in a row with a combined 24-7 record.
After their trip to D.C., Philly returns home to host the undefeated Vikings, followed by road games against NFC East foes theCowboys and Giants. After that, Super Bowl contenders Atlanta, Seattle and Green Bay beckon. The Eagles have the hardest remaining schedule in the entire NFL.
“Everyone knows the importance of the division games and this is the first one,” Reich said.”You want to kind of set the tone and tempo for how you’re going to treat these games.
“But at the end of the day, you still get back to one at a time. You can only play one per week. The best thing you can do is just focus on how we’re going to play the Washington Redskins and attack them and go from there.”
A tale of two D’s
In the first half of the Eagles 24-23 setback in Detroit, the defense looked alarmingly similar to the dreadful Chip Kelly attack from last year. The team couldn’t tackle, couldn’t get off the field and was flagged for unnecessary penalties left and right.
But then in the second half they tightened up. They didn’t allow a touchdown and gave the offense several chances to hang on and win the game.
“We were able to sort of, you know,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “I don’t want to say stop the bleeding, but we were able to get it controlled, and they were able to go out and play. One bad play didn’t turn into the next. There’s no dodging the fact we played a poor half of football in the first half.”
Which defense will show up in Washington this week?
“That’s a good offensive skill group.[They have a] heavy running back that can make yards in between the tackles [inMatt Jones] … They have a lot of receivers that are different in style [Jamison Crower, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon]. “
One break for the Eagles is that Washington tight end Jordan Reed will likely miss Week 6 with a concussion.