It was an impressive start for Washington’s defense under first-year defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
[Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.]
Story of the Game
News broke prior to the opening kickoff that Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson would miss the contest with an ankle injury that limited him in practice all week. He joined Andre Dillard and Brandon Brooks on the list of starters along Philadelphia's offensive line who missed this matchup against PFF’s third-ranked defensive line. That defensive line — filled with former first-round draft picks — feasted on the Eagles' thin group up front.
Carson Wentz took eight sacks in the game — more than any other outing of his NFL career — and it came from multiple players on Washington’s defense. The first count has Jonathan Allen leading the way in pressures, but each of Montez Sweat, Chase Young and Matt Ioannidis was credited with three or more pressures. Even against a banged-up group for Philadelphia, it was an impressive start for a defensive front that had high expectations coming into the season.
Neither quarterback played particularly well, but it was Wentz’s mistakes that ended up a key decider in the outcome of the game. He threw two interceptions before losing a fumble late, both of which resulted in Washington touchdowns on the ensuing drives. Cornerback Fabian Moreau picked off one pass in what was a solid showing after he earned sub-60.0 coverage grades in each of the past two seasons.
While Dwayne Haskins averaged fewer than 6 yards per attempt on the other side, he didn’t put the ball in harm’s way as often — a definitive strength of his during his rookie campaign last season. That provided Washington’s defense with favorable situations, ultimately allowing the team to get back into the game.
I touched on the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft (Young) above, and he was as advertised in his first NFL game. Young made several nice plays against the run, and he beat a chip block and left tackle Jason Peters with an inside spin move for his first career NFL sack. A strong performance was to be expected in this matchup given how dominant he was at Ohio State. Young delivered on those expectations.
Wide receiver-turned-running back Antonio Gibson was the other Washington rookie with some hype surrounding them. Head coach Ron Rivera said there would be a committee approach in the backfield, and he stuck to his word. Gibson played 20 snaps, which came in just behind both J.D. McKissic (29 snaps) and Peyton Barber (25 snaps). Gibson didn’t do a ton with his opportunities, averaging just 4 yards per carry on his nine rushes and catching two passes for 8 yards. He did manage to force several missed tackles — a facet of the game he excelled in at Memphis.
Kamren Curl was the only other Washington rookie to see significant playing time in this one, posting 25 snaps while splitting time between the box and the slot.
Philadelphia had several rookies see time on offense, headlined by a pair of young speedsters in Jalen Reagor and John Hightower. Reagor caught a big 55-yard pass early that showed off both his speed and his ability to track the ball with a nice over-the-shoulder catch. He led all Eagles’ wide receivers in routes run (30) but caught just that one pass on five targets. Wentz wasn’t able to provide him any more catchable opportunities. Hightower ranked fourth at wide receiver with 18 routes run, but he caught only one pass for negative yardage.
The other Eagles rookie of note is Jack Driscoll, who started the game at right tackle for the injured Johnson. It wasn’t an ideal start for the Auburn product in a tough matchup, as he was beaten several times for pressure on Wentz. An injury ultimately forced him out early, leaving Jordan Mailata to finish the game at right tackle.