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September 08, 2019

First half observations: Redskins 20, Eagles 7

With Eagles fans and analysts all expecting a beatdown in the home opener, the Redskins came out and proved they're going to have something to say about that. Through 30 minutes of football, the road team was the far superior football team, and the Eagles head into the first halftime of the season down 20-7.

Here's what I saw in the first half.

The Good

• After getting beat like a drum for most of the half, there were finally signs of life from the Eagles heading into the halftime tunnel. And the one guy who showed out for most of the half was the guy who hauled in the team's first touchdown of the season: DeSean Jackson, playing the prodigal son who finally returned to where he belonged.

Carson Wentz is going to find out very quickly that it's basically impossible to overthrow Jackson, and I'm sure he'll love that. This was the second straight great throw on the drive from Wentz, though unfortunately the previous throw was knocked out of Dallas Goedert's hands along the sideline.

We didn't actually get to see Jackson and Wentz lace 'em up during the preseason, but there was a ton of buzz coming from the people who were down at Novacare every day about the connection between Wentz and the speed demon. Jackson certainly gives the Eagles a dimension on offense they didn't have before, and the long score helped fire up a crowd that was on the verge of (rightfully, by the way) fully losing it on the home team.

The Bad

• It's hard to understand how the Eagles let Vernon Davis score the opening touchdown of the game early in the first quarter. Andrew Sendejo appeared to have him covered on third and short before his knee buckled and gave Case Keenum an opportunity to pick up the first down.

That would have been frustrating on its own, and then Sendejo and his secondary mates combined for an absolute clown show on the sideline, allowing Davis to escape and rumble all the way to the endzone.

If Sendejo was looking to endear himself to Eagles fans, boy does he have plenty to make up for already.

• I'm sure some people will get mad at Jackson for picking up an unnecessary roughness penalty that killed Philadelphia's first drive, but I thought that was a ridiculous call from the officials given the back and forth between both players. Both guys exchanged blows for a period of 3-5 seconds, call offsetting penalties and move on instead of killing one team's drive because of it.

• Biggest disappointment of the first half for my money was the complete lack of a pass rush for Philadelphia. The Eagles have a lot of resources invested in their defensive front, and Washington trotted out a shorthanded offensive line missing their best player, tackle Trent Williams. You wouldn't have been able to tell he was missing if you didn't know it going in.

Keenum had all the time in the world to sit back in the pocket and go to work, and that's a recipe for disaster even if you have an elite secondary. The Eagles, as it turns out, are nowhere close to that on the back end, which made a pedestrian group of Washington wideouts look pretty damn good. It's only 30 minutes of football, but there weren't a lot of great signs.

• The offense as a whole was not too far behind the defensive front on the disappointment list. And there's an argument they laid an even bigger egg than the defense did because this team has been billed as one with the potential to be an offensive juggernaut with an MVP-caliber quarterback.

A lot of the early problems with the offense came down to personnel and scheme. Darren Sproles has been a productive NFL player for a long time, but at age 36 there's no reason he should be as integral to the offense as he was in the first half. Jordan Howard fought for some tough yards up the middle, Miles Sanders showed competency picking up blitzes as a pass blocker, and it's not as though Sproles was particularly dynamic as a pass-catcher.

Even if you wanted to use Sproles, the play calls didn't often make sense. The Eagles had a third-and-short midway through the second quarter, and they opted for a pitch that started several yards behind the line of scrimmage and never got back there. The Eagles looked their best when they tried to play downhill football, but Doug Pederson seemed to be avoiding that style for most of a terrible half.

It would probably be lazy to chalk all this up to the lack of game reps the first-team offense got during the preseason, but I don't think you can throw that idea out altogether. Philadelphia just did not look sharp, with Wentz sailing a couple of throws, blocking assignments missed, and receivers failing to create much separation. A bad first half all around.

• Doubling down on one point in particular — the third-down calls on offense were absolutely horrific and the Eagles need to go back to the drawing board at halftime.

• Rasul Douglas trying to cover a receiver on a go route ended exactly as you would expect, with Douglas just getting outrun with ease. If nothing else, the first half made a point in bright, neon letters — if the pass rush isn't elite or at least very good, this team is going to get scored on with ease.

• I'm not sure why Doug Pederson called a timeout on third-and-four with Washington at midfield and less than a minute left in the first half. I doubt there's an explanation he can offer that is going to make any real sense.

The Ugly

• It didn't take long for the first boos of the season.

No judgment on my end, that touchdown was brutal.

• After getting juked out of his shoes in the flat, Avonte Maddox suffered an injury and was forced to take a trip back to the locker room. It would turn out to be nothing serious, although now I have to question Maddox's hydration prep:

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