- The Washington Times - Monday, September 11, 2017

The Redskins got something old and something new on Sunday, neither of which they would have hoped for. Washington snapped a five-game winning streak against the division-rival Eagles and continued a trend dating back to 2012 of losing season-openers. After the 30-17 loss at FedEx field, it’s back to the drawing board.

After reviewing the tape and hearing from coach Jay Gruden on Monday, here are a few things that stood out in the Week 1 loss to the Eagles.

Ertz hurts

Washington couldn’t come up with anything that could stop tight end Zach Ertz, who led the Eagles with 93 receiving yards and was 8-for-8. Some of those completions were forgivable; quarterback Carson Wentz did an excellent job of avoiding pressure and quickly finding Ertz for short gains when the Redskins rushed five.

What’s troubling is that Ertz still had an easy time finding the soft spots underneath the defense even when the Redskins were only rushing four. An 11-yard pickup on 2nd-and-8 in the second quarter comes to mind, as does a 12-yard gain on 3rd-and-10 where Ertz got open after a good jam on safety D.J. Swearinger at the line of scrimmage. Third downs, overall, were a problem for Washington’s defense on an otherwise good day.

“One glaring stat that just blinks out at you is 8-for-13 on third down,” Gruden said. “That’s something we have to get better on. We have to get better with our four-man rushes when we rush four. We have to get better with our blitzes when we blitz.”

The case of the missing Josh Doctson

Redskins receiver Josh Doctson played just 20 snaps and wasn’t targeted once. Gruden said that it’s not a matter of health, but of Doctson proving himself in practice and establishing trust with Kirk Cousins. Their connection looked pretty good when Doctson was available in OTAs and training camp, but the second-year receiver’s missed time due to a hamstring strain has apparently eroded that.

“I think once he establishes himself as an everyday player, he is going to get the reps and he is going to prove that he is one of our top receivers,” Gruden said. “He’ll get more and more reps as the season goes on without a doubt, but he has got to earn that right like everybody does.” 

That’ll happen in practice, said Gruden, who also estimated that Doctson should get “35 or 40” snaps next week.

Brown shuts down the run

If you needed a stat sheet to tell who led the Redskins in tackles Sunday, go see an eye doctor. Linebacker Zach Brown, who racked up 12 tackles including seven solo-tackles, was a major factor in holding the Eagles to just 58 yards on the ground.

One of his most impressive plays came near the end of the first quarter. On 3rd-and-1, after Brown had already contributed tackles on first and second down, the Eagles were clearly going to run and brought in an extra blocker. Even so, Brown shot through the left-side A-gap and demolished running back LeGarette Blount for a loss of two, forcing the Eagles to punt.

That’s exactly the kind of play Washington was missing last year, and exactly what they want out of the uber-athletic Brown.

Under pressure

The Eagles defensive front is excellent, but the Redskins offensive line was supposed to be, too. They weren’t on Sunday, when Cousins was sacked four times and hit seven more. 

“Yeah, I was surprised. We expect great things from our offensive line. I know Coach [Bill] Callahan holds them to very high standards, as do I. They hold themselves to high standards,” Gruden said.

Forget Morgan Moses and Shaun Lauvao getting blown by for sacks. Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan are going to do that sometimes. But Cousins was feeling pressure all too often. Even when he didn’t wind up on the ground, he was forced to throw the ball away — he was lucky on two occasions that he wasn’t called for intentional grounding.

“Unfortunately it was a combination of everybody,” Gruden said. “It wasn’t just one area. Our left tackle had a couple, our left guard had a couple, our center had a couple, our right guard had a couple, and our right tackle had a couple. It’s not like each individual played terribly. It’s just they all had mistakes or poor protection things at inopportune times. They will work at it. They will get better and they have to.”

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