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A stout Eagles run game could neutralize DeSean Jackson and Washington

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This week, many Eagles fans are pining for the one that got away

Philadelphia Eagles v Detroit Lions Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Each week, Patrick Wall previews the upcoming game by looking at the biggest storylines of the week.

The One That Got Away

It seems fitting that the week after the Eagles’ first loss of the season finds many fans pining for an old flame. Especially when that first loss could have been avoided if not for a few key mistakes on offense.

So when Washington wide receiver DeSean Jackson gave an incredibly open-ended response to whether he’d return to Philadelphia, it seems totally natural for many fans to kick into full Jackson 5 mode. For context, here’s DeSean’s full quote:

"We still have 11 games here," Jackson said. "Next year I will be a free agent, and you never know how things will turn out. Hopefully, it will be here in Washington, but you never know how things turn out. You keep your options open, play it smart and do what you have to do to stay in the NFL. I want to play another five or seven years in this game."

To be fair, the Eagles desperately need a game-changing weapon on offense. The wide receiving corps has been equal parts solid and frustrating, and the backfield situation has been a little better, but lacking any game-breaking players outside of the occasional brilliance from Darren Sproles.

Jackson would undoubtedly provide that, but his relationship with the current regime seems like it’d be a mixed bag. It seems like he and head coach Doug Pederson have a good relationship (the two were together in Philadelphia from 2009-2012). From some guy named Brandon Lee Gowton at Philadelphia Magazine:

“I’m happy to see Doug there, man,” said Jackson. “I respect him when he was there with Coach Reid. I congratulate him on getting the job I think he deserves. He’s done some good things when he left and went to Kansas City, and now he’s back in Philadelphia. So I definitely have a respect for Doug. A good relationship with him as well, too, so it’ll be good to see him when we play Sunday.”

The million dollar question, though, is what Howie Roseman would think of the move. Roseman was the GM at the time, but it’s unclear how much power he ultimately had for that move. After all, Roseman is known for his wheeling and dealing, and the Eagles ended up outright releasing Jackson.

You Said It!

This week, instead of taking a Twitter poll, I wanted to answer an e-mail I received earlier in the week about last week’s column. More specifically, it’s about the Lane Johnson suspension:

Question for you. You said this in your article today...

"But if the NFLPA’s recommended app can’t even tell players which substances they can take worry-free, what’s the point of the app at all?"

I've heard a lot of people say that same thing. But my understanding is that the NFLPA has told players that the app is not to tell players which supplements they CAN take, but rather what supplements they definitely CANNOT take. That does make some sense to me. Because if I'm a player, at least the app can tell me what supplements I should most definitely NOT take. That's a good starting point. The ones that the app says don't contain illegal ingredients based on the label, I'm on my own. At least then I know, based on the label the supplement is OK, but I better either see if other players have been taking it without issue, or have a sample tested myself.

So in that sense, the app does, in fact, have a "point", no?

Do the makers of the app and the NFLPA have a point? Absolutely. My argument remains that the reason players would theoretically use the app is to make sure something they’re about to take won’t, for example, get them a 10-game suspension.

It’s definitely a good starting point for players to have a resource that allows them to know which things to avoid entirely. But it seems to me like the NFLPA is setting its players up to fail if they say, “look at this list of supplements,” but then in the same breath also say, “but there could be things in the supplements that we don’t know about and it’s not on us if you get in trouble for that.”

The NFL is a billion dollar industry. It can’t work a little harder with the drug manufacturers to make sure the players are properly and fully informed? Seems like a win-win to me - the league doesn’t lose out on any suspensions to big or important players, and a supplement doesn’t get blacklisted for getting guys in trouble.

Maybe this is wishful thinking, and maybe there is more to it from a scientific perspective. But it’s stunning to me that a union, whose sole job is to protect its players, has any policy at all effectively stating that players are on their own.

Backfield’s Back

Doug Pederson deserves credit for quite a few things this season, but one area he’s been noticeably better than his predecessor is in game planning. Pederson has brought back packaged plays to start games, which has resulted in opening drive points in three games this season (all wins, by the way). He’s also been adept at mixing up the play calls and going with what works. Wendell Smallwood is rolling? Cool, give him 17 carries.

Last week against the Lions, the Eagles climbed out of a 14-0 hole to briefly take the lead before a rookie mistake by Carson Wentz ended the game. But even on some of the most egregious plays of that game (the Ryan Mathews fumble, for example), the play calls themselves weren’t entirely the issue.

The Eagles will need some more of this conscious game planning against a Washington squad that is likely looking at new right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai the way cartoon characters look at each other after they’ve been stuck on a raft for a week without food. Pederson said earlier in the week that they’ll need to help Vaitai if he’s struggling, but that the run game is the best defense in this case.

It’s hard to disagree with that point. Despite rushing for their second-lowest output of the year last week, the Eagles’ 5.5 yards per carry was almost a yard and a half more per game than their second-highest output. Washington, meanwhile, is allowing 130 rushing yards per contest, good for third-worst in the league. Their passing defense isn’t a ton better (21st, averaging 262 yards through the air per game), but this game seems like a prime bounce-back opportunity for Ryan Mathews and the Eagles’ backfield.

Plus, a win in the time of possession category means less time for Kirk Cousins to drive a dagger into the hearts of Eagles fans by going deep to DeSean Jackson. And that’s something we can all agree on, regardless of how you feel about Jackson wearing green again next season.