The Redskins will debut a new-look offensive line when they kick off the regular season against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Absent will be seven-time Pro-Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, who has yet to report to the team, and in his place will be Donald Penn, a 36-year-old training camp signee. Next to Penn will be Ereck Flowers, a former first-round pick with a tattered resume. The Redskins signed Flowers with the hopes he could revive his career and fill the void at left guard.
Both players may prove to be serviceable, but the question remains: How will the unit fare against a high-octane Eagles defensive front on Sunday?
“They're very quick with their checks and they are rarely out of position, so we have a heck of a challenge,” Redskins quarterback Case Keenum said. “Not only identifying what they are trying to do, but making sure that we are able to execute and get us all on the same page.”
For Philadelphia, everything starts up front with its front four, led by four-time Pro Bowler and 2018 first-team All-Pro Fletcher Cox. An already extremely talented group added veteran Malik Jackson to the mix this offseason.
Last season, the Eagles finished with 44 sacks and allowed an average of 96.9 rushing yards per game, both top ten in the NFL.
Despite having two new starters on the line with Penn and Ereck Flowers, the unit is looking forward to playing such a talented defensive front. Before joining the Redskins, Flowers played swing tackle for the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars, so he is excited for the new opportunity.
Take a look at photos from Redskins practice on Monday September 5, 2019 before they take on the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It’s totally different, especially coming here using different techniques,” Flowers said. “I’m excited, it’s a chance to get to see where you’re at, it’s going to my first game really playing.”
Knowing how aggressive the Eagles front is, the offensive line is focused on staying disciplined and eliminating negative plays. Establishing the running game with second-year back Derrius Guice will also be a focal point.
“It’s a lot different when its 3rd-and-four versus 3rd-and-10,” right tackle Morgan Moses said. “That’s the key to our game, just making sure we’re moving the ball every play.”
“We’ve got to establish the run game,” Penn added. “We don’t want to get into 3rd-and-long against this team and let their pass-rushers peel back and rush.”
While a lot of the responsibility to protect Keenum falls on the offensive line, blitz pickups will also be crucial. Veteran third-down back Chris Thompson emphasized the importance of everyone knowing their assignments and making their blocks. Against such a physical and speedy front seven, any miscue could result in a negative play.
“They don’t do anything exotic or crazy, they trust in their guys,” Thompson said of the Eagles defense. “When they do blitz, though, they come, so we’re going to have to do everything we can to protect Case [Keenum] and give him enough time.”
On the road in a hostile environment, establishing the run and winning the battle in the trenches will be vital in trying to silence a raucous home crowd and pick up a key divisional victory.