December 17, 2014

Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford has gotten off to a rocky start in Philadelphia, and Kirk Cousins' latest opportunity with the Washington Redskins hasn't been much different.

The two struggling signal-callers will again try to prove they should be under center when the NFC East rivals square off Sunday at FedEx Field.

Philadelphia (1-2) dropped its first two games with Bradford committing five turnovers and throwing only two touchdown passes, and his shaky return from his second torn ACL has left lingering questions about coach Chip Kelly's master plan.

Wins help, though, and an ineffective Bradford couldn't keep the Eagles from a 24-17 victory over the New York Jets last Sunday that avoided their first 0-3 start since 1999.

"I feel like we were all pressing a little bit," said Bradford, who ranks toward the bottom of the NFL with a 72.5 passer rating. "It's just nice to get that first one. Now that pressure's gone."

Bradford went 14 of 28 for 118 yards with a touchdown against the Jets after throwing for 560 total yards in the first two games. More important, however, was that he protected the ball after throwing four interceptions and coughing up a fumble during the 0-2 start. He's posted a 37.9 completion percentage and 3.48 yards per attempt on third down.

The Eagles have just two plays of 25 yards or more - tied for last in the league - but Kelly said that has as much to do with the wide receivers as it does Bradford.

"It's a combination of everything," he said. "We've had some drops, but there's been some times where guys are open but we didn't put it on them at the appropriate time."

Cousins and his receivers have combined for only four plays of 25 yards or more while the Redskins have also limped to a 1-2 start.

The fourth-year quarterback's passing yards have climbed from 196 to 203 to 316 in those games, but he has just one touchdown in each to go with four interceptions - which combined with running back Matt Jones' two fumbles gives the team six turnovers.

Robert Griffin III lost the starting job to Cousins in August and was again inactive for last Thursday's 32-21 loss to the Giants, and backup Colt McCoy missed practice Monday with a cut on his foot. Coach Jay Gruden said Cousins will remain the starter.

"There's too many good things going on with Kirk and his progression for us to pull the plug right now because he threw an interception or two," Gruden said in a conference call Friday. "But he's got to be aware and he's got to protect the football - as does Matt Jones, as does the rest of our football team - for us to have a chance."

Cousins won't have help from DeSean Jackson, as the former Eagles receiver is still recovering from hurting his left hamstring in Week 1. Tight end Jordan Reed leads the team with 19 catches for 241 yards, followed by Pierre Garcon's 17 for 161. The next four receivers have a combined 21 for 202 yards.

Another factor has been the decline of Alfred Morris, whom Gruden continues to call his top running back. After gaining 121 yards on 25 carries in a Week 1 loss to Miami, Morris has since run for 78 on 24 carries in two games.

Washington totaled just 88 rushing yards against the Giants, 19 coming on six attempts from Morris. Philadelphia held the Jets to 47 yards on the ground last week and ranks toward the top of the NFL with 261 allowed this season.

"They're a very disruptive defensive line," Gruden said. "But if you get them blocked, we feel like we can get to the second level and make some good hits."

Jordan Matthews leads the Eagles with 22 catches and 231 receiving yards, but the next four on the list consist of running backs Darren Sproles (15 and 118), DeMarco Murray (9 and 64) and Ryan Mathews (5 and 44), and tight end Zach Ertz (8 and 93). Philadelphia's four other receivers have combined for 13 receptions and 122 yards.

The biggest disappointment might be rookie Nelson Agholor, who impressed in training camp and the preseason but has so far amounted to only four catches for 36 yards. Veteran Riley Cooper has three catches for 25 yards and two drops.

Murray is on pace to return from a hamstring injury, but linebacker Kiko Alonso will miss his second game while rehabbing a sprained left knee.

Washington's defense will be missing linebacker Perry Riley Jr. and cornerback DeAngelo Hall, while cornerback Chris Culliver is questionable with a sore knee. If the Redskins are without both starting corners in Hall and Culliver, they'll probably go with Bashaud Breeland and Will Blackmon, signed last month as a free agent.

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