Early Birds: Eagles preparing for DeSean Jackson; Brandon Bair as a system fit; Practice squad linemen developing

1) When the Eagles played Washington last season, the Redskins’ top deep threat in both games was DeSean Jackson.

You might remember him.

The former Eagle had nine catches for 243 yards and one touchdown in those two games. He caught passes of 81 and 55 yards.

The Eagles don’t know if they’ll see Jackson on Sunday. Jackson has a hamstring injury suffered Week 1. Redskins coach Jay Gruden told reporters “there’s a chance” Jackson can return in time to play the Eagles, although Jackson didn’t practice on Monday.


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But the Eagles are preparing for Jackson to play, and their game plan will reflect it.

“We'll prepare for DeSean,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “ I think he’s probably right on the verge of coming back and knowing DeSean, he will want to come back for this game, just to get back out there and help his teammates more than anything else. We will absolutely prepare for him along with [TE Jordan] Reed and [WR Pierre] Garcon. They are getting a lot of balls and they are really getting some production out of their receiving and tight end game.”

For the most part, the Eagles’ defensive backs have kept opposing receivers from beating them over the top during the first month of the season. Jackson is a rare deep threat, though, as Eagles fans saw during his career in Philadelphia. Washington’s wide receivers/tight ends don’t have a catch of over 29 yards this season. Jackson had 15 catches of more than 30 yards last season with Washington, including six with Kirk Cousins as a his quarterback.

“I don’t know if the scheme changes much with him in or out,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “I think it’s just the awareness of our deep defenders because he’s the one who can blow the top off the coverage the fastest. As a middle-of-the-field player, I’m always probably going to keep my eyes now here he is.”

2) With Cedric Thornton’s status uncertain for Sunday’s game, Brandon Bair could continue to get work. Bair started for the first time in his career last Sunday and looked like he belonged. Bair was a reserve for all 16 games last year, but he was inactive for the first two weeks behind Thornton and Taylor Hart.

Bair, 30, used his 6-foot-7 frame to knock down four passes. Bair is a perfect example of a player who might have more value in Philadelphia than elsewhere because of how he fits in the Eagles’ system.

“I think he's built for two‑gapping and striking with [his] hands and his length,” Davis said. “Our system fits his skill set, I think, better than anything else out there in the NFL. He is great at striking and pressing a block, getting off and playing the inside run, and that's what the Jets really hung their hat on, was the inside run game.

“And then Brandon is such a big man, when he gets in front of the quarterback and gets his hand up and attacks their throwing arm, he really does make a difference in a quarterback's ability to throw downfield.”

3) The Eagles didn’t draft an offensive lineman during the past two years, so their young, developmental linemen are all undrafted players. Josh Andrews went undrafted last year, spent his first season on practice, and made the active roster this year. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said Andrews “made a huge jump,” and he’s the Eagles’ top reserve guard/center.

They have two undrafted rookies on practice squad: Malcolm Bunche and Brett Boyko. Neither player has been promoted even though the Eagles had two season-ending injuries on the offensive line, but both are developing on practice squad. Bunche intrigued the team during the summer, and has the size and athleticism to take a similar path that Andrews did this year.

“Malcolm is…in his first year where he's continuing to improve on a daily basis,” Shurmur said. “He's in a real developmental phase of his career, as is Brett Boyko. Those players are kind of right there developing and hopefully they can continue to develop because the guys in front of them stay healthy and they don't get in. But if they do, they will be ready.”