Mon, 26 Oct 2020

Game Preview | Rams vs. Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles
20 Sep 2020, 19:12 GMT+10

Chris McPherson

The Eagles host the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Kickoff is set for 1 PM for the home opener between these two teams.

The Eagles are looking to bounce back after a tough loss at Washington, a game in which the Eagles led 17-0 in the first half before allowing 27 unanswered points. The Eagles struggled to protect quarterback Carson Wentz (a career-high eight sacks) and turned the ball over three times. The Eagles' defense, typically so stout in red zone, allowed Washington to score a touchdown on three of four opportunities inside the 20-yard line.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, did the Eagles a favor by knocking off the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football to open their new stadium. The Rams used a balanced offensive attack, gaining 153 yards on the ground, while containing quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, and the explosive Cowboys offense.

The Eagles look to get in the win column for the first time in 2020. The Rams want to establish that they are among the best teams in the NFC and an cross-country 1 PM win against the defending NFC East champs would be quite a statement.

Here is our Week 2 Game Preview, presented by Unibet.

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro's Three Keys to Victory

1. The offensive line must win against the Rams' strong front. The Eagles permitted eight quarterback sacks last week at Washington and quarterback Carson Wentz was hit another half-dozen times, at least. The challenge this week is formidable with two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner and six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald leading the charge. Los Angeles plays aggressively up front and Donald just tosses offensive linemen out of his way. His presence requires more than one blocker, so he also opens up opportunities for others to make plays in the backfield. The Eagles have not had much time to work together as a unit up front and the lack of timing and cohesiveness showed at Washington.

2. The giveaways have to stop. Now. Carson Wentz threw two interceptions and lost one fumble in the opening-day loss. By contrast, Wentz had zero interceptions as the Eagles went 4-0 down the stretch in 2019 to capture the NFC East title. He needs to plays with that mindset - take what the defense gives you, throw the ball away if nothing is there, and don't force throws into coverage. Wentz has the weapons to make this offense fly, but interceptions like the ones on Sunday - both on first-down throws - ended up changing the momentum of the game and contributing to the division loss.

3. Philadelphia allowed just 2.2 yards per rushing attempt last Sunday at Washington, a good sign for the Eagles who now have to contend with a balanced Los Angeles offensive attack. The Rams ran the ball 40 times for 153 yards and controlled the football for 35 minutes, 38 seconds in their 20-17 win over Dallas, giving quarterback Jared Goff a chance to manage the game and play it safe against the swarming Cowboys' defense. The Eagles know they need to get after the ground game and force Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, to win the game with his arm against a much-improved Eagles defensive secondary.

Scouting Report

• QB Carson Wentz on DT Aaron Donald: "He's a monster. Everyone knows it. Everyone around the league knows the type of player he is and how he can really disrupt an offensive game plan. We're aware of that."

• DT Malik Jackson on offensive linemen planning for Donald: "They're so shook before they even play him. They're like, 'Oh my god! I have to stop this! I have to stop that!' so then they start thinking about a bunch of things and he goes and just does what he's best at."

• Eagles Game Plan analyst Mike Quick on CB Jalen Ramsey: "He's huge for them in what they like to do on the back end of their defense. They play a lot of zone (coverage). They probably play more zone coverage than any other team in the National Football League. They like to line (Ramsey) up to the boundary or to the short side of the field."

• Eagles Game Plan analyst Greg Cosell on the Rams' likely offensive approach vs. Eagles: "The Rams' approach against the Cowboys was to get the ball out of Goff's hands quickly either with the quick, timing rhythm pass game or misdirection plays (like the Woods) because they did not want the Cowboys' defensive front to be a factor. I think they'll feel the exact same way about the Eagles' defensive front."

• Cosell on the concept to watch for from the Rams' offense: "I think they're the best in the league at what we call a hi-lo concept where they run two routes. One route is a short route which grabs the eyes and eats up underneath coverage. The second route goes behind as an intermediate route. It's behind the underneath coverage and in front of a safety or both safeties, depending on the nature of the zone coverage, and they've eaten up teams with it."

• CB Nickell Robey-Coleman on Rams WR Robert Woods: "I know Robert like the back of my hand. Robert is a smooth receiver. He gets in and out of his cuts really well. He makes all of his routes look the same. ... He knows how to switch different speeds within the game and that's what's so unique about Robert. People need to respect that more about him. He's one of the crispiest route runners I've ever faced."

• Crazy note from Fran Duffy's 1-on-1 with Robey-Coleman this week: Robey-Coleman and Woods were roommates at USC. They started their NFL careers in Buffalo in 2013 and both went to the Rams in 2017. 2020 is the first time since high school that the two players weren't teammates. This is their first matchup against one another.

Battle of the Top 2 QBs

Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were the top two picks, and first two quarterbacks, selected in the 2016 NFL Draft.

"Goff is a pocket quarterback. He's a pretty thrower when he has time and is comfortable," Eagles Game Plan analyst Greg Cosell said. "He can make some big-time throws. He's your classic pocket quarterback in the sense that if you can get pressure on him, you can get bodies around him and make him uncomfortable. His efficiency will drop dramatically."

Wentz was the player who the Eagles wanted in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Rams already moved up the No. 1 and the speculation was that it was for Goff, the former standout from Cal.

"We had done our due diligence on both quarterbacks on both players, and we liked Goff as well, and yet looking back and kind of thinking back on some of the conversations, just felt that Carson was the fit for us here in Philadelphia, his makeup, his chemistry, the style of play kind of fit what we were doing and that's nothing against Jared Goff because he's obviously had a great career so far," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "It just made Carson a better fit for us at the time."

Both teams have had success. The Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2017 thanks in large part to Wentz's MVP-worthy season. Wentz rallied the team to four straight wins at the end of 2019 for a third consecutive playoff appearance. Goff and the Rams followed the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 2018, but unlike the Eagles, couldn't knock off the Patriots in the title game.

QB Jared Goff

• 55 games

• 34-21 record

• 62.4 completion percentage

• 14,494 passing yards

• 87/43 TD/INT

• 91.7 QB rating

QB Carson Wentz

• 57 games

• 32-25 record

• 63.7 completion percentage

• 14,461 passing yards

• 99/37 TD/INT

• 92.3 QB rating

Matchup to Watch

Slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman is going against his former team. The Rams have one of the best slot receivers in Cooper Kupp, who recently signed a contract extension.

"Cooper is a great receiver because he knows how to separate from defensive backs. His short-area quickness is second to none. He's so smart. Him and the quarterback have a great relationship that they are on key with each other. On top of that, he's strong. He knows how to finish at the top of his routes. He knows how to separate. That's what makes him so unique," Robey-Coleman said.

Cooper Kupp in 2019

• 62 slot receptions (2nd in NFL)

• 93 slot targets (2nd in NFL)

• 783 receiving yards (1st in NFL)

• 5 slot receiving touchdowns (T-4th in NFL)

By the Numbers

• The last time the Rams visited Philadelphia during the regular season when they were based out of Los Angeles was 1988.

• Doug Pederson is 4-0 in home openers. Meanwhile, Sean McVay is 4-0 in road openers.

• The Eagles allowed the fewest yards of any team in Week 1 with 239. Meanwhile, the Rams amassed the fifth-most total yards of any team in Week 1 with 422 against the Cowboys.

• All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald has zero sacks in three games against the Eagles.

Final Injury Report

Eagles

OUT

• WR Alshon Jeffery (foot)

QUESTIONABLE

• DE Derek Barnett (hamstring)

• DE Brandon Graham (concussion)

Rams

QUESTIONABLE

• TE Gerald Everett (back)

What to Watch?

The Eagles will definitely get three key starters back in defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, tackle Lane Johnson, and running back Miles Sanders. The Eagles' defensive line was outstanding at Washington and Hargrave's debut will take some of the pressure off of Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson, even in a limited role. The stat above about the Eagles' record with and without Johnson speaks for itself. The Eagles struggled to run the ball last week against Washington's ferocious defensive front. Sanders said that he's 100 percent and doesn't want to be limited by the coaches.

Barnett and Graham were full participants in Friday's practice. The loss of Vinny Curry to a hamstring injury (he's on Injured Reserve) makes it important that the Eagles have Barnett and/or Graham.

Behind Enemy Lines

For a different perspective of Sunday's matchup, we went Behind Enemy Lines with Sarina Morales, team reporter for the Los Angeles Rams. You can follow her work @sarina on Twitter.

1. The Eagles haven't seen Jared Goff since the 2018 regular season. He led the Rams that year to a Super Bowl appearance. How has he developed as a quarterback from the last meeting with the Eagles to now?

Jared Goff continues to grow as a quarterback. He's more comfortable, he's more confident, and has developed as a leader. Head Coach Sean McVay had said in the past, "When you have a player that is in essence an extension of the coaching staff, you can operate in a lot of special ways." From the eye test (me) he's also just continued to command the huddle and connect with his teammates.

2. The Rams are known for their passing attack out of 11 personnel with Sean McVay, but what a dominating performance on the ground against Dallas. Is this a sign of things to come for the offense?

Absolutely. Sean McVay is an offensive-minded savant. And while he will still continue to disguise different plays on offense using 11 personnel, McVay has three running backs who can all run, block, and catch, and two top-tier tight ends who can do those things as well. In fact, linebacker Micah Kiser said wide receiver Robert Woods looks "kind of like a fullback but in a wide receiver's body." So this is a 2.0 offense from what Eagles fans saw back in 2018.

3. What a debut for new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley against the Cowboys. OK, two-part question here. How different is the scheme as compared to Wade Phillips and what's the impact of Jalen Ramsey being there for almost a year now along with getting the new deal?

I thought this was a three-question interview here?! HA! Let me hand over the defense's playbook while I'm at it. JK.

In all seriousness, Brandon Staley seems to have a more aggressive plan for this defense. Any why wouldn't he? He has arguably two of the best defensive players in the league with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. I think, much like the offense, you will see a lot of different packages. Just in Week 1 against the Cowboys, Rams fans got familiar with rookie safety Jordan Fuller, who lead the team in tackles in his first NFL game. With Ramsey here to stay long term, it is an overall win for the Rams' defense, because now all his focus can be on the field Sundays.

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