By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
Where oh where do I start.
The Eagles (0-1) will play their home opener on Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Rams (1-0). The two teams are coming into this one off of vastly different outcomes in week one.
The Rams defeated the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football to open up their crown jewel of a stadium and looked pretty solid all the way around.
The Eagles, meanwhile, blew a 17-point lead to a team that doesn’t even have a real name and had scandal after scandal all offseason.
Like I said, vastly different outcomes. The good news is that was only one game, and the Eagles can make up for it. On a much more pessimistic viewpoint, the Eagles have already been ravaged by the ever-present injury bug.
Just how bad are the Eagles injuries relative to the rest of the NFL? Very bad.— Patrick (@EaglesPMC) September 14, 2020
The Eagles lead the NFL with the most players on IR and listed as out in week 1, with 13
Sea was tied with 13. SF has 11. But they are missing 0 and 2 starters respectively. The Eagles are missing 7 pic.twitter.com/NTVaL4b3tO
With that being said, it appears as though many Eagles will be making their way back to the game field for Sunday’s game. Derek Barnett, Miles Sanders, and Lane Johnson are all expected to play this weekend after missing last week’s contest. Furthermore, Jason Peters and Brandon Graham are also expected to play after suffering injuries on Sunday. Thank the heavens.
With those guys now in the lineup, does that make me more confident for Sunday? Yes, but that really isn’t saying much, considering where my confidence levels were at around 4 p.m. last Sunday.
Eagles Offense vs. Rams Defense
Well, this should be fun and not at all infuriating to watch.
The Birds offense, dormant throughout the entirety of the second half last week, will face a Rams defense with a lot of big names and a very scary defensive line.
Perhaps the best defensive player in football, Aaron Donald, is a part of that stout defensive line. Donald had a sack last weekend and caused constant pressure against a very good Dallas offensive line. He has to be licking his chops while he watches the game film of the Eagles allowing eight sacks last weekend. He may just get to eight sacks by himself.
I’m actually quite concerned that he may very well kill Carson Wentz on Sunday.
How?? 😂😂😂😂😂 come on man pic.twitter.com/gTxGpkM8av— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) September 14, 2020
Another big name on the Rams defense is cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who just recently became the highest paid cornerback in NFL history. To put it in the simplest of terms, he more than earned that contract. Expect Wentz to avoid whoever Ramsey lines up against on Sunday.
For the Eagles offense, where do they go from here? How do they rebound from giving up eight sacks and not scoring a single point after the 6:54 mark of the second quarter? How does Wentz rebound from turning the ball over three times?
My answer is fairly simple: Run the dang ball.
Last week the Eagles ran the ball just 17 times compared to Wentz’s 50 drop backs. If you’re doing the math at home, that’s nearly triple the amount of pass plays compared to run play. Dougie P, I hate to break it to you my man but play-action passes don’t work when you run the ball 17 times in a game.
I don’t care that Miles Sanders didn’t play last week. I don't care that the Eagles were trying to play catch-up in the fourth quarter. In this league you cannot have a run-to-pass ratio like that and expect to win.
The key to the Eagles success this week offensively is going to be getting Sanders at least 20-25 touches and double-teaming Aaron Donald in the run game. Then, run some play action, and not just the play-action where Wentz fakes the run then stands still in the pocket for four seconds before ducking his head right into a defender.
Head Coach Doug Pederson has got to get Wentz rolling out of the pocket. Carson has shown time and time again how efficient he is when he throws on the run. Why those plays aren’t more scripted into the play-calling is beyond me.
Highest QBR outside the pocket in 2019:— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) March 27, 2020
- Carson Wentz: 94.4
- Russell Wilson: 92.8
- Jimmy Garoppolo: 87.5
- Deshaun Watson: 84.7
- Dak Prescott: 81.1
- Pat Mahomes: 75.2 https://t.co/iCmZOm0GrU
If the Eagles offensive line can keep Donald and company away from Wentz while also opening up some holes for Sanders to run through, the Eagles have a chance. If they do neither of those things, the Eagles will lose this game and it will not be close. It’s as simple as that.
Eagles Offense vs. Rams Defense
The Eagles defense did not play as awful as 27 unanswered points may indicate. Did they play great? Certainly not, but they weren’t the reason the Eagles lost the game.
The Eagles offense put the defense in bad positions. All 27 points the Eagles surrendered on Sunday were in part because every single one of those drives started in Eagles territory. They were at a disadvantage in each of those possessions before they even stepped on the field.
I expect the defense to play more true to their level this weekend, even though they are going against a good Rams offense.
Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett are both expected to play, which will be a huge boost for the defensive line. The Rams allowed just one sack last Sunday night against the Cowboys, so if the Eagles want to win this game they are going to have to put some pressure on quarterback Jared Goff.
Speaking of Goff, the man who was drafted one slot ahead of Wentz in the 2016 NFL draft, a lot of people are on the fence about his play. In my opinion, I think that he’s a very good quarterback, but I also think a lot of that has to do with the offense he plays in.
Playing in Sean McVay’s offense, while McVay is wildly overrated, is a blessing for Goff. McVay’s passing attack is centered around timing routes, wide receiver motion, and by far the most play-action bootlegs I’ve ever seen from an NFL team. When the Rams are at their best, they run this scheme like a machine.
However, they can be held in check. The best way to control this offense is by getting a lot of pressure on Goff, messing up the receivers timing through bump-and-run man coverage, and stopping the stretch run. The Eagles are good at stopping the run, they have been ever since Jim Schwartz became defensive coordinator.
The problem in this game to me is the Eagles generating pressure on the quarterback and playing good man coverage. They struggled last year in getting pressure, and while they did record three sacks last week, Washington’s offensive line stinks out loud. The Rams are much better up front.
Furthermore, while I trust Darius Slay Jr. in man coverage, I don’t particularly trust anyone else. Avonte Maddox is unproven as an outside cornerback though he played decently last week. Nickell Robey-Coleman played for the Rams the last couple of years, but I’m sure McVay has made adjustments because of that. I do not trust a single one of the Eagles linebackers to cover anyone.
Nickell Robey Coleman says he is telling everyone on Eagles everything that he can about his former team the Rams— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) September 16, 2020
He is telling Darius Slay and Rodney McLeod as much as he can about Sean McVay’s offense pic.twitter.com/MVvBgOtzTF
The Rams are spoiled with offensive weapons, too. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp make up one of the more efficient, underrated wide receiver duos in the league. They’re both mostly possession receivers who run great routes and often find themselves open. That won’t change on Sunday.
Running backs Malcom Brown and Cam Akers form a solid 1-2 punch, though they aren’t the threat that Todd Gurley once was with this offense. They combined to rush for over 100 yards last week while Brown scored both Rams touchdowns. I still think the Eagles have the advantage in the run game.
It would be easy for me to portray my overwhelming and all-too-Philly sense of pessimism for the Eagles right now. Instead, I will refrain from that and look at this game from a pure analytical standpoint. Until the game starts, then my emotions will ultimately take over.
Any time a west coast team is forced to travel to the east coast and play a 1 o’clock game they are playing at a disadvantage. This will work in the Eagles favor early in the game, leading to the Birds taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a Miles Sanders touchdown.
This game can go one of two ways from there. The Eagles can either continue to suffocate the Rams and kick them while they are down, or they do what they did last week and allow the Rams to respond and force themselves back into the game.
Unfortunately, I think the latter is more likely. Pederson abandons the run game in the second half when the Rams take the lead, Wentz is sacked by Aaron Donald twice, and the defense can only keep the Eagles in the game for so long.
The Rams win, 27-17. For the third year in a row the Eagles have gotten off to a disappointing start and will be forced to scramble to put the pieces back together.
The Eagles will consider themselves lucky that no fans are in the stands.
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass