Date & Time: September 20th – 1:00 p.m.
Location: Philadelphia, PA – Lincoln Financial Field
Injury Report (as of 9-19):
-Philadelphia: Derek Barnett (Questionable), Brandon Graham (Questionable), Alshon Jeffery (OUT)
-Los Angeles: Gerald Everett (Questionable)
Philadelphia’s home opener comes against a team that Doug Pederson has never lost to, the Los Angeles Rams. Coming off a frustrating loss against the Washington Football Team, it’s imperative that Philadelphia gets back on track this week. Falling into an 0-2 hole would be a disastrous start for Philadelphia. Let’s take a look at what they need to do in order to get a much needed victory in week 2.
Last week, the Eagles offense shined in the first half against the Washington Football Team. The second half was a totally different story. The absences of Lane Johnson and Miles Sanders were felt tremendously. However, this week Johnson and Sanders are back. Although, Johnson won’t be at 100% this week, having him next to Nate Herbig, who will matchup with Aaron Donald, will be huge. Last week, Philadelphia started Nate Herbig (RG) and Jack Driscoll (RT) on the right side, two players who were both making their first career starts. With the return of Lane Johnson, Herbig will be making his second career start. Herbig’s first career start had its ups and downs but against Donald, Herbig will have to be near perfect.
For Carson Wentz, his play was a microcosm of the entire offense. In the first half Wentz completed 14-22 passes for 182 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception with a QB rating of 100.9. In the second half, he was abysmal, completing 10-20 passes for 88 yards , 0 TDs and 1 interception with a QB rating of 41.3. Wentz’s second half play was the result of poor offensive line play and playing with rookie wide receivers who he didn’t have a chance to develop chemistry with in the offseason.
DeSean Jackson was on and off the field against Washington, finishing with just 2 catches for 46 yards. Jalen Ramsey may follow Jackson throughout the afternoon in an attempt to eliminate his deep threat ability. This leaves room for Jalen Reagor to operate. Reagor will likely draw the Rams number two corner, Troy Hill in coverage. Hill is lauded for his ability in zone coverage, however, his man coverage ability is where he lacks. Hill ran a 4.55 40 yard dash in 2015 at the combine. With this in mind, Reagor should have plenty of opportunities to showcase the speed that attracted the Eagles to him during the draft process. The best tight end duo in the league: Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert will also have their opportunities. Even if the Rams contain one, the other will be able to have sustained success on Sunday afternoon. Outside of Ebukam, the Rams linebackers aren’t that athletic and as a unit, they aren’t well versed in coverage ability. Expect one of Ertz or Goedert to have big day, which will open up things for Reagor, Jackson and Greg Ward downfield.
Miles Sanders returns Sunday. The Rams allowed 4.4 ypc against Ezekiel Elliot last week, who finished with 96 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. While the Eagles likely won’t give Sanders that many carries, considering he’s returning from a hamstring injury (although Sanders says he could’ve played last week), expect Sanders to be able to exploit the Rams run defense. Sanders return will also help in a big way in pass protection. Last week the Eagles running backs were putrid in pass protection. Missed assignments and miscommunications allowed for a few of the 14 QB hits surrendered by Philadelphia. Sanders return will mitigate this.
The key for Philadelphia in this game will be making the Rams one dimensional. For years Los Angeles depended on Todd Gurley to be the base of their offense, however, Gurley is now in Atlanta and the Rams now boast a trio of inexperienced running backs. Last week the Rams trio of Malcolm Brown, Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr combined for 153 rushing yards in what was a modest game from the Rams three headed backfield. The Rams want to run the ball in order to set up Jared Goff with more manageable down and distances so that the pre-snap motion and deception can give defenses more to think about. The only problem with that plan of action is, the Eagles allowed just 80 yards on the ground and 2.2 ypc last week against Washington.
Against the pass, the Eagles secondary excelled last week against Washington. No one receiver got off against them like they would’ve in the past. Darius Slay allowed just two catches for 26 yards when matched up on Terry McLaurin. Avonte Maddox allowed five catches for 58 yards on 8 targets. This cornerback duo proved to be very formidable in their first game together. Against the Rams, the challenge will be steeper. Slay will likely travel with Robert Woods, who is the Rams number 1 target in the passing game. Maddox will draw either rookie, Van Jefferson or Josh Reynolds. Reynolds, who is 6’3, is listed as the number two on the Rams depth chart. Maddox at 5’9, will definitely have his hands full. The presence of Nickell Robey-Coleman will be a huge advantage to the Eagles. NRC, who played for the Rams from 2017-2019, will be matched up with Cooper Kupp in coverage.
The Eagles defensive line will once again have the chance to feast. The Rams offensive line consists of: 38 year old Andrew Whitworth at left tackle, 3rd year pro Joseph Noteboom at left guard, Austin Blythe at center, 2nd year pro Austin Corbett at right guard and Rob Havenstein at right tackle. Noteboom, Blythe and Corbett are all susceptible to allowing pressure. Noteboom allowed gave up a sack last week, Blythe allowed the 2nd most pressures at center in the league last season and Corbett has been a below average pass blocker throughout his 2 years career. With the return of Javon Hargrave, combined with the production we saw out of Malik Jackson last week and the force that is Fletcher Cox, the Eagles should be able to attack the interior of the Rams offensive line.
Doug Pederson has had Sean McVay’s number in the two times they have matched up. Jim Schwartz has always been able to have an answer for McVay’s offensive scheme. Much has been made this week about Pederson’s lack of ability play to quarterback Carson Wentz strength of moving outside of the pocket on rollouts and boot concepts. Pederson explained that the Eagles lack of success on first down led to his decision to not explore moving Wentz outside of the pocket, however, on Friday Pederson said that it (moving Wentz outside the pocket) was “something I gotta do a better job at I guess, be more conscious of it.” In order for the Eagles to be successful, Pederson will have to call plays that play to the strength of his quarterback.
Last week the Eagles played a fairly good game on defense. The offense was stellar in the first half but the went off the rails in the second half. In my opinion, there was nothing spectacular Washington did. Their success was a result of Eagles mistakes. Whether it be field position or bad offensive line play, all of these things can be fixed and I expect them to be fixed against Los Angeles. For the Eagles, the key in this game will be limiting the Rams rushing on defense and slowing down Aaron Donald on offense. If they can protect Carson Wentz, I expect the Eagles to come away with the victory.
Bold Prediction: Jalen Reagor catches 2 TDs
Pick: Eagles 27, Rams 17