Rams at Eagles - Week 2 preview
Updated: Sep 24, 2020
TE Gerald Everett (back): Questionable (Wed - DNP; Thur - limited; Fri - full)
OT Andrew Whitworth (rest): None (Wed - DNP; Thur - full; Fri - full)
WR Alshon Jeffery (Foot): Out (Wed - DNP; Thur - DNP; Fri - DNP)
DE Brandon Graham (Concussion): Questionable (Wed - DNP; Thur - limited; Fri - full)
DE Derek Barnett (Hamstring): Questionable (Wed - full; Thur - full; Fri - full)
T Jason Peters (Knee): None (Wed - limited; Thur - full; Fri - limited)
DT Javon Hargrave (Hamstring, Pectoral): None (Wed - limited; Thur - limited; Fri - full)
T Lane Johnson (Ankle): None (Wed - full; Thur - limited; Fri - full)
DT Fletcher Cox (Rest - Not Injury Related): None (Wed - DNP; Thur - full; Fri - full)
WR DeSean Jackson (Rest - Not Injury Related): None (Wed - DNP; Thur - full; Fri - full)
RB Miles Sanders (Hamstring): None (Wed - full; Thur - full; Fri - full)
5 key factors for Rams
1.) What Washington did up front
In Week 1, the Dallas Cowboys were without RT La'El Collins due to a hip injury. Forced to decide between recently signed OT Cameron Erving and rookie undrafted free agent Terrence Steele, the Cowboys opted for the latter (Erving would get injured mid-game making the decision less of an option as time went on). The results were predictable.
The Los Angeles Rams found decent success against Steele 1v1 throughout the game before piling on late to try and hamper QB Dak Prescott nursing a slim lead. Late consecutive pressures by EDGE Leonard Floyd (resulting on a sack) and EDGE Jachai Polite helped disrupt the Cowboys' late offensive push.
Previously that day, the Philadelphia Eagles summoned much of their depth chart to block for QB Carson Wentz against the Washington Football Team. In June, RG Brandon Brooks tore his Achilles erasing his 2020 campaign. LT Andre Dillard tore his biceps a few weeks back and had surgery that will force him to miss the season. And RT Lane Johnson missed Week 1 after being listed Questionable on the injury report with an ankle injury. The results were less predictable...because of how bad they were.
Washington racked up 8 sacks (EIGHT!) and 14 total QB pressures harassing Wentz throughout the day leading Washington to take the top spot on Football Outsiders' DVOA statistic which essentially measures overall defensive quality.
The key here is simple. The Rams have to get after Wentz.
Yes, Lane Johnson is likely back at RT, but the Eagles' (and Football Team's...and yes it's very weird to type that) performance stands. Wentz was routinely disrupted all game via a combination of Washington's pressure and Eagles HC Doug Pederson's odd commitment to trusting his offense to execute longer-developing passing plays.
The pressure is on the Rams' front seven to bring pressure.
2.) Rams' running game
Rams HC Sean McVay crafted an extremely conservative and condensed offensive gameplan for Week 1 that was dependent on a direct running game to set up and convert short 3rd downs.
It worked. And early on, it worked spectacularly.
Throughout the Rams' first five offensive possessions (not counting the single play before the end of the 1st half), the Rams had 10 3rd downs of six or less yards. They converted eight of them. That efficiency racked up the time of possession keeping Dallas' offense off the field and set up a playbook for McVay to expand upon moving forward.
Well now we're moving forward.
The Rams handed the ball off to running backs 35 times in Week 1. That's more than any game in 2019 and more than any but two games (2018 Week 17 and the following game against the Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs) in the McVay era. Those came amid the implications of Todd Gurley's knee...uh, whatever. This week was unique because McVay had everything at his disposal and opted for it instead of reacting to the situation:
How will McVay use his running game in Week 2?
3.) Safety valve
The Rams surprisingly plugged in rookie S Jordan Fuller, a 2020 NFL Draft sixth-round pick out of Ohio State, to play alongside S John Johnson III in Week 1. S Taylor Rapp came in for 15 snaps (20.83% of defensive snaps), but the story wasn't the safety rotation. It was just Fuller's play.
The rookie led the team in tackles including the highlight play on 4th & 3 to deny the Cowboys a first down and keep the Rams in the lead late in the game:
With the depth there (rookie 2020 NFL Draft third-round pick DB Terrell Burgess didn't play a single defensive snap), the Rams have plenty of versatility at DC Brandon Staley's disposal. He opted, and deserves credit, for going with Fuller in Week 1.
How he organizes this group to deal with Wentz and the passing attack organized by Passing Game Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Press Taylor (the younger brother of Cincinnati Bengals HC and former Rams QB Coach (2018) and Assistant Wide Receivers Coach (2017) Zac Taylor) will be key.
4.) 12 personnel
When and how McVay opts to go balance 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) with 12 (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) will be crucial.
Worth also noting we also ran 13 three snaps using 1 RB, 3 TE and just 1 WR.
5.) K Sam Sloman
3 key matchups
1.) Rams' front seven v. Eagles O-line
This comes first and foremost. It's the #1 key factor to the game given the Eagles' injuries and what Washington did last weekend. The pressure is on the Rams to support DT Aaron Donald with pressure all around.
2.) Rams LT Andrew Whitworth & RT Rob Havenstein v. Eagles EDGE
The Rams' offensive line, albeit protected by McVay's gameplan, performed above expectations in Week 1. They kept QB Jared Goff mostly clean, and they opened up some space in the running game.
While that likely raises the bar for expectations, it might also raise McVay's tolerance for risk in the passing game. Should he either look for a heavier workload for Goff or feel comfortable pushing the ball downfield more often, it will require better play from the tackles than what they provided through the first six games a year ago. Their NFL resumes suggest they should be up to the task, but the Eagles are likely to have most of their full front seven with Barnett and Graham good to go (Vinny Curry remains on Injured Reserve).
3.) Rams LBs Micah Kiser, Kenny Young, et al v. Eagles passing game
It will be crucial for the inside group to support the run game, but I think it will be more important to avoid being a detrimental contributor in passing defense.
Kiser didn't have a bad day overall in Week 1, though he did have some mistakes I'd sure he'd like to erase moving forward especially early on. Young didn't have too much of an impact, but that was a good thing given how the contest developed especially in the second half as he logged just more than 50% of defensive snaps. S Taylor Rapp came in for some three safety looks on 15 snaps, and LB Justin Hollins got on the field for five snaps. This cohort will need to be as effective against Philly and Wentz as they were against Dallas and Prescott.
Broadcast maps (via 506sports)
Thursday Night Football (8:20pm ET/5:20pm PT): Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns (NFL)
Sunday Night Football (8:20pm ET/5:20pm PT): New England Patriots @ Seattle Seahawks (NBC)
Monday Night Football (8:15pm ET/5:15pm PT): New Orleans Saints @ Las Vegas Raiders (ESPN/ABC)
CBS Sunday Early
o New York Giants @ Chicago Bears (red)
o Denver Broncos @ Pittsburgh Steelers (blue)
o Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans (green)
o Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins (yellow)
CBS Sunday Late
o Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Chargers (red)
o Baltimore Ravens @ Houston Texans (blue)
o Los Angeles Rams @ Philadelphia Eagles (green)
o Atlanta Falcons @ Dallas Cowboys (red)
o San Francisco 49ers @ New York Jets (blue)
o Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (yellow)
o Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers (orange)
o Minnesota Vikings @ Indianapolis Colts (purple)
o Washington Football Team @ Arizona Cardinals LATE (teal)
Date: Sunday, September 20, 2020
Time: 1pm ET/10am PT
Location: Lincoln Financial Field | Philadelphia, PA
Announcers: Kevin Kugler (play-by-play), Chris Spielman (analyst), Laura Okmin (sideline reporter)
Radio (English, Local): ESPN 710 AM
Announcers: J.B. Long (play-by-play), Maurice Jones-Drew (analyst), D’Marco Farr (sideline reporter)
Radio (Spanish, Local): Tu Liga Radio 1330
Announcers: Troy Santiago (play-by-play), Ricardo Lopez (analyst)
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