Five Key Matchups For The Rams Against The Eagles

Brandon Staley: Rams Defense off to a good start
Los Angeles Rams Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald. Photo Credit: Brook Ward | Under Creative Commons License

Week 1’s win against the Dallas Cowboys is the first sign of a return to form for the Los Angeles Rams. Halting last year’s top offense to 17 points and conducting an efficient offensive scheme reminiscent of the prime Todd Gurley years led the Rams to their first statement win of the year. This week they face an Eagles team coming off a disappointing debut against the Washington Football Team.

Carson Wentz’s mistake-filled performance against Washington allowed them to post a comeback win after being down 17-0 to Doug Pederson’s playoff-hopeful squad. Looking to face the 49ers, Ravens, and Steelers in the next three games, the Eagles must win this weekend against the Rams or face a potential 0-5 start to the season. The contest has several matchups on both sides of the ball that should have fans in store for a great game, here’s a look at five key matchups for the Rams as they take on the Eagles.

Five Key Matchups For The Rams Against The Eagles

Aaron Donald vs. Miles Sanders

Aaron Donald isn’t going anywhere just because we’re fascinated with McVay and the offense. The dominant DT showed off brute force against the stout Cowboys offensive line and will be facing an injured Eagles o-line that gave up eight sacks to Washington.

Carson Wentz is going to need to cut down on the bad throws, but the silver lining in this matchup is the return of running back Miles Sanders. While it’s nice to be a Boston Scott hopeful, Sanders remains the lead back in this offense no matter how many think Pederson will attack by committee.

In his first season not shadowing Jordan Howard, Sanders needs to be the dual-threat back to give the offense some needed spark — needing to show up on the receiving and rushing stat lines similar to Devonta Freeman, or Alvin Kamara. Currently, their only talent in the receiving corps is prospect rookie receiver Jalen Reagor and an aged DeSean Jackson. Miles Sanders may build up a presence on Sunday via dump-offs by Wentz in a sure-to-collapse pocket with Donald and Leonard Floyd chasing the quarterback. It’ll be his time to catch some eyes as we see what he does against a ferocious defense. He will get targets, but will he get yards?

Stopping The Eagles Tight Ends

Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz totaled a combined 119 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Washington. Goedert was responsible for 101 of those yards — with Ertz only catching three passes for 18 yards and a touchdown — proving that their dual tight end threat can gloss over the receiving problems that the Eagles are facing without a true threat to catch downfield (emphasis on an AGED DeSean Jackson).

This may end up being Carson Wentz’s go-to unit on offense for another year and until someone rises to the challenge in Philly, it’s on Goedert and Ertz to be the only source of production.

Rams linebacker Micah Kiser played every defensive snap on Sunday and may be the reason why the Rams front office let Cory Littleton walk. He will see a fair share of coverage against either tight end, with Samson Ebukam partaking in the action as well, giving the Rams a good shot at limiting the receiving numbers and halt the Eagles offense to a near full stoppage. Expect on of the Rams three big safeties (Johnson, Rapp, and Fuller) to get in on the coverage action as well. Without a receiver to confidently throw to, the Rams offense can keep Philadelphia off the field and keep Goff in the driver’s seat.

Rams Backfield vs. Eagles Run Defense

Philadelphia’s only pulse on the field during Week 1 came from their run defense, which held the Washington backfield to an average of 2.2 yards per carry. While no one expected a breakout performance from rookie Antonio Gibson and the depleted backfield after the loss of veteran Adrian Peterson, Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ defensive line proved that they are still capable of stuffing the run game as stubbornly as last season.

Cam Akers had a lukewarm performance, with most fans having slated the Florida State rookie for a notable stat line in his debut and overlooking the electric Malcolm Brown who picked up 79 yards on 18 carries. Brown may see a bulk of the carries for the next game, especially with a still recovering Darrell Henderson, Jr. who suffered a minor hamstring injury, but Akers will need to meet his projected potential and involvement with the offense to get a confident attack on the ground going. Sean McVay does his best play-calling when the Rams backfield is able to create momentum for Jared Goff and the passing game, they will get a worthy challenge this Sunday.

… what appears to be an improved Eagles secondary can end up being the key to pulling off an upset on Sunday.

Eagles’ New Secondary vs. Rams Receivers

New leader of the Eagles secondary Darius Slay showed off his cover skills Week 1 against the Washington Football Team and is beginning to change the identity of a secondary known for being the team’s Scarlet Letter. However, what appears to be an improved Eagles secondary can end up being the key to pulling off an upset on Sunday.

Slay is off to a great start after a successful career with the Lions and the addition of Nickell Robey-Coleman gives the Rams a familiar face to prepare for, who knows how to line up against their three-headed monster at receiver better than most corners. The Rams certainly have the edge with Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, rookie Van Jefferson, and newly re-signed veteran Robert Woods to lead the offense, but preparing for the Eagles defense similar to games past can be a mistake the Rams are capable of making.

Return Of Lane Johnson

This is a player to watch with a question mark currently hanging over his availability for Sunday’s game. Tackle Lane Johnson’s absence on Sunday was a glaring void as they faced Chase Young, Ryan Kerrigan, and the rest of Washington’s defensive scheme that kept Wentz scrambling and praying for a play to develop before getting hit.

The 3x Pro Bowler is tentatively expected to return for the matchup against the Rams, which could give the Rams defensive line an added assignment compared to the porous protection Wentz would be getting without Johnson. Wentz remains an elite talent at quarterback who can rip through a defense with some more time in the pocket, and if Lane allows Wentz to find his tight ends, or unleash Reagor on the Rams, it may be one of those games where you take the over. The Rams will have their hands full for the entire contest if Wentz can be protected.

Los Angeles Rams Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald. Photo Credit: Brook Ward | Under Creative Commons License

Los Angeles Rams Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald. Photo Credit: Brook Ward | Under Creative Commons License