Eagles-Rams Preview: Where is Rich Kotite?
Neither the Philadelphia Eagles nor the St. Louis Rams scored an offensive touchdown last week. The problem for the 3-1 Eagles is that while the 1-2 Rams were on a bye, they were not.
The Eagles return home on Sunday, after their first loss of the season, to host the Rams and will be facing a porous run defense and a third-string quarterback, who won't remind anybody of former Rams QB and current Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. Will that be enough to get the Eagles back to their winning ways? Let's take a look:
Eagles Offense vs. Rams Defense
A lot has been made lately about how horrible Nick Foles is this season. Well sure, he is ranked a lowly 25th in QB Rating (81.7), after leading the NFL in that category last season (119.2), but he's also currently ranked 5th in yards passing (1,173). And it's also important to keep in mind that he was No. 1 in yardage until he was continually bludgeoned by the 49ers last week behind an offensive line with three new starters and other lineman playing out of position. No, Foles hasn't been as accurate as last season, but some of that is due to the fact that with defenses stacking the box to stop the run, Foles has attempted the most passes over 20 yards of any QB in the NFL. Those are a bit harder to complete than a quick slant. Even with all of his perceived issues, Foles is still leading the 3rd highest scoring offense in the entire NFL.
Also, with all the backups playing on the O-line, Foles is having trouble stepping up and into his throws. Since Foles isn't the most mobile QB, he needs a cleaner pocket than he has received so far this season. The return of RT Lane Johnson from his PED suspension will help, as it will allow Todd Herremans to slide back to his normal RG position. The other thing that will help this week is that the Rams have one sack all season. That's astounding for a team that led the NFL in sacks last season, with 105. DE Robert Quinn led the league in sacks last year with 19, but without the injured Chris Long on the other side of the defensive line, he has zero through three games so far this season.
In spite of all the perceived problems with Foles, the Eagles still have the No. 6 passing offense in the NFL with 280.5 yards per game. The Rams pass defense is ranked a surprising 3rd in the NFL (187.3 ypg), but that's only because nobody bothers to throw on them. They have the fewest pass attempts against them in the entire NFL. They will be without starting CB Trumaine Johnson, which hurts a secondary that has allowed a 105.1 QB rating to opposing QBs. Riley Cooper might actually catch a few passes this game. Or not. The one thing that I am confident will happen is that the TEs will get involved again. Zach Ertz and even Brent Celek will be able to expose a Rams' defense that allows far too many completions in the middle of the field because they regularly bring safety T.J. McDonald down into the box for run support.
The biggest surprise about the Eagles this season is that they can't run the ball. They are 26th in the NFL in rushing (87.0 ypg) and LeSean McCoy has just 192 yards rushing in four games. That's a huge drop off for an offense that led the NFL in rushing last season with 160 ypg, while McCoy led the NFL with 1,607 yards rushing. Most of those issues can be laid at the feet of the injury-ravaged offensive line, but McCoy has also been dancing too much instead of hitting the few holes he gets. Luckily, the Rams are 30th in the NFL at defending the run (155 ypg). Even with backups at LG and center, the Eagles should be able to establish a ground attack against the Rams.
How many times will the Eagles CBs get burned against the Rams?
Rams Offense vs. Eagles Defense
The Rams are starting their third-string quarterback after the season-ending injury to Sam Bradford and the Week 1 injury to backup Shaun Hill. His name is Austin Davis and he was a walk-on at Southern Mississippi. The surprising thing is that he's actually played well. Davis has thrown for 754 yards, 3 TDs and 3 INTs in two and a half games, for a QB rating of 93.1. While those aren't great numbers, the Eagles pass defense is putrid once again this season. They are ranked 28th overall and 23rd against the pass, giving up 257 passing yards per game. Meanwhile, the Rams are ranked a surprising 9th in passing (264.3 ypg). The Rams like to get the ball out quickly, which helps their young QB. Davis may not be Kurt Warner, but he's certainly better than Eagles third-string QB Matt Barkley.
Normally, a team would run the ball with a young, inexperienced quarterback, but the Rams are only ranked 22nd in the NFL in rushing. Luckily for them, the Eagles are 26th defending the run (133.8 ypg). The Rams have a good offensive line, led by LT Jake Long and LG Roger Saffold. They drafted OT Greg Robinson 2nd overall in last April's draft, but he hasn't developed as quickly as they had hoped and he's a backup so far. The Eagles gave up 218 yards rushing against the 49ers last week, so they have nowhere to go but up. The Eagles defensive line and linebackers will need to stop RB Zac Stacey, who is averaging 4.3 ypc so far this season, to force the Rams into second and long and third and long situations.
The Rams receivers are nothing special. Last year's 1st round pick, Tavon Austin has all of 3 catches for 34 yards this season, due to a sprained MCL suffered in Week 2. He is questionable for this game. That would leave Kenny Britt and Brian Quick as the starters. You would think even Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams could cover those stiffs, but anybody who has watched the Eagles this season knows those two will most likely get burned repeatedly. The Rams like to use a lot of 2 TE sets with Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks. That will be another challenge for the Eagles defense without ILB Mychael Kendricks. Add in the fact that Brandon Boykin is hobbling around and this might actually turn into a shoot-out. The only bright spot is that safety Malcolm Jenkins has an interception in three straight games. Anybody still want Jarius Byrd?
I can't believe I'm about to say this, but the Eagles might have the best special teams units in the entire NFL this season. They have scored a touchdown on a kick return, a punt return and a blocked punt. Their coverage units are doing very well and rookie kicker Cody Parkey has hit 8-of-9 attempts, including a pair of 51-yarders. The Rams don't have any dangerous returners, as KR Chris Givens is averaging just 20.2 yards per return and PR Tavon Austin was only averaging 3.8 when he was healthy. Greg Zuerlein is a very good kicker, having made 33 of 36 kicks the last two seasons. And punter Johnny Hekker had the best net average (44.2) in NFL history last season. I doubt Darren Sproles will win special teams player of the week again this week.
Richie The K
Eagles coach Chip Kelly went all Andy Reid last week, in completely abandoning the running game. Running twice on 3rd and goal from the 49ers 2 yard line at the end of the game last week was inexcusable. It doesn't matter if the running game wasn't working. He had to at least try to run it in. Rams coach Jeff Fisher learned the NFL under former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan. (Remember when the Eagles chose Rich Kotite over Fisher, when Ryan was fired? Oh the humanity!) Fisher likes to run the football and play defense, but he just doesn't have the horses yet to make the Rams into a winner.
The Rams are coming off a bye and the Eagles are coming off their first loss of the season. I don't think either of those things matter though. Rest and redemption aren't what will decide this game. The Eagles are simply the better team in this matchup and they're getting a key piece of their depleted offensive line back. The Eagles should be able to re-establish their dominant running game, which will allow their porous defense to play with a lead for once. The Rams aren't bad, but not many teams can win on the road with their third-string QB.
Eagles 31 - Rams 20