It’s Week 5 and the Eagles are no longer undefeated.
The Birds have overcome all sorts of adversity in their first four games, battling through injuries and double-digit deficits to obtain a 3-1 record. Their next test is upon them, and the entire NFL is watching to see if the Eagles offense can bounce back after a terrible output in a tight loss to the 49ers last weekend.
The Rams are 1-2 and are expected to finish at the bottom of the NFC West. Prior to the start of the season, many fans and pundits had this game, at home at Lincoln Financial Field at 1 p.m., as a sure victory for the Eagles.
But now, after watching the team struggle to gain just 21 yards rushing and fail to cross their opponent’s 50 yardline until midway through the fourth quarter, nothing seems sure anymore. Here are three things to watch Sunday.
Eagles running game The Eagles can’t win with a one dimensional attack. They need to utilize the best running back in football a year ago. And Lane Johnson’s return could help the offensive line open a few holes for LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles.
“We’re not blocking very well at wide receiver, at offensive line, at tight end, anywhere,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said, spreading the blame around. “You look at our production in the run game and it’s not where it should be. So there’s not one specific area. I think everybody from a blocking standpoint needs to improve.”
Other teams have been successful against the Rams on the ground. In fact, St. Louis faces just 69 pass attempts in its first three games, the lowest in the NFL by a large margin.
Nick Foles should have time
The Rams have just one sack this season. That’s right, just one. And this comes a year after Robert Quinn had 19 for St. Louis in a breakout year. With Nick Foles sometimes forced to rush his throws to pretty ugly results in the first four weeks, solid offensive line play along with a lackluster Rams pass rush could open up the passing game for the Birds.
Quinn could be less effective because he is without fellow pass-rusher Chris Long.
“The one thing that strikes you when you watch him is just how hard he runs to the ball no matter where the play is,” Kelly said of Quinn. “I think a lot of people have gone away from him. They had such a great tandem when Chris Long was on one side and he was on the other side. He’s obviously garnered more attention because Chris is out right now with an injury.”
Continue being special
The Eagles have an incredible special teams resume so far this season. And at points it’s been a difference maker. The Birds nearly turned two special teams scores and a defensive touchdown into a win last week in San Francisco. And they used a Chris Polk kickoff return touchdown to help them beat the Redskins. It seems everywhere you look, the special teams unit is the one reliable phase executing for the Eagles each week.
“It’s another year in the system for those guys,” Kelly said of his special teams unit. “We’ve added some special teams players through free agency. Guys like Chris Maragos that have come in. I think other guys are just more comfortable in the system. We obviously have a different kicker. We’re kicking the ball better from a kickoff standpoint, so there’s a lot of different things. You’re getting contributions from young guys like Trey Burton who wasn’t here last year, so I think it’s a combination of all of those things.”