NFL Game Scripts Week 2: Los Angeles Rams @ Philadelphia Eagles
Week 2 opponents the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles have been somewhat entwined over the past few seasons. Their QBs were taken in the same Draft and they have often been competing for the same NFC playoff spots each year. Both teams also have a dominant defensive front, and in this one it should be a matter of who can overcome this more often. The Rams have perhaps a slightly more well-rounded offense, although the Eagles arguably the higher upside in their offensive weapons.
Los Angeles Rams Offense vs. Philadelphia Eagles Defense
The Run Game
The Rams aren’t sure who their top RB is yet for 2020, and are giving the majority of snaps to Malcolm Brown and rookie Cam Akers, with Darrell Henderson used intermittently. Brown is a physical runner between the Tackles, whereas Akers and Henderson have a little more agility to make guys miss in space.
The Rams will likely start the game with Brown, and although he mostly stays inside, they could look to use their TEs to help block the Eagles’ edge rushers in Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Nathan Gerry. Brown will get the majority of snaps in the first quarter at RB as Los Angeles tries to find holes on the edge, as well as testing DT Javon Hargrave, who will line up across from Joe Noteboom. Noteboom is a capable OG, but might need help from C Austin Blythe in creating rushing lanes through the middle.
However, if Brown proves ineffective and can’t find space, Akers and Henderson should be given chances as the game progresses. Both are better receivers than Brown, although haven’t had the same experience. Akers will be given chances to run outside the Tackles, and a few up the middle, with the Rams pulling Blythe or one of their OGs to become the lead blocker. If Akers can turn the corner on the outside and head upfield, he will have favourable matchups against the Eagles’ secondary. Similarly with Henderson, although he is more likely to be used on passing downs than for rushes, unless he makes big plays early on.
The Rams will want to continue rushing throughout the game to take pressure off QB Jared Goff. Even if they are making only three yard gains consistently, they won’t abandon it unless they fall behind by more than one score late in the third quarter. While they prefer a single back system, they could explore using two RBs in a wishbone on a few plays to provide extra blockers, disguise runs with fake handoffs, or have a release valve in the flat if the pass rush is collapsing the pocket. If they try this, it will be close to halftime, hoping to get a lead and develop momentum.
The Passing Game
With a strong OL, the Rams generally can allow plays to develop downfield if needed, but against the Eagles’ front seven should look to use a quick passing game. They prefer two and three WRs sets, and often have two TEs as well. The Rams are likely to use bubble and WR screens with uneven formations, stacking one side of the field. They will take a few shots to Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp downfield at times, especially by swapping which side of the field they are on to keep them away from CB Darius Slay. However, controlling the clock and adding a few yards at a time will allow the Rams to control the tempo, as well as avoiding the pass rush.
The Rams’ TEs, especially Tyler Higbee, will attack the middle of the field with post, out and curl routes. The Eagles will have to try and match up either of their Safeties against Higbee especially, but his size gives him a clear advantage. The second half should see increased use of the TEs as receivers, with a few targets early on to ensure they can win against the coverage they face. The Eagles could consider jamming the TEs with a LB, and bracketing them with a Safety instead, but if the cushion is too big, Goff will hit them on 5-10 yard routes before the coverage can close in.
With Woods patrolling one sideline, Kupp can be moved around into the slot if needed, allowing him to also be used on short and intermediate slants, screens and curls. As Kupp and Higbee start to move the chains, Woods should be freed up on a few plays, while the RBs can also be used on screens and swing routes. The Rams will use their first few drives to target each of their receivers and discover who has winnable matchups, before moving to short passes for most of the game, with deeper attacks used sparingly.
What should we expect to see on Sunday?
The Eagles’ defensive front is good enough to limit the Rams’ run game, but Los Angeles will continue rushing for most of the game, even with minimal gains. There will be a few downfield targets, but the Rams will want to control the clock and methodically move the chains before the pass rush can get home. The Eagles’ secondary needs to prove itself and win in man coverage, but the Rams’ TEs create a favourable mismatch, especially early in the game to free up Kupp and Woods.
Philadelphia Eagles Offense vs.Los Angeles Rams Defense
The Run Game
As good as the Eagles’ DL is, the Rams have the best DL in the league in Aaron Donald. The Eagles will try to avoid him as much as possible, even if the Rams move him along the line a bit. With Donald absorbing double teams against, and probably attacking the questionable LG Isaac Seumalo, Philadelphia need to direct their runs in the opposite direction. However, LBs Leonard Floyd and Micah Kiser can then be stacked over the RG and RT, waiting for Miles Sanders and Boston Scott to run straight at them.
With the interior essentially taken away from them, Philadelphia need to still have a few runs up the middle to show their intent to move the ball on the ground. This will be done only a few times during the game, but does allow them to start using counters and fake handoffs later in the game. The Eagles will run a few two RB sets so that they can use RPOs, as well as pitch and toss plays to get their RBs to the outside. Sanders could have a quiet game, but it doesn’t mean the Eagles won’t move the ball on the ground.
QB Carson Wentz is likely to have a few designed runs spread out through the game, with one or two in the second quarter. Having Sanders, Scott or Corey Clement fake a hand-off up the middle, Wentz can roll out of the pocket and scramble for several yards to force the Rams to reduce the number of defenders in the box. From this, there can be chances to use interior runs, but the Eagles’ run game really depends on how much they can neutralise Aaron Donald.
The Passing Game
Philadelphia barely attacked the sidelines in Week 1, instead preferring to go over the middle to their TEs Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. They mostly used vertical-based routes, with some slants, crossing and option routes, and it should be no different in this one. Rams’ Safety Taylor Rapp will be tasked with stopping at least one of the TEs, and should have some success at times, although will have difficulty winning aerial battles, instead having to rely on his instincts to break on the ball and disrupt passes. Ertz and Goedert will be moved around regularly, including to the slot, next to each other and on opposite sides of the OL. From these positions, they can run fade routes as well to box out defenders, with Wentz able to pass to whichever one is facing away from the coverage.
With the TEs being the focus for the passing attack throughout the entire game, the Eagles will need to consider how they use their WRs. Rookie Jalen Reagor should see more targets this week, and will mostly be used to attack downfield. Reagor will operate from both the slot and outside, seeking to get separation against CB Troy Hill, or as a deception to take Jalen Ramsay out of the equation. This will then allow DeSean Jackson to run a mixture of deep and intermediate routes, potentially getting behind the Rams’ defense. With a mixture of other WRs rotating through, the Eagles will target the Rams’ nickel DB and LBs in the passing game as well.
Philadelphia’s aerial attack will see them try and go deep early on a few times, before consolidating on throws over the middle to the TEs. While one WR goes deep on every play, the other 1-2 will run slants and in routes against the Rams’ lesser CBs. The Rams should try to force WRs towards the sidelines, forcing Wentz to be more accurate or take shorter passes to the RBs or underneath receiver.
What should we expect to see on Sunday?
The Eagles will constantly target the TEs, with shots downfield and over the middle to the WRs mixed in. Los Angeles can collapse the pocket from the middle, and should consolidate their secondary towards the middle of the field. Jalen Ramsay won’t be targeted at all, unless Reagor or Jackson can outpace him deep. The early passing game for Philadelphia will be much the same as it is later – throws over the middle with deep shots every drive, and a few targets on short routes and to the outside. Philadelphia are not a yards after the catch team, and if they can’t move the ball through the air early on, will find themselves playing from behind quickly.