By no means a must-win for either team, but certainly a referendum on the resilience of the Eagles to come back and play well for an entire game after having come up so short against Washington.
First of all, the overall team health of the Eagles will be slightly better for this one.
Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, tackle Lane Johnson, and running back Miles Sanders are good to go for Sunday’s home opener against the Rams. Hargrave, the big-ticket free agent addition, has been sidelined with pectoral and hamstring injuries. He returned to practice this week and was full for the first time on Friday. Johnson missed the season opener with an ankle injury, while Sanders was out with a hamstring injury.
Defensive end is a position to watch come Sunday as Derek Barnett (hamstring) and Brandon Graham (concussion) are both questionable.
E.J. Smith of the Inquirer offers these scouting keys for us:
“1. Carson Wentz is coming off one of the worst games he’s had in the last few seasons. How he rebounds will be crucial if the Eagles are going to avoid starting the season 0-2 with a daunting schedule ahead. Excluding his rookie season, Wentz has seldom put together consecutive awful games. He’s never followed up a multiple-interception game with another, and he’s fumbled multiple times in consecutive games only once. It’s not a given Wentz will rebound against Los Angeles, though. The Rams’ defensive secondary is much better than Washington’s, and the defensive front is productive. Still, Wentz will need to right the ship if the Eagles are to avoid digging a hole early in the season.
“2. Miles Sanders missed the season opener with a hamstring injury, so Sunday will be his first chance to assume his new role as the Eagles’ featured running back. The team is hoping the second-year runner will be the quick fix for the stagnant running game that stalled the Eagles offense against Washington. It’s a small sample size, but the Rams’ run defense was ranked in the bottom 10 of defensive efficiency against the run by FootballOutsiders.com last week. More simply put, Ezekiel Elliott ran for 96 yards on 22 attempts in Week 1. Sanders would likely hope to be in the conversation with the Cowboys’ running back this year, so the general benchmark for production has been set.
“3. Aaron Donald is the foreboding figure the Eagles have been talking about all week. The Rams defensive tackle will be the first true “find that guy before every play and make sure he’s accounted for” player the team has had to prepare for. Donald was insanely disruptive against Dallas, racking up six quarterback hurries. Under new Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, Donald will be a little harder to find pre-snap. He took snaps at each defensive-line spot in the opener, primarily as a defensive tackle but sometimes bumping out to the edge. It will be interesting to see which Eagles lineman Donald favors this Sunday.
“4. Lane Johnson will be back in the fold this weekend. Can the right tackle single-handedly save the Eagles’ offensive line from the dubious outlook left by last weekend? The 30-year-old’s return will certainly steady things, especially some of the miscommunication that happened on the line. He’ll presumably be working alongside Nate Herbig, a player he hasn’t had game reps with yet. There’s a chance Herbig loses his spot, but unless Matt Pryor is the replacement (unlikely), the continuity still won’t be there.
“5. Cooper Kupp will have a familiar matchup Sunday. The Rams’ slot receiver, one of the best in the league, is facing off against former teammate and current Eagle Nickell Robey-Coleman. The two spent the last three years working against one another in practice, and Robey-Coleman is excited about the potential matchup. Kupp had 94 catches for 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Robey-Coleman’s first game was uneventful in a good way against Washington. The Eagles would be quite happy if Robey-Coleman had another boring day at the office while sticking to Kupp.
“6. Speaking of cornerbacks, does Darius Slay follow someone this week? What about Jalen Ramsey? Robert Woods is the prime candidate for Slay’s attention, but there’s a chance this game offers the Eagles a chance to rely less heavily on Slay’s traveling ability. The Eagles don’t exactly have a proven No. 1 receiving threat, so it’s possible Ramsey stays on one side of the field instead of shadowing someone.
“7. How will the balance between Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz shake out this week? In the opener, Goedert surpassed 100 receiving yards for the first time in his career. He had eight catches and a touchdown, and Ertz had three catches for 18 yards, a touchdown, and a costly drop at the end of the game. Ertz’s down game was preceded earlier in the week by his voicing frustration with contract extension talks with the Eagles’ front office. Just before the game, an NFL Network report said Ertz and Eagles GM Howie Roseman got into a heated argument last weekend. The Eagles offense is at its best when both Ertz and Goedert are thriving. Look for the team to get both guys involved early and often.
“8. Jalen Reagor’s 55-yard catch last Sunday gave Eagles fans a glimpse of what could be, but can he be more productive in the sequel? When Reagor was drafted, it was easy to project him as a gadgety player for whom the team would need to create touches. Certainly the truncated offseason is part of the slow play, but he was targeted just four times Sunday and had just the one touch on offense along with two punt returns. It looks like the rookie is still ironing out some of the finer details of route running in the NFL and chemistry with Wentz is still forming, but the Eagles will likely try to expand his role as the season goes on.”
It should also be noted: all indications are that Nate Herbig will be the Eagles’ starting right guard for the second time in his career. It is a position to watch this Sunday.
As for the Rams’ quarterback, Goff looked good against Dallas last week. If he gets hot on Sunday, all bets are off.