Mon, 26 Oct 2020

Weekend Water Break: The top 10 stories from Rams week

Philadelphia Eagles
20 Sep 2020, 19:12 GMT+10

Chris McPherson

Sunday's kickoff with the Rams is almost here! In case you missed anything from the past week, get caught up with our Weekend Water Break, presented by Crown Royal. You'll be refreshed, hydrated, and ready to tackle the day-long party tomorrow!

1. Carson Wentz has 'high expectations' for the offense

In the season debut of our all-new digital Gameday Magazine, quarterback Carson Wentz discusses how the changes on offense should result in a much more explosive passing attack in 2020. And we saw glimpses of that in the season opener against Washington. From the cover story:

Wentz was not afraid to pull the trigger in the season opener at Washington last week. He erased a third-and-22 situation with a 55-yard bomb to (Jalen) Reagor for the rookie's first NFL reception. There are some kinks to work out - two passes intended for rookies were picked off - but the growing pains now could result in a dynamic attack when the push for the postseason is on.

"I have high expectations for this offense. I say that every year, but I really like what I'm seeing. I'm excited about a lot of the younger guys, the new faces, and the explosiveness that we could have," Wentz says.

Also in this issue:

• Merrill Reese's different view in 2020

• Get to know Reagor, the team's first-round pick

• Jalen Mills' Top 5 athletes of all time

• And much more

2. Game Preview: The scouting report on QB Jared Goff

From our Game Preview, presented by Unibet, this Rams-Eagles showdown features the top two picks from the 2016 NFL Draft in Rams quarterback Jared Goff and Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

"Goff is a pocket quarterback. He's a pretty thrower when he has time and is comfortable," Eagles Game Plan analyst Greg Cosell said. "He can make some big-time throws. He's your classic pocket quarterback in the sense that if you can get pressure on him, you can get bodies around him and make him uncomfortable. His efficiency will drop dramatically."

Wentz was the player who the Eagles wanted in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Rams already moved up the No. 1 and the speculation was that it was for Goff, the former standout from Cal.

"We had done our due diligence on both quarterbacks on both players, and we liked Goff as well, and yet looking back and kind of thinking back on some of the conversations, just felt that Carson was the fit for us here in Philadelphia, his makeup, his chemistry, the style of play kind of fit what we were doing and that's nothing against Jared Goff because he's obviously had a great career so far," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "It just made Carson a better fit for us at the time."

3. Spadaro: A six-pack of things to watch

In his pregame news and notes column, Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro offered six storylines to follow on Sunday. One of them was how this is a big game for Carson Wentz:

Um, about all of that criticism this week? A lot from the outside was directed at Wentz, who had three giveaways at Washington, who held the football too long (according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, Wentz held the ball for four seconds or longer on seven of the eight sacks last week), and who just couldn't pull the offense out of a rut after Washington turned the game around late in the first half. So, No. 11 has a large chore. The Eagles aren't exactly in a "must-win" situation, but it would feel a whole lot better to be 1-1 on late Sunday afternoon.

Wentz was so brilliant down the stretch last season in the 4-0 finish, throwing seven touchdowns without an interception. He needs to get back to that efficient, patient quarterback who plays within himself and who gets everyone involved in the offense.

To that end, the Eagles have weapons they need to use. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert have to be utilized. Getting DeSean Jackson into the passing game is important, along with rookie Jalen Reagor and the entire receiving corps. This is a big one, no doubt. It all works hand in hand. It starts up front, for sure. But Wentz is in the spotlight on Sunday and he needs to deliver to get the Eagles into the win column.

4. Aaron Donald is a 'monster'

The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, was on the minds of the Eagles' players and coaches all week from a gameplanning standpoint.

"He's a monster," quarterback Carson Wentz said of Donald on Wednesday. "Everyone knows it. Everyone around the league knows the type of player he is and how he can really disrupt an offensive game plan. We're aware of that."

5. Nickell Robey-Coleman offers insight on former teammates

Eagles nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman was signed by the team this offseason after three seasons with the Rams. He dished on the Rams' offensive scheme under Head Coach Sean McVay and their top receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.

Robey-Coleman and Woods were roommates at USC. They started their NFL careers in Buffalo in 2013 and both went to the Rams in 2017. 2020 is the first time since high school that the two players weren't teammates. This is their first matchup against one another.

"I know Robert like the back of my hand. Robert is a smooth receiver. He gets in and out of his cuts really well. He makes all of his routes look the same. ... He knows how to switch different speeds within the game and that's what's so unique about Robert. People need to respect that more about him," Robey-Coleman said. "He's one of the crispiest route runners I've ever faced."

Cooper Kupp in 2019

• 62 slot receptions (2nd in NFL)

• 93 slot targets (2nd in NFL)

• 783 receiving yards (1st in NFL)

• 5 slot receiving touchdowns (T-4th in NFL)

"Cooper is a great receiver because he knows how to separate from defensive backs. His short-area quickness is second to none. He's so smart. Him and the quarterback have a great relationship that they are on key with each other. On top of that, he's strong. He knows how to finish at the top of his routes. He knows how to separate. That's what makes him so unique," Robey-Coleman said.

6. Miles Sanders looks to bring 'a different spark' to the offense

Miles Sanders is ready. He wants everything the Eagles can throw at him on Sunday when he makes his 2020 debut against the visiting Los Angeles Rams at Lincoln Financial Field. And he can't wait to get it rolling after missing last Sunday's opener with a hamstring injury.

"I feel 100 percent. I'm ready to go," Sanders said, who added "I hope not" when asked if the coaching staff might limit his workload. "I'm willing to do whatever the coaches (say), whatever is in the best interest for me and for the team. I'm ready to do whatever."

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has more.

7. Montae Reagor evaluates his son Jalen's NFL debut

Former Eagles defensive tackle Montae Reagor settled in at his mother Laveeda's house in Waxahachie, Texas last Sunday to watch the debut of his son, first-round pick Jalen Reagor. Follow Montae's day from his pre-game chat with his son to the relationship Jalen has with both quarterback Carson Wentz and Wide Receivers Coach Aaron Moorehead. Dad is already looking forward to Sunday's kickoff.

"He's gonna build on things that he started the first week. He's going to do things a lot better. I expect him to grow from game to game, and do some good things for the organization," Reagor said. "He understands the urgency. He understands where they are, and he understands what needs to be done. He understands why he was drafted number one, and that is to come in and be a playmaker. I always feel that he's going to have a big game as long as his focus is where it needs to be. I always say trust your preparation, so when you get in the game, the game is easy."

8. History says: Protect the football and the Eagles win

As the Eagles swept the final four games of the 2019 season and won the NFC East, quarterback Carson Wentz was a model of efficiency - seven touchdown passes and zero interceptions playing with guys who, at some point in the season, had been on the practice squad. Wentz led the way with his resourcefulness, his leadership, his calm. He didn't turn the football over for the most part - just two fumbles in those four games - and the Eagles won all four games.

On Sunday at Washington, well, we know what happened. Wentz tossed two interceptions. Lost a fumble. The Eagles coughed up a 17-0 lead and never regained their early momentum on the way to a stunning 27-17 loss.

And now, it's on to the next week. Wentz knows what's going on around him. He knows he made too many mistakes against Washington. He owns it. The question now is, what happens next? How do Wentz and the offense reverse course against the Los Angeles Rams and their dominating defensive front and ballhawking back end on Sunday?

"Culmination of things, like we talked about. We came out swinging and started fast," Wentz said on Wednesday. "Obviously, the turnovers really hurt us. I've got to do a better job protecting the ball. We had a lot of negative plays on first down and put us in really tough situations. We had way too many really extra-longs. Negative plays really affected us. That was going across the board. It wasn't as much physical mistakes as communications and breakdowns that we've got to get situated and, like I said, I've got to do a better job protecting the ball and getting rid of the ball.

"I'm looking forward to bouncing back personally and I know this offense is as well."

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has more.

9. Steve Van Buren was unstoppable

The last time the Los Angeles Rams played a regular-season game in Philadelphia, Ronald Reagan was president, Wilson Goode was in his second term as mayor, and Phil Collins was everywhere on the radio. It was November 6, 1988 and the Eagles were on their way to an NFC East Division title under coach Buddy Ryan.

The Eagles won the game, 30-24, defeating the Rams behind the stellar play of Randall Cunningham who threw three touchdown passes, two to tight end Keith Jackson, and another superb performance by the defense led by Reggie White (two sacks) and Jerome Brown (one sack, one interception). Ryan's defense intercepted Rams quarterback Jim Everett four times in the victory.

But the day was memorable for another reason: a celebration of the Eagles 1949 NFL Championship team. Forty years had passed since those Eagles led by Hall of Fame halfback Steve Van Buren and a rookie linebacker named Chuck Bednarik defeated the Rams 14-0 in a rain-soaked title game at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger recalls the amazing gathering.

10. A youth movement is taking shape

The Eagles are in a bit of a transition stage on the roster these days. A youth movement that was a 2019-to-2020 priority is taking place, complete with growing pains that were expected. Howie Roseman looks at the roster in chunks of two and three and four years, and the Eagles are, when you take a deep dive, are moving on from the 2017 Super Bowl roster in many respects.

On defense, the Eagles are relying heavily on third-year cornerback Avonte Maddox, a starter. Second-year man T.J. Edwards is a starter at linebacker, alongside fourth-year man Nathan Gerry, a second-year starter, and fourth-year man Duke Riley, a second-season Eagle. Rookie linebacker Shaun Bradley is a core member of the special teams units already.

Josh Sweat is in his third season and is on the rise, likely to mix in at defensive end with veterans Brandon Graham and Derek Barnet for much of the remainder of the season.

On offense, the Eagles have a very young group of running backs - Miles Sanders is in his second season, Boston Scott is in his third year, Jason Huntley is a rookie, and Corey Clement is four years deep into his career. Tight end Dallas Goedert is in his third season and part of the best 1-2 tight end tandem in the NFL. (Jalen) Reagor headlines a young handful of receivers on the active roster that includes Greg Ward (second year on the field), J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (second season), and John Hightower (rookie). Rookie Jalen Hurts is a developmental quarterback.

Along the offensive line, players like rookie Jack Driscoll, who started at right tackle against Washington, lined up next to second-year man Nate Herbig at right guard.

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro offers a deep dive on the roster transformation.

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