Eagles-Rams: 5 Observations from a Deflating Week 2 Loss
The Eagles (0-2) fell to the Los Angeles Rams (2-0) in their home opener at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles, notorious for having the Rams' number in recent years, fell behind early and never recovered. Insufficient play on both sides of the ball ultimately contributed to the outcome, but there were several areas that stood out.
Below are five observations from Sunday's loss.
1. Carson Wentz shaky once again
Wentz's inability to throw the football away and take what the defense was giving him dominated every conversation topic last week. His reluctance to check the ball down and live to fight another down ultimately put the offense in a second-half hole that they couldn't climb out of.
While poor decision-making was the theme of last week's loss, accuracy issues would stall the offense on Sunday.
Aside from inadequate ball placement to open receivers, Wentz tossed another two interceptions, the first being most egregious. In the third quarter, on first-down from the Rams' 21-yard line, Wentz launched an ill-advised pass into double coverage in the end zone for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside that effectively halted any momentum.
This is year five for Wentz. The mechanical hiccups and hero-ball style of play that plagued him as a rookie should be corrected at this point. Sunday's matchup against the Bengals should allow him to get back on track, but how long will it be before he reverts to the same mistakes?
2. Improved offensive line play
Those wanting to pin the blame on the offensive line may want to look elsewhere, as the maligned unit blanked the vaunted Rams' defensive line with reserve linemen Nate Herbig and Matt Pryor playing left and right guard, respectively. Of course, Sunday also marked the highly anticipated return of Lane Johnson, which solidified the right side of the line.
Renowned game-wrecker Aaron Donald was astonishingly quiet on Sunday recording just a single tackle on the afternoon. The line also generated strong push in the running game. Miles Sanders rushed for 95 yards on 20 carries in his season debut.
As encouraging as their performance was, it came with a price. Left guard Isaac Seumalo exited the contest early and never returned. If Seumalo is forced to miss any time, veteran Jamon Brown will likely be called on.
3. Linebackers struggle
The Eagles' linebacking corps survived Week 1 virtually unscathed, albeit due to inexperienced quarterback play. The same plays left of the field last week were the ones that Jared Goff exploited this week.
In particular, Nathan Gerry had a horrid day in coverage on tight end Tyler Higbee, who finished the game with three touchdown receptions. However, Duke Riley and T.J. Edwards didn't fare much better. Riley was nearly victimized by a streaking Darrell Henderson in the end zone, but the pass soared just pass his reach and fell incomplete.
Against inferior opponents, the second level will appear adequate and neutralized, surrendering the occasional completion. However, when facing quarterbacks with the ability to rapidly eliminate and isolate and deliver the ball with precision, the position's lack of investment will perpetually be detrimental.
4. Compressed offense
Sunday's offensive showing closely resembled the stagnant offense of the past two seasons, rather than the remodeled version that emphasized implementing a vertical element, spacing concepts, and other subtleties.
Last week, Wentz appeared trigger-happy, heaving the ball downfield without much success aside from the 55-yard bomb to Jalen Reagor. There were many instances where screens and crossing routes were available but ignored. This oversight resulted in stalled drives and over a dozen hits on the quarterback.
Against the Rams, the game plan appeared geared towards the other extreme. DeSean Jackson, the team's primary deep threat, didn't yield a target until the third quarter. Furthermore, the longest play of the afternoon was a 25-yard strike to Jackson.
The Week 2 script centered around short and intermediate passes without posing much of a threat to test the Rams' secondary, leading to a predictable, compressed offense.
They'll have opportunities to exploit the Bengals' secondary next week, but the Eagles must establish a better balance for sustained success.
5. Defensive meltdown
The Eagles began assembling their roster for 2020 by signing Javon Hargrave and acquiring Darius Slay. These moves indicated a shift in identity on defensive side of the ball. Adding established playmakers to a nucleus that included Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Malik Jackson was expected to catapult them among the elite.
With Derek Barnett, Hargrave, and Graham returning to the lineup for the Week 2 tilt, the expectation was that the unit would be equipped to withstand the inevitable blows from an explosive Rams offense. Instead, the group came out looking flat and uninspired, failing to generate pressure on Goff, struggling with gap discipline, and committing frequent coverage lapses.
Perhaps Sunday's combustion was the product of players that missed time at various points in training camp learning to play with one another. More likely, however, is that the unit isn't as formidable as advertised -- and necessary adjustments will need to be made to preserve the season.