Sunday, December 21, 2014

10 things: Eagles vs. Rams

Here are 10 thoughts on Sunday's Eagles-Rams matchup:

10 things: Eagles vs. Rams

Rams QB Sam Bradford did not get the ball downfield a lot in 2010 (AP Photo / Stephen Morton).
Rams QB Sam Bradford did not get the ball downfield a lot in 2010 (AP Photo / Stephen Morton).

Here are 10 thoughts on Sunday's Eagles-Rams matchup:

1. In his new spot at right tackle, Todd Herremans will get a tough matchup in Chris Long. The Rams' left defensive end had 8.5 sacks last year, a respectable number, but one that doesn't tell the whole story. According to Football Outsiders, he led the NFL with 42.5 hurries. Herremans will have his hands full, and the Eagles would be wise to keep Brent Celek on that side to help him out.

2. But it won't just be Long the Eagles have to worry about. Right defensive end James Hall had 10.5 sacks a year ago, and the Rams spent a first-round pick on defensive lineman Robert Quinn out of North Carolina. Steve Spagnuolo will of course send extra rushers too. According to Football Outsiders, the Rams sent six or more defenders at the quarterback 17.1 percent of the time. That was second-most in the NFL. And they zone blitzed 10.8 percent of the time, third-most. Michael Vick will face a test right away in recognizing what he's looking at pre-snap, adjusting and getting rid of the ball quickly.

3. The Rams limited opposing quarterbacks to an 80.4 QB rating (9th-best) and 6.8 yards per attempt (T-10th) a year ago. They were seventh with 47 sacks, but did allow 51 pass plays of 20 yards or more (T-21st). The starting cornerbacks are Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher, but you might recognize the backups. Justin King is a Penn State product, and the Rams also signed 36-year-old Al Harris.

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4. The Rams were not great against the run a year ago. Opponents averaged 4.5 yards per carry against them, and St. Louis allowed 15 runs of 20 yards or more. LeSean McCoy averaged 8.4 yards per carry on 32 runs last year indoors. And he averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 42 runs on turf.

5. Sam Bradford looked like he knew what he was doing as a rookie, completing 60 percent of his passes and piling up 3,512 yards. But he didn't get the ball downfield much. Bradford averaged 5.95 yards per attempt, which ranked 30th out of 31 quarterbacks who qualified (only Jimmy Clausen was worse). The Rams added Josh McDaniels as their offensive coordinator. Kyle Orton quarterbacked the Broncos under McDaniels last year and had 52 pass plays of 20 yards or more, sixth-most in the NFL.

6. Bradford was sacked 34 times last year, which was tied for fifth-most. But keep in mind he attempted 590 passes. Only Drew Brees and Peyton Manning dropped back more than Bradford (640 times), according to Pro Football Focus. As a point of comparison, Vick dropped back 467 times and was sacked the same number (34). Ten of Bradford's 15 interceptions came in the fourth quarter. And his QB rating dropped to 55.7 in the final 15 minutes. The blitz didn't really confuse Bradford last year, as his QB rating actually improved to 84.0 when the defense sent extra defenders. Bradford had 21 passes tipped at the line of scrimmage, according to Football Outsiders. That was a league-high. The Eagles, meanwhile, deflected 19 balls at the line, tied for second-most.

7. The Rams went with three wide receivers or more on 59 percent of their snaps, ninth-most in the NFL. McDaniels' Broncos ranked seventh. In other words, look for the Eagles to be in nickel quite a bit. The Rams went with four wide receivers on 10 percent of their offensive snaps, seventh-most. So we could see that Eagles dime package also.

8. The two biggest question marks on the Eagles' defense are linebacker and safety. One area to keep an eye on there is play-action. The Rams ran play-action on 24 percent of their pass plays, fourth-most in the NFL. McDaniels' Broncos ran play-action even more. Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, Moise Fokou, Jarrad Page and Kurt Coleman will have to stay disciplined, even if the Rams are running the ball a lot with Steven Jackson.

9. Speaking of Jackson, he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry last year, a career low. It was also the second-lowest average among the 17 players who ran for at least 1,000 yards last season. Jackson's 330 carries were second-most in the NFL, and perhaps not so coincidentally, he seemed to wear down at the end of games, averaging only 3.0 yards per carry in the fourth quarter. McCoy, on the other hand, averaged 6.1 yards per carry in the fourth.

10. Former Eagle Danny Amendola was targeted 123 times a year ago, most on the team. He finished the season with 85 catches for 689 yards. He led the NFL with 16 receptions in the red zone, even though Amendola managed just three touchdowns. He was not a big-play threat, averaging just 8.1 yards per catch, and 76 of those 85 catches came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Amendola will play in the slot and will end up being the responsibility of either Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Joselio Hanson or Nnamdi Asomugha, depending on how the Eagles are lined up.


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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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