Eagles

How Wade Phillips transformed Rams' D Eagles face Sunday

usa-wade-phillips-rams.jpg
USA Today Images

How Wade Phillips transformed Rams' D Eagles face Sunday

The Rams have one of the top offenses in the NFL (fourth in total yards, seventh in passing) and quarterback Jared Goff has benefited the most from Sean McVay's exit from the NFC East. Goff is really showing why he was the top pick in last year's draft, but I must say, defense has been a major contributor in the Rams' 9-3 record.
 
First-year defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has total control of the defensive side of the ball. In fact, McVay at times doesn't have a clue during the game what the defense is doing, considering he sits and focuses on the offense.
 
It is really crazy to think about how good this defense is because it is in a transition period ... kind of like what Jim Schwartz struggled through last year. 

Last season, when the Rams' defense was pretty good, they ran a 4-3. Phillips, however, likes to run a 3-4 defense. This is a major change to overcome, especially on the defensive line. The D-line has to totally change its mindset. In a 4-3 defense, the D-linemen line up in the gaps and are responsible for one gap, penetrating the offensive line. Converting to a 3-4 defense causes the D-linemen to become two-gap players. They now line up head-up on an offensive lineman and then hold the offensive lineman because they are responsible for both gaps between the O-linemen.
 
Phillips, in order to take advantage of the strengths of his players, turned his 3-4 defense into a hybrid that takes advantage of his two best players, defensive end Robert Quinn and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Both of these players are great at attacking and penetrating the O-line. This is totally against the conceptual defensive structure of a 3-4 defensive lineman. The Rams slide the DL into gaps and allow them to penetrate.
 
This hybrid 3-4 defense is very effective for the Rams because they now can line their best player up to force matchups. The key matchup in this game will be Donald, their best, against the Eagles' small but solid center Jason Kelce. Donald is listed at 6-1/300 while Kelce is 6-3/280.

The other key matchup is the very quick end Quinn vs. Lane Johnson. All four players will probably be selected to the Pro Bowl this year. 

This Sunday will be a clash of the titans between the Eagles' best O-linemen and the best the Rams have to offer. This is what Sunday NFL Football is all about.

Eagles rookie CB Sidney Jones cleared to practice

Eagles rookie CB Sidney Jones cleared to practice

On a day that will be remembered most for a player the Eagles lost to an injury (see story), they did learn that they are getting another player back after a long injury rehab.

The Eagles are finally going to get a look this week at rookie second-round pick Sidney Jones at practice. Whether he actually gets into a football game this year is still in doubt.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said that nine months after he blew out his Achilles and eight months after the Eagles drafted him, Jones has finally been medically cleared to practice and will participate to some extent Wednesday when the Eagles get back to work following their win over the Rams Sunday in Los Angeles.

“We're just to the point of just want to see him out there running around, doing football activities outside of the normal workouts that he's been doing,” Pederson said Monday. “Just really changing direction and doing more football work this week.”

Jones tore his left Achilles during his pro day workout on March 11 and has spent the entire season so far on the reserve-non football injury list, which is for players with preexisting conditions dating before the first day of practice.

The Eagles had a window running from Week 7 until this week to activate Jones for practice, and once he practices on Wednesday, they’ll have 21 days to either activate him to the 53-man roster or shut him down for the year.

The Eagles have the luxury of taking their time with Jones, thanks to the play of starting corners Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, slot corner Patrick Robinson and fourth corner Rasul Douglas.

Before his injury, Jones was projected as a first-round draft pick. The Eagles got him with the 43rd pick, but even if he doesn’t play until opening day next year, he will still be only 22 years old and under contract through 2020.

Jones had nine interceptions, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 8½ tackles for loss and 145 tackles in 40 career games for the University of Washington.

It remains to be seen where Jones will fit in next year, but Robinson, although he has played well, is due to become a free agent this offseason and turns 31 in September.

Douglas and Jones are signed through 2020, Mills through 2019 and Darby through 2018.

Doug Pederson adamant Eagles can overcome the ultimate loss

usa-doug-pederson-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Doug Pederson adamant Eagles can overcome the ultimate loss

Remember when the Eagles lost Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles and plenty of folks thought the season was over? 

Doug Pederson does. 

Sure, this isn't exactly an apples-to-oranges comparison. Losing a left tackle or a middle linebacker or a running back isn't the same thing as losing an MVP-level quarterback entering his prime. It would be unfair to suggest they're the same. 

But Pederson has seen his team hurdle over every obstacle this year. With the biggest one yet now in front of them, it's his job to convince his team they can do it again. 

On Monday, Pederson tried to convince fans who have prematurely canceled Christmas. 

"To the fans out there, you can't lose faith," Pederson said. "This has been a resilient football team all season long. If there's ever an opportunity for me as a head football coach to rally the troops, now might be the time. 

"We just came off a tremendous victory to win the NFC East. Guys are riding extremely high. It's a little bittersweet. But you know what? We've got the Giants this week and we've got an opportunity to ... if you win Sunday, you get a first-round bye. There's still a lot to play for. That's what's exciting about this season. We're still playing for the opportunity to hopefully be in that game."

Pederson, just after delivering news of a torn ACL, was adamant that his team can overcome the loss of Carson Wentz. 

"It sure can," he said. "Heck yeah." 

It won't be easy. Before leaving Sunday's game, Wentz threw his 33rd touchdown pass of the 2017 season, breaking the Eagles' franchise record that had stood since 1961. But more than touchdown passes, Wentz made special plays seemingly every week, plays that only a handful of quarterbacks in the world can make. 

Nick Foles is a pretty adequate backup, and he did a nice job when called upon against the Rams. But he ain't Carson Wentz. Everyone, including his teammates, knows that. 

It's just that they don't have time to wallow in the loss of their superstar leader. Next weekend might be huge. 

A win against the Giants would earn the Eagles a first-round bye. A win against the Giants, paired with a Vikings loss, would earn them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. After another obstacle was dropped in front of them on Monday morning, the Eagles can still help themselves. 

Pederson's role in all this is vital. He has to be the guy to hold it all together.  

"It's huge," he said. "I think even the guys felt it after the game yesterday. We just rally and we support the next guy. From my standpoint, you don't waver, man. You don't let people see you sweat, you just put your head down and you go to work. You get everybody ready to play. It was evident yesterday when Carson was out of the game, you saw Nick come in and come back and lead us to victory in that game. That right there is a great step in the right direction."