Sean McVay

Rams head coach Sean McVay has had Eagles' number

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Rams head coach Sean McVay has had Eagles' number

When Sean McVay left the Redskins to become head coach of the Rams, the Eagles weren't sad to see him go. But while McVay may be out of the NFC East, he presents a pivotal challenge for the Eagles' defense in Week 14.

McVay was the offensive coordinator in Washington for three seasons, a period during which the Redskins posted a 5-1 record against the Eagles. Simply put, they had no answer for McVay's offense, which averaged 29.3 points per game over that span.

That was the Redskins, who never had an offense finish better than 10th in scoring under McVay. On Sunday, the Eagles will be tasked with slowing the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL — which is tied only with their own.

The Rams' offense is a talented bunch to begin with. Jared Goff is proving worthy of the first overall draft choice last year. Ranked second with 1,502 yards from scrimmage and tied for first with 11 total touchdowns, running back Todd Gurley is a legitimate MVP candidate. The front office added legitimate weapons at wide receiver in Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. The offensive line is among the league's most improved units.

It's also been a remarkable turnaround from last season, when the Rams finished dead last in both scoring offense and total yards, with much of the same personnel in place. McVay's impact is real.

You don't need to tell the Eagles that. In Washington, McVay's offenses averaged 427.0 yards per game in six meetings — 284.3 through the air, 141.0 on the ground. To put those numbers in perspective, the Redskins' offense would've been a top-five unit in all three categories if they played the Eagles every week.

Three times, the Eagles surrendered 493 yards or more of total offense to Washington. Twice, the Redskins gained over 200 yards on the ground alone. The Eagles never held Washington to fewer than 23 points, 305 yards of total offense or 84 yards rushing.

Granted, the Eagles weren't exactly a defensive powerhouse between 2014 and 2015, routinely finishing at or near the bottom of the league in most major categories. Even last season, under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the defense was middle of the pack.

Times have changed. The Eagles have since transformed into one of the best defenses in the NFL. Schwartz's unit ranks third in total yards allowed (293.2), sixth in points per game (17.9), third in takeaways (22), and No. 1 against the run (68.1) in 2017.

Last season, the Redskins averaged 27.0 points, 413.5 total yards and 163.5 yards on the ground with two total turnovers in two tangos with Scwhartz's defense. Things may not come that easy for McVay this time around.

At least the Eagles hope not. Despite having a division title and a playoff spot all but wrapped up, this will be an important test. Though 10-2, the Eagles have beaten only one team with a winning record. Furthermore, home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the postseason are still on the table, and at 9-3, the Rams are one of the teams vying for both. A loss in Los Angeles would make it extremely difficult for the Eagles to secure either.

Yet, solving McVay's offense may also be easier said than done. The Rams are the best offense the Eagles have seen all season, led by a coach who has had their number in years past.

It's going to be a test of where the Eagles stand in the NFC hierarchy and of the progress they've made as a defense. Because if past experience is any indicator, the matchup with McVay is one that looks worrisome.

How Wade Phillips transformed Rams' D Eagles face Sunday

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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.

NFL Notes: Redskins name offensive, defensive coordinators

NFL Notes: Redskins name offensive, defensive coordinators

ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins turned to internal candidates to fill two critical vacancies, promoting Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator and Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator.

Cavanaugh was the team's quarterbacks coach and Manusky its outside linebackers coach last season. The Redskins announced the promotions Monday along with the hires of Kevin O'Connell as quarterbacks coach and Jim Tomsula as defensive line coach.

It has been an offseason of upheaval for the coaching staff after the Redskins fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry and a few assistants and offensive coordinator Sean McVay left to become head coach of the Los Angeles Rams.

In its efforts to replace Barry after ranking 28th defensively in consecutive seasons, Washington interviewed former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, former Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine and former Buffalo Bills assistant Rob Ryan before opting for Manusky. The 50-year-old Manusky has been defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers and 49ers and worked with Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan in San Francisco.

Known for his fiery personality and booming voice on the practice fields, Manusky had only been on coach Jay Gruden's staff for one season as outside linebackers coach. Middle linebacker Will Compton tweeted: "Congrats to Coach Manusky!" when players were informed of his promotion.

Cavanaugh was Washington's quarterbacks coach for the past two years as Kirk Cousins twice set the franchise record for passing yards in a season. Cousins' status for 2017 remains in doubt after playing last season on the franchise tag, but with McVay gone he'll have a familiar face as his offensive coordinator.

Steelers: Pats fan charged with pulling alarm
BOSTON -- A Boston man described by his lawyer as a "die-hard Patriots fan" has pleaded not guilty to pulling a fire alarm that roused the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers from their hotel beds ahead of their playoff game against New England.

Dennis Harrison was released on personal recognizance at his arraignment Monday on charges including disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.

Police say the 25-year-old East Boston resident pulled the alarm at the Logan Airport Hilton at about 3:40 a.m. Sunday. Authorities quickly determined it was a false alarm.

Prosecutors say Harrison told police he was drunk and did something "stupid" on a dare. He was arrested near the hotel.

The Steelers lost 36-17 to the Patriots on Sunday night.

His lawyer says Harrison played high school football and is embarrassed.