Rams head coach Jeff Fisher held a conference call for Philadelphia reporters on Wednesday morning. Here are the highlights ...
1. Who Will Start At Quarterback?
Fisher was non-committal when I asked who will start for the Rams at quarterback against the Eagles. Shaun Hill started in the season opener, but suffered a quad injury in the first half. Austin Davis came off the bench and in Hill's absence has completed 72 percent of his pass attempts for 754 yards with three touchdowns against three interceptions. The Rams rank ninth in total offense and passing offense. Good numbers for Davis' first taste of NFL action.
The Rams are coming off their bye week and Hill is closer to being healthy, but this comment by Fisher indicates Davis could still be the guy this week.
"Since having two weeks of preparation prior to the last two games, at Tampa and Dallas, with the practice time he's really come along," Fisher said. "We're pleased with what he's doing. Shaun's also in a position where he's healing up. We'll just see what happens this week."
The fact that Fisher mentioned that Hill is still "healing up" leaves it open to stick with Davis even though the Rams had previously stated Hill will be the starter when healthy.
2. What's Up With The Pass Rush?
The Rams have a stacked defensive line led by defensive end Robert Quinn, who had an NFC-best 19 sacks last season. The Rams even added interior disruptor Aaron Donald with the second of their two first-round picks this offseason. Despite all of the firepower, the Rams have just one sack this season.
Fisher said that it's because teams have gashed the Rams on the ground.
"We're struggling in the run defense and that's what we're working on during the bye," the head coach said.
Teams have attempted just 69 passes against the Rams this season. That's 37 fewer than the next team ahead of them, the Cleveland Browns. The Rams rank 30th in run defense allowing 155 yards per game.
Could this be the week the Eagles get it going on the ground with tackle Lane Johnson returning?
"They've been able to overcome an injured offensive line," Fisher said. "Considering they're 3-1 right now and you can make the case that they could be 4-0, you've got to be careful to see holes in what they're doing."
3. Preseason Flag Fest Has Worked
The NFL made illegal contact and defensive holding calls a point of emphasis for referees this season. There was a significant increased in the amount of those penalties called this season. According to ESPN, there was a 450 percent increased of illegal contact flags thrown in the preseason and a 353 percent increase in defensive holding calls.
Thus far in the regular season, there has been a decrease from the preseason. There were 99 illegal contact penalties called in the preseason, while only 33 were accepted through the first four weeks of the season, per NFLPenalties.com. The trend is the same with defensive holding - 172 flags thrown in the preseason and just 57 accepted now that the games count in the standings.
Fisher, who is on the NFL's Competition Committee, said teams have adjusted.
"Things have settled down over the last couple of weeks. ... I think we've adjusted; teams have adjusted," Fisher said. "We have rules that need to be enforced and sometimes they need to be reinforced which is where the point of emphasis comes. Things start to loosen a little bit."
4. Foles Is An Accurate Deep Thrower
Fisher offered this assessment of quarterback Nick Foles.
"Nick is tall and he takes advantage of his height. He makes good decisions. He can make all the throws," Fisher said. "It's hard to complete all of your deep throws, but he's got a tremendously strong arm. I think he's an accurate deep thrower. He has the ability to move in the pocket. A challenge for a younger quarterback nowadays is to keep your eyes downfield. He does that. He keeps his eyes downfield well. He can extend plays. For a big guy he can pull the ball down the keep the chains moving."
Foles hasn't been as crisp with the deep passes as compared to last season. He's completed 10 of 39 attempts of 20 yards or more for 272 yards with four touchdowns against three interceptions. Last year, he completed 44.8 percent of such attempts for 843 yards, 14 touchdowns and one interception.
The Eagles still have scored the third-most points in the league this season and have the 10th-ranked offense in terms of yards.
5. An Early Bye Good For The Rams?
The Rams were one of six teams who enjoyed the first of the NFL's bye weeks last weekend. Fisher explained what the team accomplished with the early break.
"We had different needs throughout the roster last week and we tried to accomplish those," Fisher said. "Some guys need to rehab. Some guys need to recover. Some guys need technique work. That's what we did. We didn't do a lot of opponent work last week. We did a period yesterday on both sides of the ball in preparation for Philly, but most of it was just work on things that we need to improve on as a team."