Next up for Jim Schwartz and the Eagles' defense: A Rams offense that, despite some rough going the last two weeks in games at Detroit and Chicago, has one of the most versatile and prolific attacks in the NFL.
In other words, it doesn't get any easier for the Eagles on Sunday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Los Angeles averages 32.7 points per game, third most in the league. The Rams are third in the league in total net offensive yards and rank fifth in the league in both rushing the football and throwing it. As balanced as the Rams are and as explosive as they are, they struggled away from home in a win over Detroit and a loss on Sunday night at Chicago. Maybe there is something the Eagles can exploit?
"Each one is a little bit different," Schwartz said on Tuesday at his weekly NovaCare Complex press conference about those two games. "Both games were on the road and we're not playing them here. We're going to Los Angeles. So, I think that was one thing. I think you can tell how much good pressure can change things. I think that was probably the biggest thing that came out of the Bears game. (Bears linebacker) Khalil Mack was a bit of a wrecking crew out there. We have guys that can do that, we have guys that can get around the quarterback. They also did a good job of limiting the big plays. That's a team that's made a lot of explosive plays down the field, and I thought Chicago, in particular, did that.
"I think in both games you saw takeaways. That's a pretty good formula to play in those, get some pressure on the quarterback. Doesn't necessarily have to be blitz. Chicago didn't blitz a whole lot. Limit the big plays; get some turnovers."
The formula is to pressure quarterback Jared Goff and create takeaways. It's a lot easier said than done, of course. The Eagles have some pass rushers up front, led by tackle Fletcher Cox and ends Michael Bennett, Brandon Graham, and Chris Long, so if they can somehow contain running back Todd Gurley, then maybe they can put Goff in some tough spots.
The challenge is that Gurley is a beast. He's got 1,203 rushing yards with 15 ground touchdowns, and he's a threat as a receiver with 49 catches, 504 yards, and four more touchdowns. Los Angeles plays almost exclusively with one back, one tight end, and three wide receivers, so the Eagles are going to have to play three cornerbacks on the field for most of the game on Sunday night. That's a problem for a team that could be without Sidney Jones, who left Sunday's game in Dallas with a recurring hamstring injury. Who plays cornerback for the Eagles on Sunday if Jones can't go? The candidates are Rasul Douglas, Cre'Von LeBlanc, De'Vante Bausby, and Chandon Sullivan.
Los Angeles' versatility is tough to beat. The Rams don't substitute a whole lot – they just beat you with what they have in base personnel that includes three wideouts.
"All their guys are sort of interchangeable," Schwartz said. "They can use their tight ends as wide receivers. You'll see their wide receivers line up in block, sort of like tight ends would. You'll see them close to the offensive tackle. Not many teams you see wide receivers stay in the protection and protect; the Rams do. So even though they're in one personnel group, it really plays like four different personnel groups for them because of the interchangeable – all their tight ends can be a wideout; most of their wideouts can be a tight end; the running back can be a wide receiver, he can be a running back, and he can also line up in some tight end positions in some of their empty stuff.
"To say they stay in one personnel group, yeah, the jersey numbers stay the same, but the way they're using them – you guys know how much we value multi-dimensional players in defense. It gives you the ability to able to play a lot of different ways. They're sort of the offensive counterpoint to that."
The Eagles return to the practice field on Wednesday and the hope is that safety Avonte Maddox (knee) and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (calf) get some work in and have a chance to play on Sunday night. Schwartz needs every bit of help he can get against the Rams, a team that looms as one of the most difficult challenges on this regular-season schedule.