The irony is hard to ignore: As the Eagles prepare for the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, they’ll have a change at the quarterback position with Nick Foles, officially, starting. Carson Wentz was ruled out for the game on Saturday morning, not that anyone was particularly surprised.
Wentz’s status is this: He won’t play until the Eagles are “100 percent” convinced that he will have no chance to further injure a “stress injury” in his back. That’s the way head coach Doug Pederson phrased it on Friday at his final press briefing at the NovaCare Complex and that’s how the Eagles will handle the situation moving forward.
It’s Nick Foles’ team, as it was last season when Wentz suffered a knee injury at the very same Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and was lost for the remainder of the regular season and, of course, the run to Super Bowl LII. Will Wentz play again this year? That remains to be seen and, frankly, it’s a background story at the moment.
What matters is that the Eagles find a way to shock the world and win on Sunday night against the 11-2 Rams with Foles at the helm of an offense that hasn’t taken flight on a consistent basis. There have been fits and bursts of what we expected to see – a lot of scoring – but it hasn’t been there enough for the Eagles to put up points with the best of the rest of the NFL.
Foles started the opening two games of the season and went 1-1. The offense was then as it has been for the remainder of the season. The starts in both games were slow and the Eagles hurt themselves repeatedly with mistakes to stall drives. Foles completed 54 of 82 passes for 451 yards with one touchdown and one interception. That kind of production, frankly, might not be enough against a Rams team that lights up the scoreboard to the tune of 32.7 points per game.
What can Foles do to spark this offense? It won’t be on him alone, because the Eagles face a sizeable challenge at the line of scrimmage against a top-shelf Los Angeles front four. The offensive line has to win, and win convincingly, to give Foles a chance. It’s going to be important that Foles gets the football out of his hand quickly and accurately and give his pass-catching weapons, and there are plenty of them, despite the lack of scoring production this season, a chance to catch and run with the football.
The running game is important in that the Eagles need to bring a threat and make the Rams respect the ground attack, but the Eagles are going to need points here. They’re going to need to control the clock, stay ahead of the sticks, and put the football in the end zone.
For Foles, returning to the starting lineup gives him a chance to showcase, once again, what he can do. If you are waiting for some magical St. Nick quarterback play, well, that’s asking a lot at this point. The offense isn’t operating at the high level as a group that it was when Foles took over the starting job late last season. The Eagles need a jolt on offense, and maybe Foles can bring the energy that’s been lacking.
All of the talk of the future of Wentz and, even, of Foles, is worth talking about after the season. The Eagles are clinging to playoff hopes in the NFC and they probably need to win at least two of the final three games to have postseason chances. The focus, in this change-of-plans week, is on the Rams and nothing else.
The offense has to pull its weight in this game in a big way. The Rams' offense has struggled the last two weeks – a win in Detroit and a loss in Chicago – but the thinking is that for the Rams, returning to Los Angeles and the warm weather is the cure for its offensive hiccups. The Eagles need to score points, a lot of them, to win this game.
And they are going to have to do it with Foles. No surprise, obviously. He’s taken the reps all week in practice. The mystery of the position – would Wentz play or wouldn’t he? – officially ended on Saturday morning as the Eagles downgraded Wentz from “doubtful” to “out.” There it is.
Some St. Nick magic? Here’s hoping for some of that, with a heavy sprinkling of an entire offense upping its game and playing the kind of football we expected to see throughout the 2018 campaign. It’s going to take a village to win this one.