All eyes on Eagles’ running game, Wentz’s composure heading into Week 2 vs. Rams

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team
Carson Wentz needs a bounceback game to get the Eagles on track in 2020.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The only way the Philadelphia Eagles can go after last week’s shock loss to the Washington Football Team is up. 

A 17-point blown lead against one of the NFC’s minnows is hardly the way a team with division-title aspirations would have wanted to start their season, but now the Eagles have to regroup and get up to keep an early-season slide at bay against the Los Angeles Rams. 

The Rams are coming off a victory over the Dallas Cowboys that saw them hold Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Co. to just 17 points.

That’s an offense that has far more talent than what is at the Eagles’ disposal right now, which means Week 2 (1 p.m. ET, FOX) is going to be another tough day of sledding for Philadelphia in their home opener. 

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for as the Eagles try to get in the win column for the first time this season:

Will the run game show up?

The Eagles got some good news mid-week when starting running back Miles Sanders was a full participant in practice after missing Week 1 because of a hamstring injury.

In his absence against Washington, head coach Doug Pederson looked like he wanted no part of running the football, which was a main reason why the Eagles blew that 17-point lead. 

Philly ran the ball just 17 times compared to Carson Wentz’s 42 pass attempts despite holding a three-possession lead. It made their offense one-dimensional and predictable, which is a dangerous game to play against a Rams team that is much better on paper than Washington.

Protecting Carson

What made the constant decisions to throw the ball that much more puzzling was the pressure that Washington was able to put on Wentz throughout Week 1. 

They sacked him eight times behind the strength of Ryan Kerrigan and Chase Young, rattling him enough to force some bad decisions. Wentz threw a pair of game-changing interceptions to let Washington back into things as a result of the unrelenting pressure.

He needs to rediscover the composure that made him an MVP candidate in years past, but he’ll also need help from his rag-tag offensive line, which was bullied in Week 1.

They’re poised to get Lane Johnson back at right tackle to help bolster their ranks, which is vital for their Week 2 hopes considering they’ll be trying to protect Wentz from the likes of Aaron Donald — one of the fiercest pass-rushers in the NFL. 

Cox and Jackson’s breakout?

While defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson didn’t have a headlining afternoon on the stat sheet against Washington, they were certainly disruptive along the trenches. 

This Sunday provides an opportunity for the two to generate even more pressure, this time on Jared Goff, as they’ll be lining up Los Angeles’ left guard, Joseph Noteboom.

The third-year lineman is considered to be the weakest member of the Rams’ offensive line and was the guard to give up the Cowboys’ only sack of Goff last week. 

While pressure on the quarterback will be vital for Philadelphia’s chances, Cox and Jackson will be called upon to limit Rams running back Malcolm Brown. 

The hard-nosed rusher is hardly flashy or showstopping, but he’s plenty effective in taking what the defense gives him. He scored a pair of touchdowns against the Cowboys while posting 79 carries on 18 attempts (4.39 yards per rush). 

A physical runner with speed to bounce to the outside, it’s up to Cox and Jackson to disrupt the interior early on Rams running plays to at least create some contact behind the line of scrimmage. 

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