Week 2 of the 2020 NFL season brought another round of disappointment to Eagles fans, as the Birds stumbled to a 37-19 defeat against the Los Angeles Rams. Frankly, there weren’t many encouraging signs as the Eagles fell to 0-2 on the season although this game played out a bit differently than Week 1’s defeat.
This time, the Eagles found themselves in an early hole, only to show some signs of life and rally to get back in the game before falling flat as the Rams pulled away. Here are the studs and duds from Week 2.
STUD: Miles Sanders
After a 37-19 loss, you’re likely going to find yourself stretching a bit to find the studs, and Sanders, our first stud of the day, comes with a pretty notable blemish on his performance. After missing Week 1, Sanders fumbled on the Eagles’ opening possession, immediately turning the momentum of the game and helping the Rams to build an early lead. Not great.
To his credit, he shook off the early mistake and put together a productive day. He finished with 95 yards on 20 carries, scoring a touchdown and adding three catches for 36 yards. He was huge in helping the Eagles establish a running game, something they failed to do in Week 1, and in the rare occasions where the offense was able to establish some rhythm, Sanders played a huge role.
DUD: Carson Wentz
The quarterback finds himself on the duds list for a second consecutive week. Wentz again threw two interceptions, including one in the Rams' end zone as the Eagles were threatening a go-ahead score. The decision to throw that particular pass was nothing short of atrocious, and once again a Wentz turnover completely changed the outlook of the game.
Unlike last week, Wentz didn’t manage to throw a touchdown pass and really didn’t have any extended period of looking comfortable, confident, or sharp. He finished with a putrid QBR of 37.7 and a rating of 56.6. Looking for any sort of positive, all we can say is at least he threw the ball away a couple of times instead of taking a sack, but again that really just serves to demonstrate how disappointing he has been. If the best thing you can say about your fifth-year (hopefully) franchise QB after a game is “hey, he threw the ball away at the appropriate times” things aren’t going well. Wentz is going to have to find his mojo if the Eagles hope to get the season on track.
STUD: Avonte Maddox
Maddox was flying around the field in Week 1, and he continued that on Sunday against the Rams. He finished with a team-high eight tackles, playing with the kind of speed and energy the defense needs. Hopefully, Maddox can continue to set an example for a defense that desperately needs some energy and impact plays.
DUD: The rest of the secondary
Unfortunately, Maddox didn't get much help from the rest of his colleagues in the secondary. Jared Goff routinely shredded the Eagles secondary, with a total of five Rams' pass-catchers finishing the game with a 10+ yard per reception average. Get this: the Eagles didn't manage a single pass-defensed all day, nor did they come up with any sort of impact play. This group simply wasn't good enough.
STUD: The offensive line
We have to give the big guys up front some credit. After a disastrous Week 1 in which they surrendered eight sacks, the O-line didn't give up a single sack on Sunday. In fact, Carson Wentz was only hit three times all day, and Rams' stud defensive lineman Aaron Donald was limited to just one tackle and one QB hit. If you would have told me before the game that the Rams would have no sacks and that Donald would be virtually invisible, I would have bet almost anything that the Eagles would win the game. Just an incredibly impressive bounce-back game from this group, and it's a shame it was wasted by poor play by pretty much every other group.
DUD: Nate Gerry
With a quick glance at the box score, you might think Gerry was one of the few bright spots on Sunday: he finished second on the team with seven tackles. What the box score doesn't tell you is that he was absolutely tortured by Rams' tight end Tyler Higbee all day long. Higbee torched the Eagles for five catches, 54 yards, and three touchdowns. It was Gerry who found himself getting beat or being completely out of position and the reality is that his day was a complete disaster. Higbee's performance was one of the deciding factors of the game, and Gerry could do nothing to slow him.
We singled Gerry out here, and deservedly so. But the rest of the linebackers deserve to be called out as well. The group continues to contribute nothing to the defense and while it was Gerry in the spotlight on Sunday, none of the group played well.
Howie Roseman shares in this blame as well. The ignoring of the linebacker position has been an organizational tenet for years, and Roseman is the one who sets those tenets. The Eagles have been continuously hampered by poor linebacker play, and Roseman has been unwilling or unable to address it and adjust. We can't discuss the poor play of this group without mentioning Roseman, and he needs to take a hard look at the way he has viewed roster construction.
STUD: DeSean Jackson/Jalen Reagor
We noted that we'd be reaching on a couple of our studs from Sunday, and it's fair if you take issue with this selection. Neither Jackson nor Reagor (or any of the other pass-catchers) found the end zone, and big impact plays were nowhere to be found.
Still, the column is called "Studs and Duds" so we have to find some positives to highlight, and on a day where there wasn't a whole lot of good, the duo fits the description.
After a strangely quiet Week 1 where Jackson spent as much time on the sidelines as on the field, he landed a team-high nine targets in Week 2. He hauled in six of those targets for 64 yards. Again, not eye-popping numbers, but it was good to see Jackson heavily involved and making at least somewhat of an impact. He'll need to continue to do so for the offense to reach its potential.
As for Reagor, he showed off his deep threat ability in Week 1. In Week 2, there were no big plays to be found, but Reagor did reel in all four of his targets for 41 yards, displaying some sure hands and showing he can be more than just a deep threat. Poor drafts are a big reason why the Eagles are struggling the way that they are, so encouraging signs early from the rookie are huge as the team really needs to start hitting on some draft picks.
DUD: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
Speaking of poor draft picks, it's fair to start wondering if Arcega-Whiteside is even worth a roster spot at this point, let alone getting consistent playing time. He was targeted twice on Sunday, including on Wentz's ill-fated end zone interception. While it was a horrible decision by Wentz, Arcega-Whiteside's route running is also worthy of scrutiny, an area that was a huge problem for him last year as well. Sunday was his 19th career game...he has failed to catch a pass in 11 of them.
DUD: Jim Schwartz
It seems appropriate to wrap up with consecutive duds, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is certainly worthy of the designation. The Eagles gave up 449 yards and 30 first downs. They recorded one sack and forced no turnovers (the Eagles' lone takeaway was on special teams). Jared Goff completed 74% of his passes and the Rams converted 7-of-12 third downs and one fourth down. Pressure on the quarterback was nonexistent (two QB hits) and the defense offered virtually no resistance all day long.
Much like Roseman, Schwartz seems too stubborn, too set in his ways, to make necessary adjustments or to try something different when things aren't working. Watching Darius Slay shadow Terry McLaurin in Week 1 (something Schwartz doesn't usually have his CBs do) was encouraging, but Schwartz continues to refuse to use any press coverage or to dial up blitzes consistently. Here, I'll echo an argument I've made before...Schwartz's very defensive philosophy is antithetical to what makes a good defense. Defense is about aggression. It's about making the opponent uncomfortable. It's about dictating instead of being dictated to. Schwartz's insistence on giving receivers cushions, keeping everything in front, and insisting to rely solely on the defensive line to create pressure even when it's not working is not only ineffective and fails to address the pillars of defense we mentioned above, but even worse it puts the defenders in the wrong mindset. They're constantly on their heels, constantly reacting to what the offense is doing instead of forcing the offense to make quick decisions and do so under duress. Defenders should be released to wreak havoc, but instead, the Eagles defenders are constantly restrained by Schwartz's philosophy, and the inability to get into the right mindset goes a long way in explaining the unit's inability to consistently make impact plays.