Eagles Opposition Report: Rams Offense

Eagles Opposition Report: Rams Offense

Here's a look at some of the St. Louis Rams' key offensive players ahead of this Sunday's Eagles opener. We'll try to do some iteration of this before every Birds game this season.

RB Steven Jackson
SJax is ready for another bell cow season in StL, where he's topped 1,000 yards in each of the last six campaigns. Unfortunately, the Eagles face the Rams before Jackson's annual spate of injuries has set in, and he could be a handful on Sunday. The emergence of Sam Bradford and implementation of new OC Josh McDaniels' offense should help lift the boulder off of Jackson's shoulders in time, but he'll still get plenty of touches both rushing and receiving, particularly early on before the Rams have had time to implement a new offense with a second-year QB. Jackson poses a matchup problem for the weakest element of the Eagles defense and could rattle off a few long carries or YAC after dumpoffs when Bradford is blinded by the site of the Birds' swarming secondary (and hopefully the pass rush). Despite his usually pass-heavy attack, McDaniels will probably look to get Jackson rolling early in hopes he'll keep the Mike Vick and company off the field.

The Eagles did shut down Jackson in the 2008 season opener, but that was an entirely different defensive unit and a different Rams offense as well. Jackson is backed up by Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood this season, and we're somewhat interested to see how they mix them in after seeing 39 dominate the St. Louis backfield for so long.

QB Sam Bradford
The face of the franchise and 2010's first overall pick broke the NFL's rookie records for pass attempts and completions, and with Bradford under center, the Rams moved from a putrid 1-15 record to a 7-9 mark that was nearly good enough to make the playoffs. Bradford enters his sophomore season hoping to be the next QB to thrive in the McDaniels offense, and while the names on the backs of most of his targets' jerseys aren't exactly household, they should be good enough as a unit to put together a few scoring drives against a talent-heavy defense that is nonetheless on the field for the first time in its current iteration.

Bradford's protection kept him upright last season, when, according to Football Outsiders, they allowed the team's lowest sack total since 1999. Sounds like a good test for the Eagles' new pass rush, who will have the benefit of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie blanketing Bradford's receivers.

WRs Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola
Victims of the Eagles' depth at the WR position over the past few seasons, Gibson and Amendola are talented if lesser known receivers, and while the Rams offense has run though Steven Jackson for years, these guys are examples of a deeper unit that can hurt defenses in a variety of ways. Amendola caught a lot of balls in 2010, and that was before the slot-loving McDaniels came to town. It will be interesting to see how Juan Castillo sets up his DBs against this unit, which also includes the former Jags #1 below.

WR Mike Sims-Walker
Cut loose from Jacksonville, MSW is a boom or bust deep threat that could find new life in McDaniels' offense, not unlike Brandon Lloyd did in Denver, where he came out of nowhere and led the league in receiving yards last season. Or, MSW could be just another 700 yard/5 TD guy at best, a chirpy injury casualty at worst. For Sunday's sake, he's going to draw some heavy coverage no matter which weapon Castillo puts on him. We'd be surprised if the Eagles can't neutralize the Sims-Walker, who managed only 34 yards against them in week 2 last season, albeit in a decidedly different offense. Then again, we were surprised when Lloyd topped 100 yards in the Broncos' 2010 season opener and five other times over the course of the season. None came against Oakland, interestingly enough.

TE Lance Kendricks
Raise your hand if you've seen the Eagles' D get gashed by some middling tight end or have cold sweats when you hear the name Jason Witten. Over the last two seasons, no team has given up more fantasy points to the TE position than the Birds, who were #1 in that distinction in 2010 and #2 in 2009 according to FantasyGuru.com's calculations. Last year, three tight ends topped 100 receiving yards against Philly, and three others topped 60. The Eagles gave up 11 TDs to TEs, including a pair of two-score performances.

Forty days into his second offense as a pro, Bradford will need to rely on his short and intermediate guys, and rookie Kendricks was a prime target in the Rams' preseason action, finishing sixth in receiving yards and touching pay dirt three times, per Matthew Berry of ESPN. Kendricks is a big target at 6-3, 247, and the Rams selected him out of Wisconsin with their second round pick. McDaniels doesn't involve the tight end as much as some other pass-happy offenses do, but at least early on, Kendricks looks to be active here. With the big 3 likely focusing on Amendola, MSW, and Gibson, the task of containing Kendricks will fall mainly on the linebackers and safeties.

As you can see, the Rams have some talent on the offensive side of the ball this season, as well as a new coordinator who knows how to put defenses on their heels. But while the same can be said of Castillo's defensive unit, this offense hasn't had much time to gel, and it's led by a second-year starter under center. It's easy to get caught up wondering who will cover whom, but it will take some solid scheme work on the part of Castillo in order to close all the windows listed above.

Kulp will be up next with a look at the Rams' defense, which will obviously have its hands full. How many of the guys listed above would you rather have over their counterparts in Midnight Green?

Photo: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Best of MLB: Nationals clinch NL East with win over Pirates

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Best of MLB: Nationals clinch NL East with win over Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- The Washington Nationals clinched their third National League East title in five years, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 Saturday night behind 5 1/3 scoreless innings from rookie reliever Reynaldo Lopez.

Stephen Drew's two-run single capped a three-run first inning for the Nationals, who return to the postseason after a one-year absence. Their win ensured a playoff berth, and they won the division about 20 minutes later when the second-place New York Mets lost to Philadelphia.

Lopez (4-3) came on to the start the bottom of the fourth inning with a 6-1 lead and allowed three hits while striking out five and walking one. He was removed a runner on first and one out in the ninth inning.

Marc Rzepczynski and Blake Treinen got one out each to end the game, and a pocket of Nationals' fans behind the visiting dugout cheered (see full recap).

Cardinals solve Wrigley again, crush Hammel, Cubs 10-4
CHICAGO -- The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot to accomplish if they want to return to Chicago in two weeks for a rematch of last year's NL Division Series. They would have to qualify for one of the wild-card spots, then win the single-elimination playoff game.

If they do, the Cardinals may be the one club that won't be fazed by Wrigley Field and the Cubs.

Yadier Molina drove in four runs, Stephen Piscotty homered and the Cardinals boosted their playoff hopes by getting to Jason Hammel early in a 10-4 rout of Chicago on Saturday.

Randal Grichuk added three RBIs and Jhonny Peralta had three hits and scored three runs for the Cardinals, who stopped a two-game skid and moved into a tie with San Francisco for the final NL wild-card spot pending the Giants' game at San Diego (see full recap).

Yanks shut out for 3rd straight game in 3-0 loss to Jays
TORONTO -- The New York Yankees' offense has disappeared, and their playoffs chances have pretty much vanished, too.

Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer off Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Yankees 3-0 Saturday.

New York has been shut out in three straight games for the first time July 27-28, 1975.

"Whatever we're doing right now, it's not working," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We just seem to have lost it the last few days."

The Yankees have lost 10 of 13 following a seven-game winning streak and dropped 4 1/2 games back for the AL's second wild card with eight games left. They likely will miss the playoffs for the third time in four years (see full recap).

Dietrich homers, Marlins end Braves' streak at 7 win
MIAMI -- Derek Dietrich hit a two-run homer to help the Miami Marlins end the Atlanta Braves' winning streak at seven games, winning 6-4 on Saturday night.

Dee Gordon had two hits, two walks and three stolen bases - one shy of tying the Marlins' single-game franchise high, which he has done on two separate occasions.

Atlanta's Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 28 games in the first inning and has reached base in 44 straight. He also hit a solo home run in the sixth, his 32nd.

Brian Ellington (4-2) earned the win in relief and A.J. Ramos recorded his 39th save in 42 chances.

The Braves pulled within 5-4 on a wild pitch by Fernando Rodney in the seventh inning (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Phillies 10, Mets 8

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Instant Replay: Phillies 10, Mets 8

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Noah Syndergaard’s throat probably closed up a little bit more when he saw how the Phillies treated his replacement on Saturday night.
 
Third baseman Maikel Franco’s three-run home run to left field and starting pitcher Alec Asher’s two-run single to center chased spot starter Sean Gilmartin after just 2/3 of an inning in the Phillies’ 10-8 win over the Mets. Syndergaard, the Mets’ last ace standing, had been scratched from the start earlier in the week due to strep throat.
 
Despite a long string of shaky moments from the bullpen, the Phillies were able to make the 10-0 lead they built in the first four innings stick.
 
The Mets’ grip on the first wild card spot in the NL loosened. The Cardinals defeated the Cubs, 10-3 to pull into a tie — for the moment — with the Giants for the second wild card spot, a half-game behind the Mets.
 
The Giants were a full game behind the Mets for the first wild card spot entering Saturday. They had a 6-5 lead over the Padres when the Mets’ game concluded.
 
The Phillies improved to 70-85. They scored at least 10 runs in a game for the sixth time this season and finished with 17 hits, tying their season high.
 
Starting pitching report
Asher was effective at first and displayed excellent command of his two-seam fastball as he retired the first nine Mets hitters he faced. He was touched up for four unearned runs in his fifth and final inning on two errors, two singles, a double and a sacrifice fly.
 
With a runner on third and two outs, Asher quelled the rally by inducing a groundout from pinch-hitter James Loney to first baseman Tommy Joseph. His night ended after just 76 pitches.
 
The runs Asher knocked in on his single were the first two runs batted in of his young career.
 
Gilmartin walked three batters, surrendered four hits and was booed off the mound by a full house of Mets fans.
 
Bullpen report
Joely Rodriguez entered in the sixth inning and quickly worked himself into trouble. He gave up two runs on a Gavin Cecchini double — his first major league hit — and T.J. Rivera single. Rodriguez survived a two-out, runners-on-the-corners jam by striking out Brandon Nimmo swinging with a slider in the dirt.
 
David Hernandez pitched a scoreless seventh. He erased a leadoff single by eliciting a 4-6-3 double play ground ball from Eric Campbell.
 
Hector Neris struck out his 100th batter of the season but walked two batters and gave up an RBI double to Cecchini that brought the remaining Mets fans to life. With the tying run at the plate, he got Rivera and Nimmo to fly out.
 
Given first crack at temporarily supplanting Jeanmar Gomez in the closer role, Michael Mariot gave up a solo home run to Jay Bruce to bring the Mets within two runs and then walked Campbell and Michael Conforto to bring the winning run to the plate. He got Lucas Duda to pop out and then got Travis D’Arnaud to ground out.
 
At the plate
Cesar Hernandez extended his streak of reaching base safely to 29 consecutive contests when he walked to lead off the game.
 
After going over a month without a home run, Maikel Franco has now homered in three consecutive games.
 
Darin Ruf homered for the second consecutive game, demolishing a Rafael Montero offering to center in the fourth to score three runs.
 
Joseph had two RBIs on a single and a groundout to short.
 
In the field
Franco threw a potential around-the-horn double play ball into center field in the fifth, allowing the Mets’ first run to score.
 
Shortstop Freddy Galvis handled a rundown with Jose Reyes perfectly to complete a 3-6-1 double play in the fourth but also bobbled a ground ball in the fifth for an error.
 
Health check
Tyler Goeddel sat as he continues to recuperate from a concussion he suffered on Wednesday.
 
Up next
The Phillies will round out their four-game swing at Citi Field at 1:10 PM on Sunday. Jake Thompson (3-5, 5.62 ERA) will take the hill for the Phillies. The Mets will counter with Robert Gsellman (2-2, 3.13).
 
Thompson only struck out one batter and surrendered a three-run homer to Melky Cabrera in his last start against the White Sox on Tuesday but earned the win. Gsellman, thrust into the Mets’ rotation after a spate of injuries, has only pitched into the seventh inning of one his five starts this year, a 5-1 loss to the Phillies on Aug. 28.