Quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Jared Goff became intertwined as the top two quarterbacks leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft. Their teams face off on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field as the Philadelphia Eagles host the Los Angeles Rams.
Sunday’s matchup is not the teams’ first since the 2016 draft, when Goff and Wentz went 1-2, respectively: The Eagles won games in 2017 and ’18, the two most recent victories in a six-game Philadelphia winning streak over the Rams dating back to 2005.
Week 2 is, however, the first featuring both Wentz and Goff since Wentz sustained an ACL tear against Los Angeles in 2017.
“We exchange texts every now and then,” Wentz said of his relationship with Goff. “Lot of respect for him as a player and as a guy, consider him a friend. The rest of that, the rivalry and all that stuff, that’s neither here nor there.”
Philadelphia (0-1) heads into its home opener with a healthy Wentz, but keeping the quarterback upright is paramount for the Eagles following a disappointing Week 1 loss.
After building a 17-0 lead in the first half at Washington, the Eagles lost 27-17. Philadelphia was outscored 20-0 in a second half that included two turnovers and a missed field goal.
Philadelphia’s offensive woes were a byproduct of a patchwork line missing key starters Lane Johnson (ankle), Brandon Brooks (Achilles) and Andre Dillard (biceps). The Eagles also went into Week 1 with Jason Peters having missed 10 days of preseason workouts while under contract negotiations.
The uncertainty up front contributed to Philadelphia giving up eight sacks to Washington.
Brooks and Dillard are on injured reserve, but Johnson returned to practice on Wednesday. The Eagles also welcomed back to practice running back Miles Sanders, who missed the opener with a hamstring injury.
The Eagles face a rash of injuries on the defensive line with Brandon Graham (concussion protocol) and Javon Hargrave (pectoral) both questionable, and Vinny Curry (hamstring) scratched. They are likely to get Derek Barnett back from a hamstring injury, however.
Los Angeles (1-0), meanwhile, comes into Philadelphia with a full-strength defensive line built around five-time All-Pro Aaron Donald.
“Tremendous player,” Pederson said of Donald on Wednesday. “There’s not many offensive lines out there that slow this guy down. He goes from snap-to-whistle. He’s 100 miles per hour. That’s tough for us.”
The Rams defeated Dallas 20-17, a win highlighted by running back Malcolm Brown’s two rushing touchdowns and wide receiver Robert Woods’ 105 yards on six catches.
Donald — who tallied a sack and delivered four quarterback hits against the Cowboys — is operating out of a new look in 2020. Pederson noted the changes from seasons past when longtime coaching veteran Wade Phillips oversaw the Rams defense.
Thirty-seven-year-old Brandon Staley replaced Phillips ahead of the 2020 campaign, having most recently coached outside linebackers for the Denver Broncos. Donald still operates out of a 3-4 base, but subtle alignment changes present Philadelphia with a new challenge.
“It starts with (center Jason) Kelce and echoes across the offensive line,” Pederson said.
Rams coach Sean McVay said Wednesday he thought his team struggled with tackling early against the Cowboys, a result of having no preseason games, but added: “We got better as the game progressed.”
The trajectory of the game bears that out, too, with Los Angeles only yielding a field goal after halftime.
While Philadelphia comes into Sunday’s contest with a bevy of injury-related questions, the Rams appear to be fortunate. Wednesday’s injury report lists tight end Gerald Everett as the sole player not to practice due. He came out of the Week 1 win with a back injury.