For the first time in NFL history, teams are chasing the Eagles in free agency and emulating their approach. The sentiment amongst NFL owners has always been to build through the draft while adding a key free agent here and there to fill immediate needs. The Eagles flipped this ideology on its head last offseason when they went out and added players like; Alshon Jeffery, LeGarrette Blount, Timmy Jernigan and Patrick Robinson, to one-year “prove it” deals – and it worked. The Eagles won their first Super Bowl using this offseason strategy, so evidently teams around the league are trying to re-create what the Eagles had last season.
No team has been more obviously chasing the Eagles than the Los Angeles Rams – who just traded for Patriots wide out, Brandin Cooks, just a few days ago. Along with the Cooks addition, the Rams also went out and got Marcus Peters via trade, and Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh as free agents. All of a sudden, the Rams are neck and neck with the Eagles for NFC supremacy (on paper). But have they surpassed the defending Super Bowl champions on the NFC totem pole? Not a chance. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of each team.
Eagles: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles
Rams: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion
I think it’s pretty clear cut which squad has the better set of QBs in this argument. Goff had a very nice sophomore outing under Sean McVay as he threw for 28 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. But, it just doesn’t compare to what Wentz did last season until he went down with his injury. In just 13 games Wentz totaled 33 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions and was the front runner for MVP most of the year. It’s hard to predict how Wentz will play this upcoming season coming off major knee surgery, but if he can return and be even 80% of what he was last season the Eagles still have the edge on this one. Not to mention, it looks like the Super Bowl MVP will be returning to his backup role with the Eagles next season. So, in the event that Wentz isn’t ready for the start of season, the Birds are in more than capable hands.
Eagles: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles
Rams: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Justin Davis
The Rams have what many believe is the best running back in football with Todd Gurley. He was an absolute beast last season and a big reason why they were so successful on offense. Not only was he second in the league in rushing with 1,305 yards, he also totaled 64 receptions for 788 yards and 6 touchdowns. Gurley may have been more lethal in the screen game than he was on the ground last season. He accounted for 38% of his team’s total yards from scrimmage and 43% of his team’s rushing and receiving touchdowns. He was the backbone of the Rams’ offense. The Eagles don’t posses that type of workhorse back; they use a a committee of running backs and it worked out for them last season. Losing Blount will hurt the rotation a bit, but Sproles returning will add a much needed receiving back to the rotation. I’m excited to see what Ajayi and Clement can do with some extra carries next season; I think Clemet especially will benefit from a bigger workload. But as of now, the edge has to go to the Rams and Todd Gurley.
Eagles: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins
Rams: Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Tavon Austin
The Brandin Cooks trade may look good on the surface, but in reality, it isn’t much of an upgrade over what they had last season in Sammy Watkins. There’s a reason that Cooks is on his third team in three years, still on his rookie deal. He’s a one trick pony. He’s a deep threat and that’s about it. I would take both Alshon and Agholor over Cooks any day of the week. Alshon proved he can be a reliable number one receiver and Agholor finally broke through and had an outstanding season from the slot in 2017. The addition of Mike Wallace will fill the hole that Torrey Smith left behind, and I expect Mack Hollins to have somewhat of a break out year in 2018 as well. As for the other Rams’ receivers — Kupp, Woods, and Austin — there’s just nothing special about this group of wideouts. Kupp has the potential to turn into a solid slot receiver, he reminds me a lot of Danny Amendola. But other than that, Woods and Austin are just average receivers.
Eagles: Zach Ertz, Billy Brown, Richard Rodgers
Rams: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett
The Eagles’ tight ends aren’t as strong as they were last season with Burton and Celek, but this group still has the potential to contribute a lot to Doug Pederson’s offense. Billy Brown was a standout in camp last season, which is why they decided to keep him around on the practice squad. The addition of Richard Rodgers also adds some much-needed depth at the position and provides the Eagles with a viable third option if Brown disappoints in camp this season. There’s a lot of unknowns with the Eagles’ tight end group this season, but they still have one of the best tight ends in the game with Zach Ertz – who is head and shoulders above either of the tight ends on the Rams’ roster.
Eagles: Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson
Rams: Andrew Whitworth, Rodger Saffold, John Sullivan, Jamon Brown, Rob Havenstein
This one is very close, as both the Eagles and the Rams have elite offensive lines. They had a combined three All-Pro offensive lineman between the two teams (Andrew Whitworth from the Rams, and Jason Kelce/Lane Johnson from the Eagles). The reason the Eagles get the slight edge here is for the amount of elite talent they have along the line. The only truly elite player on the Rams’ offensive line is Andrew Whitworth, who may not have gotten an All-Pro selection had Jason Peters stayed healthy. Lane Johnson is the best right tackle in football and Jason Kelce is a top 3 center in football. Not to mention Brandon Brooks, who had an outstanding season as well. As far as I’m concerned, the Eagles have the best O-line in the NFL.
Eagles: Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Haloti Ngata
Rams: Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh
There aren’t many teams who have a better set of interior defensive linemen than the Eagles – but the Rams are one of them. They already had the best defensive tackle in football with Aaron Donald, but now they have the meanest defensive tackle in football with Ndamukong Suh. Donald is one of the few defensive players in the league who can take over a game. He was the only reason that his team was even competitive against the Falcons in their wildcard playoff game. The Rams brought Suh in on a one-year deal in hopes that he bounces back to what he was in Detroit. He wasn’t bad with the Dolphins, but he lost that mean, “don’t f*ck with me”, persona that he had earlier in his career. If he can return to the defensive force that we saw in Detroit, the Rams are going to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines all season.
Defensive Ends/Pass Rushers
Eagles: Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, Chris Long, Derek Barnett
Rams: Michael Brockers, Samson Ebukam, Matt Longacre
The Eagles and Rams run completely differently defenses; the Rams run a 3-4, the Eagles run a 4-3. So I decided to compare edge rushers instead rather than just defensive ends. In saying that, the Eagles have considerably better pass rushers than the Rams. The Eagles’ defensive ends last season accounted for 22.5 sacks, and now they’ve added Michael Bennett who had 8.5 sack last year. As good as the Rams’ interior defensive line is, their pass rushers are just as weak. They lost their two best pass rushers from last season with Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin, who combined for 13.5 sacks. Without their production, the Rams’ outside pass rushers going into next season only had 10 total sacks last year. Without a doubt, the Eagles have the better pass rushers going into 2018.
Eagles: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks
Rams: Mark Barron, Cory Littleton
The Rams’ best linebacker is a converted safety in Mark Barron, making this an easy win for the Eagles. While Hicks is often injured and coming off a torn Achilles, if he can stay healthy he’s a Pro Bowl talent at middle linebacker. Re-signing Bradham was huge for the Eagles moving forward as well. He had possibly the best year of his career last season, so he deserved the contract he received. Kendricks also had a bounce back season last year, hopefully that carries into next season as well.
Eagles: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas
Rams: Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Nickell Roby-Coleman
I love the depth and the youth of the Eagles’ corners, they have the potential to be one of the best secondaries in the league next season. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t compare to what the Rams have stacked up in their cornerbacks group. Both Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib are elite man-to-man corners, exactly what their defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, wants in his defense. If these two can mesh well together, it’s going to be nearly impossible to throw against the Rams next season. Only time will tell how good the Eagles’ cornerbacks become, but as of right now the advantage goes to the Rams.
Eagles: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McCleod
Rams: John Johnson, LaMarcus Joyner
While the Eagles have two solid safeties on the back end of their defense, the Rams have two of the best. Pro Football Focus ranked Joyner has one of the best safeties in football last season and they ranked his counterpart, Johnson, as the 10th best. This one is close, but the Rams get the slight edge.
Eagles: Doug Pederson
Rams: Sean McVay
Yes I know, Sean McVay won Coach of the Year last season after leading the once laughable Rams to the playoffs with an 11-5 record. But they laid an egg in the playoff against the 6th seeded Falcons at home and they didn’t face nearly the amount of adversity that the Eagles had to deal with throughout the season. The Eagles lost not only their MVP Quarterback in Carson Wentz (and still beat McVay’s team in LA), they also lost Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, and Chris Maragos. That’s one HOF left tackle, one of the best all-purpose backs of all time, their quarterback of the defense, and their special teams captain. And get this – they still won the Super Bowl, against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. McVay and his Rams couldn’t even get out of the first round of the playoffs with a mostly in-tact roster. Some experts had the Rams as the dark horse Super Bowl team from the NFC. No one gave the Eagles a chance to get out of their first playoff game, let alone the Super Bowl. It was laughable when Doug only received ONE vote for Coach of the Year, while McVay received a whopping 35 votes. McVay can have his Coach of the Year award, I’m sure Doug’s doing just fine with his Super Bowl ring.