Now that Austin Davis is firmly seated in the starting role, he's getting more and more scrutiny. Nick Foles is the subject of plenty early season debate, after his 2013 season finished with an eye popping 27:2 TD to INT line...he's currently at 6:4 through four games. And the QB position being the most important in the sport, the two are square in the national media's eye going into this one.
Not for me.
I wouldn't be surprised at all if this game ends up being determined by who gets, and asks, the most from their running back.
LeSean McCoy, certainly, and Zac Stacy, arguably, are among the better running backs in the entire league. That was certainly the case in the preseason as most fantasy projections had McCoy either the top RB pick or second behind Adrian Peterson. Stacy, for his part, was generally in the top third of RBs, and in some cases a top 10 running back.
Things look a bit different now in early October.
McCoy started with two 20-plus carry 80-minus yard performances in the wins over Jacksonville and Indianapolis. In the last two weeks with a decimated offensive line, he's picked up just 39 yards on 29 carries. That's good for an abysmal 1.34 yards per carry average, an unbelievable two-game stretch just a month ago for McCoy.
The upsetting thing for Eagles fans is that if you're putting much of that disappointment on the offensive line, a fair estimation, then you would have to worry about how things get better. Two of the Eagles' starting five offensive linemen will be out Sunday, while Jason Peters is coming off a minor injury that sidelined him during the Niners game and Lane Johnson is coming back off a four-game suspension risking some displayable rust.
As for Stacy, he's averaging just 14 carries per game through three contests and hasn't reached 20 yet. Compare that to 2013 when he AVERAGED 20.75 carries through the 12 games he started last year, reaching or topping 20 carries in five of those 12. As I mentioned in my response to Marshall Faulk's question of what bold decision the Rams have to make, that's simply not enough.
All that said, I anticipate a higher work rate for both RBs on Sunday. McCoy ran the ball just 10 times against San Francisco, and the Rams' rushing defense has been pretty poor thus far, even if you take out the Cordarrelle Patterson 67-yard TD in week one. That's a recipe for likely success. As Chip Kelly said this week:
Mike Tyson said, ‘Everybody has a plan until they get hit in the face,'...We got hit in the face and we’ve got to respond to it.
For the Rams, they've got to be excited a defense that's struggling as much as the Eagles' is. It's a clear opportunity to move the ball and maintain the pace of the game, especially if they can get a few early stops to limit the Eagles' explosive offense. And while Austin Davis was a bit of an unknown quantity going into the Cowboys game even with the Tampa game under his belt, the Eagles have to be confident they've seen enough from his two and a half games that they're aware of the managerial chops he's exhibited thus far. They won't be taken aback by the newness of Austin Davis in and of itself. That may be the best conditions to lean on Zac Stacy and the running game to wear down the Eagles defense and give the Rams the best chance to win.
So while the big pregame shows go all in on Davis and Foles early on Sunday, don't forget about McCoy and Stacy. They just might be the difference in the game.
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