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St. Louis at Philadelphia: Eagles DNA profile

9/1/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams face an extremely tough draw in their opening-week matchup with the Eagles in Philadelphia. These franchises have very little in common.

The Eagles' roster features 33 players drafted by the organization, one behind league leaders Chicago and Green Bay. The Rams have only 23 of their own draft choices. Holding onto one's own draft choices isn't necessarily a good thing, but failing to hold onto them often reflects poor drafting, poor management, frequent scheme changes, etc.

By my count, 18 Rams players entered the NFL as draft choices for other teams, about four more than the league average. The Eagles' corresponding number is seven. The low figure reflects a disciplined approach to roster management.

For more on the Eagles, pick up a copy of Philly's 25-category roided-out roster. Five quick notes on the team I picked to represent the NFC in the next Super Bowl:

  • The Eagles' Jon Runyan is one of the biggest -- and oldest -- starting right tackles in the league. Pass protection is not his specialty. The Rams will have to keep this game close to free up their pass rush. If they do, a healthy Leonard Little could give Runyan some problems.

  • On the other side, Eagles left tackle Tra Thomas welcomes Rams first-round draft choice Chris Long to the NFL. Long fashions himself as a technician, but he's still making the adjustment from 3-4 to 4-3 defensive end.

  • Quarterback Donovan McNabb hasn't started 16 games in a season since 2003, but he's been at his best in September. McNabb has thrown 28 touchdowns with only four interceptions in September games over the last four seasons. The numbers dip to 25 touchdowns with 13 interceptions in October, 17 touchdowns with nine interceptions in November and 14 touchdowns with four interceptions in December (all since 2004).

  • Brian Westbrook has 2,550 yards rushing and 167 receptions over the last two seasons. Rams middle linebacker Will Witherspoon finds himself overshadowed in a division featuring Lofa Tatupu and Patrick Willis. Westbrook presents his greatest challenge of the season. No other back on the Rams' schedule threatens a defense in so many ways.

  • That note about McNabb not finishing seasons as strong (if at all) casts doubt on my Super Bowl prediction. At least I took the Chargers to win (not that San Diego has any injury concerns entering this season, come to think of it).

The Rams had to grimace when they saw the 2008 schedule for the first time. This was a fragile team coming into the offseason, to the point that coach Scott Linehan wanted to win preseason games for momentum. A victory over the Eagles in the opener would represent a giant step forward for the Rams under Linehan, but it's a tough draw.