McMullen: Eagles Don’t Have the Backs to Run the Ball
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — The only thing staler than the Eagles' rushing attack might be the numbing refrain asking for it.
Yes, the Eagles didn't run it enough in Kansas City during their 27-20 loss on Sunday but the context of that is lost among many who evidently still think the NFL is stuck in the 1970s.
Considering the ingredients Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas gave to Doug Pederson, it shouldn't be any surprise that the second-year coach continues to lean on his quarterback, Carson Wentz.
And before you set up the crucifixion for that, ask yourself if you need a big conversion in a tie game, who on this roster are you trusting more than Wentz to get it for you?
Everyone pays lip service to the cliche of running the football, especially offensive lineman who by nature like handing out the punishment on occasion rather than trying to stop the wildly-athletic edge rushers they now see on a consistent basis.
"In order to win games in this league, you have to able to run the ball," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "Unless you got Tom Brady, guys like that. But we have to run the ball. We have to take pressure off Carson."
That part of this equation is true in that Pederson should stop and think about letting his bread and butter drop back over 50 times at Arrowhead Stadium with Isaac Seumalo playing left guard and trying to fend off Chris Jones and Dee Ford.
"You don't ever want to throw the ball that many times," Pederson admitted on Monday. "You want to have more of a balance. The run game's a part of that. But at the same time, listen, you end up doing sort of what the game dictates late in the game. And do I want him to drop back that many times? No.
"But at the same time, I've got to look at the whole picture, the whole pie, and I thought our defense was playing great throughout the whole game. And really, focusing in on the run game and getting that going will really give us a better balance moving forward."
That may seem a little jumbled there so let me translate it for you ...Pederson is simply more comfortable with Wentz than his stable of running backs and why shouldn't he be?
Other than Darren Sproles and his obvious limitations, the Eagles' backfield of LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and undrafted rookie Corey Clement simply isn't good enough.
And that lack of talent in the backfield is why the Eagles were hot and heavy on both Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook back in April. When both of those avenues were shut off Philadelphia was hoping lightning would strike in the fourth round with Donnel Pumphrey and that came up empty.
So now Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich are stuck paying lip service toward balance during the week and looking like hypocrites when the bullets are flying because they have no confidence in their options at the RB position.
"We've got to focus on the run game and we've got to get the run game fixed and we've got to have a great plan going forward and commit to that and it just takes pressure off your quarterback as well," Pederson said.
Those pointing to the raw numbers like Sproles' 10 carries for 48 yards against the Chiefs and claiming that's effective while assuming that pace would continue through 20 or even 30 totes are being specious.
Take Sproles' first run, a 12-yard scamper behind an unbalanced line with Lane Johnson lined up inside of Jason Peters on the left side. That's gimmickry and all of a sudden Sproles' "effective numbers" scale back to nine rushes for 36 yards, down to 4.0 yards-per-carry.
Who's to say the numbers wouldn't have continued trending downward from there?
The question at the heart of the problem is simple: is Pederson to blame for not running the ball more or is Roseman at fault for not providing the coach better options at the RB position so he would be more comfortable running it?
Some will take the chicken and others will take the egg is that causality dilemma.
Like Pederson, I'll take whatever side Wentz is on because the goal is to win football games.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen