Duce: We’re Getting Back To Running the Ball

DeMarco Murray.

DeMarco Murray.

Duce Staley has seen a three-pronged rushing attack work before.

In 2003, he, Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook combined for 1,618 yards, but no back had more than 126 carries. The Eagles ranked third in rushing DVOA that season and finished with a 12-4 record.

Now Staley, the Eagles running backs coach, will be in charge of spreading the carries around among DeMarco MurrayRyan Mathews and Darren Sproles.

“Yeah, it’s similar,” Staley said Wednesday afternoon. “When you look at ‘em, when you go back and check the pedigree of these three, these guys are all proven. These guys have definitely been successful throughout their career. So we brought ‘em all here, one big pot of gumbo. And I think we plan on running the ball.”

In Year 1 under Chip Kelly, the Eagles’ run game looked unstoppable. LeSean McCoy had a career year, and the team finished first in rushing DVOA. Last year, the Eagles dealt with offensive line injuries, defenses were more familiar with their scheme and tempo, and they finished 13th.

Per Staley, the moves of the offseason had nothing to do with wanting to acquire Kiko Alonso or a couple free agents falling into their lap. When the coaches reviewed areas that needed improvement after last season, the run game came into focus.

“Definitely,” Staley said. “We want to get back to running the ball. We want to get back to just taking over the line of scrimmage. You do that of course with the offensive line. And you do that with good running backs.”

Added offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland: “We do whatever we have to do to win the game. So based on how many people are in the box, all that stuff, that will dictate at times whether we run the ball or pass the ball.

“I think what Duce was saying, and I don’t want to speak for Duce, but from a fundamentally sound, technique, everybody being on the same page, that part of it, I think we really feel strong about getting back to that. The fundamentals of when we do run the ball, it’s effective because we surface the blocks right, we hit the right angles, everybody was on the same page, they got the same call, that kind of stuff.”

The offensive line is obviously a question mark. Currently, the Eagles have Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin at the guard spots with the first team. Evan Mathis has not shown up, and his status is up in the air.

Kelly has always operated a run-first spread offense. But it was clear at times last year that he didn’t have confidence in his group to get it done on the ground.

This year, the focus is clearly on finding success in the run game. And that starts with Murray.

“He’s a perfect fit for us,” Staley said. “Exactly what we want to do – full steam ahead, downhill. That’s what we’re preaching every day. One, two, three, four yards and a cloud of dust. And all the backs that we have, they’re able to do that.”

Asked what he’s learned about Murray since he arrived, Staley added: “His passion, his passion for the game. His leadership in the classroom, in the weight room, on the field is second to none. And he’s driven by that. He’s driven by going out there and not making mistakes. He’s driven by showing others how he works. So I’m just excited to have him.”

As for McCoy, Staley said he’s spoken to his former pupil, but “it was just a hello and good-bye.”

Pressed about McCoy’s comments that Kelly makes decisions based on race, Staley said: “I have no reaction on that. Chip is not a racist at all. Chip and I work well together. Everybody has their own opinion. I’m not here to actually talk about Tra [Thomas] or to talk about what McCoy is talking about. I know from my relationship with Chip, that’s far-fetched.”

McCoy spoke to reporters in Buffalo today. He didn’t want to expand on his comments about race, but did note that he thinks Kelly is a “genius” when it comes to coaching.

Click here if you’re interested in the full McCoy Q&A.