On Murray, Mathews And the Stretch

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo By Jeff Fusco

In 2014, Eagles running backs totaled 415 carries; 312 of those (75.8 percent) went to LeSean McCoy.

Chip Kelly and Duce Staley had some other options in Darren Sproles and Chris Polk, but ultimately they relied on McCoy, who had the second biggest workload in the NFL.

Based on the Eagles’ offseason moves, the plan seems to be different this year. DeMarco Murray still figures to be the primary ball-carrier, but with Ryan Mathews in the mix, Kelly thinks the Eagles will have a potent one-two punch.

“If you have multiple backs, you don’t lose anything when you take one out, and I think we probably relied on one too much in the last couple of years,” he said. “But I have great confidence in those other guys that when they go into the game, you don’t have to change what you’re doing. Ryan and DeMarco are very similar in terms of how they run and what they’re doing, so it’s almost like you think you catch your breath when you take DeMarco out of the game, but then here comes Ryan. That’s gonna be a real difficult task for people, I think.”

The Eagles totaled 474 rushing attempts last season (seventh-most), and the ground game produced mediocre results. In 2013, the number was 500 (fourth-most). In other words, there will be plenty of carries to go around.

But still, when you sign the reigning NFL rushing champ, you’re going to use him. Earlier this offseason, we predicted Murray would average 17 carries per game, Mathews seven and Sproles two.

In terms of fit, Murray ran behind a largely zone blocking scheme in Dallas. The Eagles’ most common play is the inside zone, one that Murray is used to. But the Birds haven’t had a ton of success with the outside zone (stretch) under Kelly. It’s in their playbook, and they use it, but many of the successful perimeter runs have come via the sweep.

Kelly acknowledged that it’s possible we see more outside zone with Murray, who had a ton of success with the play in Dallas.

“Yeah, we run outside zone in our scheme, so you could see DeMarco fit in that,” Kelly said. “I think it’s what is your line good at, and what are your backs good at? Kind of match those two things up.

“I think he’s just got great vision. He’s got great patience, understands how to set up blocks, knows when to stick his foot in the ground and get going north and south, understands how to stretch plays out. And that’s really a stretch play, trying to look for gaps on where that ball can hit. But I think he’s got a lot of comfort, a lot of familiarity with it. Did a lot of it in college.”

Kelly has said multiple times that execution, not scheme, was the issue last  year with the Eagles’ ground game. Outside zone has been in the playbook all along, but don’t be surprised if that becomes one of the offense’s go-to run plays with Murray in the fold.