Eagles Wake-Up Call: DeMarco Murray’s Debut
It’s not a monster. Not yet, at least. But after Saturday’s showing, it’s well on its way to becoming one.
DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles displayed only a sliver of their powers in the Eagles’ 40-17 win over the Ravens, yet the trio still produced 10 carries for 46 yards and two touchdowns.
“Obviously, we have a good group of running backs,” Murray said. “It’s going to be hard for teams to really focus on one running back and I think it is going to be good that we are all going to be fresh and going in and out of the game.”
Murray is spot on. When defenses figure out how to stop one running back, Kelly can send in two more. If none of them play well individually, he can use them in combinations.
When you add that versatility to the Eagles’ pace, defenses will likely struggle to keep up.
“I think it puts a lot of stress on a defense,” Sam Bradford said, “especially when you combine our depth and our personnel with the tempo.”
None of that—the depth, the tempo, the versatility—would matter, however, if they didn’t possess the most important attribute: talent.
As I noted in my observations, Murray displayed why Kelly wanted him on his first carry in an Eagles uniform. The running back got the ball, put his head down and quickly cut through the hole. The result? A seven-yard gain.
“In a short period of time, all of those guys have picked up the system,” Mark Sanchez said. “They are excited about blocking, catching the ball out of the backfield and running. They are doing a great job and have embraced the three-headed attack.”
One catalyst that will help the trio transition into a three-headed monster is the offensive line. Left tackle Jason Peters opened up a hole so big for Mathews on Saturday that the running back ran 14 yards untouched into the end zone. On Murray’s touchdown run (video below courtesy of the Eagles), he also ran unimpeded to six points.
For now, though, Kelly is resting his monster. He’s limiting Murray’s reps in practice and says he only called two different run plays the entire game Saturday. On September 14, however, Kelly will attempt to unleash a monster on Atlanta and find out just how powerful it is.
After missing practice, Miles Austin sat out of Saturday’s game. Kelly said Austin is healthy, and that he’s the one holding him back. Kelly added that Riley Cooper and Rasheed Bailey are “fine,” and both of their X-rays were negative. Cooper left the game in the first half because of a thumb injury while Bailey exited in the second half due to a right shoulder injury.
As for the three inside linebackers—Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans—who sat out for the second straight preseason game, Kelly said “they should be back for the Packers game.” He included Austin in that group, as well.
“If this was a game and this counted and this was the regular season, all three of those guys would have played,” Kelly said in his post-game press conference. “It was just one of those things where they had got in, got their feet wet in seven‑on‑seven, and we are still trying to figure out some of those other guys. So we got some extended snaps for [linebackers Emmanuel] Acho and Najee [Goode] and Brad [Jones] and Jordan [Hicks].”
SNAP COUNT ANALYSIS
Mark Sanchez got the most snaps at quarterback with 36 percent, followed by Matt Barkley (29 percent), Tim Tebow (20 percent) and Sam Bradford (15 percent). Among the top tier of running backs, DeMarco Murray (11 percent) played slightly more snaps than Darren Sproles (9 percent) and Ryan Mathews (7 percent).
Four linemen played the most offensive snaps, as guards Matt Tobin and Julian Vandervelde, tackle Dennis Kelly and center David Molk each played 65 percent of the time. Ed Reynolds (79 percent) led the defense, followed by Jerome Couplin (57 percent), Denzel Rice (53 percent), Diaheem Watkins (52 percent) and Deontae Skinner (52 percent).
WHAT YOU MISSED
Breaking down Sam Bradford’s debut, the offensive and defensive lines and more.
“The Eagles offense could be really good in 2015.” What they’re saying.
Day-after notes: Kenjon Barner is playing his way onto the roster.
Chip Kelly is happy with his starting quarterback’s performance Saturday.
“I’m pretty sure he planned it.” Jason Peters on Terrell Suggs’ hit on Bradford.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Ed Kracz is concerned about outside linebacker depth and Josh Huff’s preseason performance.
Outside linebacker could be a trouble spot. After starters Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham, the thin crop of backups could be exposed over four quarters. Bryan Braman is a standout special teams player but is too light to play the run and Vinny Curry is still very much a work in progress there. The hope would be that Brad Jones can play the outside exclusively once inside backers Kiko Alonso, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks return.
Josh Huff still isn’t inspiring much confidence. The second-year wide out has one catch in two games. He has been targeted only twice. It’s not like he is coming off a spectacular rookie season after making just eight catches for 98 yards. It might be nice to involve him in the offense in Green Bay. He is, after all, supposed to be one of the starters on the outside.
Curry is making a smooth transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, writes Andy Schwartz.
Already a key piece of the Eagles’ vaunted defensive line — and that won’t change — he is needed to back up [Connor] Barwin and [Brandon] Graham. But for Curry, the move shouldn’t be too challenging. As the predator, he’ll be asked primarily to rush the passer, which has been his speciality since the Eagles drafted him in the second round in 2012.
His first test came in Saturday night’s preseason victory over the Ravens, and he passed easily.
We’ll speak to Chip at 11:40. Practice starts at 11:55, but there won’t be observations anymore because only the first few periods are open to the media.