Eagles Wake-Up Call: Doug Pederson Explains Importance Of The Run Game
In Philadelphia, Andy Reid earned a reputation for being a little too pass-happy. In Kansas City, however, Reid has relied on the run game more than some might expect. The Chiefs ran the sixth highest percentage of run plays in 2015, the ninth most in 2014, and the 13th most in 2013.
Through one game in 2016, the Eagles rank seventh. Reid disciple Doug Pederson called 34 run plays in Philadelphia’s season opening win against the Cleveland Browns. An extremely small sample size, for sure, but Pederson made his philosophy clear. “It aids in everything you do offensively,” when asked about the importance of the run game. “[Ryan Mathews] is such a powerful back. A lot of times, those runs are up inside the tackle-box area and we had a couple chances just off tackle to make some big gains. Kenjon [Barner] made a couple of nice runs. Darren [Sproles] made a couple nice runs. But to keep feeding a guy like Ryan, he’s so powerful and punishing that [at some point] it’s going to take a toll defensively.
“I think the hard thing for any play caller is to stay patient with the run game. Sometimes you abandon it too soon when things aren’t going so well. If you don’t keep throwing, as they say, mud against the wall, eventually something is going to stick. You’ve just got to keep hammering away and chiseling away, and eventually something’s going to give and it just opens up the rest of the gameplan. ”
The Eagles didn’t run the ball with great efficiency on Sunday. Philadelphia finished with 3.9 yard per attempt on the ground. Still, running the ball with such frequency allowed the Eagles to have a balanced attack. The Eagles ran the ball only three less times than the 37 times rookie quarterback Carson Wentz passed it.
“I felt going in that we would have the ability to run the football, and I didn’t want to overload Carson,” Pederson said. “I knew he had 37 attempts. That’s quite a few. You try to keep it 30-ish if you can. Obviously you are not monitoring that during the game, but I think it’s a credit to our guys, the balance was there. We had to throw it when we needed to throw it. We made some great plays down the field.”
“The running game was really — I mean, 133 yards, at the same time it was very close to even being better than that. Some things we’ve got to clean up there and detail that, and then just get better this week.”
Time of possession might not matter to Chip Kelly, but the Eagles lead the NFL in that category after Week 1. Again, it’s hard to make too much of a one game sample size, but these signs are early indications of the new offensive style in Philadelphia. Gone are the up-tempo, no-huddle days of Kelly and in is the balanced, ball-control attack of Pederson.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles got their third string quarterback in the form of former Chief Aaron Murray on the practice squad.
“As good an athlete as Mychal [Kendricks] is, it’s just unfortunate that we have to take one guy off.” Kendricks’ limited role will remain the same for now.
“Now it seems as if Washington is morphing into something else. Something softer.” NFC East Roundup.
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“When they’re playing football in here, it maximizes that much more. So he’s been in those trenches before.” Doug Pederson passed his first test Sunday afternoon. Can he build on that success?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The offensive line was an effective unit in the season opener, pens Jeff McLane of the Inquirer.
Most of the responsibility will fall on [Carson] Wentz, but with his penchant to hold the ball a tick too long, he may need extra time in the pocket. The Eagles didn’t need for him to take many five-step drops against the Browns. Most were three steps and get the ball out, or Pederson called plays that moved him outside off play-action.
But when called upon, the line gave the quarterback time, whether against four-man rushes or blitzes. Wentz completed 11 of 12 passes for 129 yards when the Browns sent five or more. He shared credit for either resetting protections or finding an open receiver, but the communication up front prevented most of the Browns’ blitz packages from disrupting Wentz’s timing.
“They ran a bunch of blitzes,” left tackle Jason Peters said. “We practiced them during the week. We picked them up [Sunday], and they stopped running them.”
Running back Darren Sproles deserved an assist. He may have had two drops and a fumble, but he picked up about a half-dozen blitzes. Wentz’s 22-yard completion to receiver Jordan Matthews would have never been possible without a pocket that was clean for about five seconds.
Peters was a human wall the entire game. There is legitimate concern about the 34-year-old’s ability to stay healthy for 16 games, but he didn’t allow a single edge rusher to pressure Wentz from his blind side.
Unlike his mentor, Andy Reid, Doug Pederson will stick with the run game, writes Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com.
The Eagles averaged only 3.9 yards per carry in their 29-10 win over the Browns, but Pederson remained committed to the running attack and it paid off. The Eagles controlled the clock, controlled the game, controlled the Browns, and found their way to 1-0 with a quarterback making his first NFL start.
Reid was notorious for abandoning the running game at the first sign of trouble, and it cost him.
Pederson, who played for Reid and coached under Reid both here and in Kansas City, appears to have learned the value of sticking with the running game by watching his former boss.
“I think the hard thing for any play-caller is to stay patient with the run game,” Pederson said. “Sometimes you abandon it too soon when things aren’t going so well. If you keep throwing … mud against the wall, eventually something is going to stick.”
[Ryan] Mathews’ numbers are deceptive.
Yeah, he averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, but he kept moving forward, he kept the clock going and he certainly ran physically tough, helping to wear down the Browns. His fourth-quarter touchdown turned a 12-point lead into a 19-point lead.
“Tough game,” Mathews said. “Some tough sledding.”
The Eagles have off again today before returning to practice on Thursday.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.