Eagles Notes: Ryan Mathews’ Fumbling A ‘Concern’
In the final five minutes in the fourth quarter of all NFL games this year, running backs have fumbled just three times (h/t Reuben Frank). Ryan Mathews owns two of those — both coming in the last three weeks — as the Eagles had the lead and were trying to wind the clock down.
“It’s definitely a concern and we don’t want to see it, especially in those situations,” Doug Pederson said. “We’ve got to continue to either find out if he’s tired, where he’s at at the end of the game; if we need to put Wendell [Smallwood] or Darren [Sproles] in there — we’ll find out more about that. But by no means am I down on Ryan at all. We just have to make sure that he understands that he can’t obviously do that and put ourselves in a situation where we’re giving the ball back to the opponent. ”
Mathews has fumbled the ball about once every 33 carries this season, after fumbling around once every 35 rushes last year. Mathews was also tied for eighth last season for fumbles among all NFL running backs, even though he ran the ball just 106 times.
Plus: Mathews ranks last among the Eagles’ four running backs in yards per carry (3.9), although he’s carried the ball more than twice as much as any other back. Still, Pederson doesn’t seem to be planning on decreasing Mathews’ snaps any time soon.
“I don’t necessarily get into ‘Ryan has to have X amount of touches or Darren has to get X amount of touches.’ I think by a committee, and collectively, they do a good job,” Pederson said. “We’ve been around that 100-yard mark each week so far and it’s been efficient. We weren’t as efficient necessarily running the ball [in terms of] yards per attempt and all that yesterday, but against a good defense, we were still able to do some good things in the run game. We’re going to continue to do it. There are certain runs for certain running backs that we put in the game, but overall, it’s going to be sort of a running back by committee design.”
Why Vaitai Was Able To ‘Calm The Storm’
Perhaps the best indication of Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s performance on Sunday was how little people talked about it afterward. The rookie right tackle, who allowed two sacks, two hurries and one quarterback hit on 29 passing plays last week, gave up just one pressure against the Vikings, per Pro Football Focus.
“I think [it was just] learning from the week before, quite honestly,” Pederson said. “He really detailed his work during the week. He practiced extremely well. He used his hands better. He was able to kind of calm the storm, so to speak, and played a fine football game. He played the type of game that we saw [in] him and [that] he’s very capable of doing and now it’s something that he can continue to build on.”
Pederson added that the Eagles didn’t make any schematic or philosophical changes along the offensive line, before noting he likely gave Vaitai less help from other players than he did against Washington. Pederson did acknowledge, however, how he got Wentz out of the pocket more and utilized the “quick game” instead of having Wentz take seven-step drops.
“To some extent, I would agree [about curtailing the offense], but also utilizing our team’s strength and Carson’s ability to throw out of the pocket. He usually makes those throws,” Pederson said. “He had a couple to the left that were a little off the mark, but for the most part I feel like moving Carson around [with] as much moving parts as we have in the offensive line with the zone stuff and back blocks and things like that, we just take advantage of an overactive defense sometimes.
“But I don’t necessarily curtail it to one particular player or position or something like that. It’s just something we take a look at each week and see how best we can defeat our opponent.”