- Lijah Spencer
State of the Eagles Run Game
Being a crucial part of Head Coach Doug Pederson’s offensive scheme, the Eagles need to find a way to have success running the football this season. It may be difficult, however, there may be hope amongst this running back group.
The first thing you need to have a successful running game is a solid offensive line. The Eagles line is in Flux right now, with starting right tackle Lane Johnson facing a possible 10 game suspension. Johnson missing time effects the whole line. Jason Peters, the left tackle is an aging vet who very likely will be banged up and have to miss time. Left guard Alan Barbre likely will swing out to RT, and be replaced in the lineup by Stefan Wisnewski. Jason Kelce is a quality starting center, however he did struggle last season, and the right guard will be manned by Brandon Brooks, who the Eagles brought in in free agency. The inside of the line should be solid, and if Peters can somehow stay healthy, the tackles might not be horrible. The real issue will be if Peter’s goes down and those who were once backups, Matt Tobin and Alan Barbre start in place. This would be a nightmare scenario for the Eagles.
The second thing you need is a stable of quality running backs, and whether the Eagles have this or not remains to be seen. Veteran Ryan Mathews is a top quality back when he’s healthy, the problem is he is often injured. Mathews is a running back with good speed and change of direction ability. He was easily the best back last season outperforming Demarco Murray. If Mathews (whom is out with a minor injury right now) returns to form and can stay mostly healthy, then he could be in for a big season. Behind Mathews is the fan favorite veteran Darren Sproles. Sproles is the reason Mathews has a chance to stay healthier, as they will be sharing carries. Sproles is a prolific punt and kick returner, and an explosive runner in the offense, but his size and age limit how many carries per game he will get. Behind those two are a couple of inexperienced backs who both have some talent, but to this point are unproven. Kenyon Barner is a solid back with good speed, and the ability to make a big play from anywhere on the field, but to this point his limitations have been ball security and pass blocking. He will have to improve on those if he is to make a positive impact on the Eagles Offense this season. Wendell Smallwood is a rookie out of West Virginia. He has missed most of the last week of camp with a lower leg injury. Smallwood is a back with plenty of talent, but again has no NFL experience, so no one really knows how he will perform during live action. If The Eagles hope to have success running the ball, it’s clear that they will need big contributions from both Mathews and Sproles
When you look at Doug Pederson’s history as an offensive coordinator in Kansas City, he used a stable of backs not unlike to the one you will find in Philly. He has his big #1 back in Jamaal Charles, who often gets hurt, and did last season. Pederson then turned to a stable of young unproven backs and had continued success running the ball. If he can do the same thing in Philadelphia then you should expect an effective run game with this offense.
The running game may not be among the strongest in the league. They don’t have an Adrian Peterson, they don’t even have a LeSean McCoy for that matter. But Ryan Mathews is a dangerous weapon, as is Darren Sproles, and both of the younger two backs have speed and explosiveness as well. Don’t sleep on this running game, it’s not quite dead just yet.