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Replacing Shady: The 60 Million Dollar Backfield (Part 2)

This article is a free sample from the 2015 Eagles Almanac. Eagles Almanac 2015 is the fourth annual preview emagazine self-published by your favorite writers and bloggers, bringing more than 120 pages of ad-free analysis, interviews, essays, scouting, statistics and more. Purchase your copy available as a PDF download or a paperback copy. The Almanac is available for purchase at

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Part 1 of this series can be found here and the complete article is part of the 2015 Eagles Almanac. Let’s look at Ryan Mathews, a much different a runner from LeSean McCoy. Mathews is a physical, downhill runner who doesn’t do much dancing. He is very decisive on his cuts and hits the hole hard. He’s an excellent mix of size and speed and isn’t afraid to lower his head to get extra yards. For this piece I really want to focus on two areas that I believe really attracted Chip to both Mathews and Murray. They are both decisive and patient. Let’s start with a few highlights of Ryan Mathews.

The first play you will recognize as it highlights the inside zone run that is brilliantly executed by the Chargers OL. Check out the excellent combo blocks off the snap as Mathews gets a beautiful seam:



As you can see Mathews doesn’t hesitate and hits the hole hard for a nice gain:


The next play is a counter play where the left side of the line down-blocks to the right.  The called run is a counter play which has Mathews cutting back to the left side:


At the handoff, there doesn’t appear to be much room to run up the middle and the Colts safety (#26) is going to fill the D gap nicely:


Mathews shows good patience by not panicking to the outside. Instead, he makes a nice cut through the seam in the C gap for another nice gain:


Mathews most impressed me on the outside zone stretch plays where he exhibited patience and decisiveness to hit the hole once it formed. The image below shows the left side of the Chargers line giving up some push. The Dolphins safety in red has recognized the run and will fill the outside. On a look like this, there is little doubt in my mind that LeSean McCoy would freeze in the backfield and try to cut back to the other side of the field:


But check out the patience and trust Mathews shows on this run. He sticks his left foot in the ground as he sees a small crease forming:


He hits the hole hard and squeezes through the spacing and bursts through the hole for a huge gain:


One more example on an outside zone stretch play. Mathews will try to make the corner as it appears #89 is in a good position to block:


But he does not get a clean block and the Broncos defender is able to get outside leverage, preventing Mathews from getting to the outside:


Mathews sticks his left foot in the ground, shows excellent body control and makes a nice move in the open field to get down the sidelines for another explosive gain on an outside zone stretch play:


Stay tuned as we'll close out the series by taking a look at the 2014 NFL Rushing Champion, Demarco Murray and why he's also a great fit for Chip Kelly's scheme.

Ryan Sasaki is the author and owner of the ChipWagon blog with fellow contributors David Wieck and Bob Klein. Visit the blog for daily/weekly breakdowns at and follow him on twitter at @chipwagoneer

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