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Replacing Shady: The 60 Million Dollar Backfield (Part 3)

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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 http://www.eaglesalmanac.com/

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Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Let’s finish this piece with the 2014 NFL Rushing Champion, Demarco Murray. Like Mathews, Murray is a very different runner than LeSean McCoy. He’s a decisive, one cut runner with excellent vision who isn’t afraid to put his head down and get physical. That running style, like Mathews’, seems to suit the scheme that the Eagles run. Here we will highlight how Murray performs in similar run concepts to what the Eagles run.

Starting with the inside zone, the image below nicely depicts the blocking assignments for the Cowboys offensive line:

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They get a nice combo block up the middle from the RT through to the LG:

Below you can see that Murray has 4 potential paths that he can take:

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Murray chooses to the take the shortest one, right up the gut but #99 of the Redskins holds ground on a Tyron Smith block and Murray bounces off them:

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Murray does a great job staying on his feet and runs through a couple more arm tackles and into the end zone for a TD. This highlights one of Murray’s strengths. He doesn’t hesitate much in the backfield, keeps his feet moving puts his head down and on this play, and ends up getting 9 yards after the initial contact:

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Here’s another nice example of Murray’s patience. Again you see some nice combo blocks up front:

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As you can see, Murray doesn’t have many lanes to run through.

He will show nice patience and trust in his blockers. The Bears defender highlighted in red is filling a gap. Instead of rushing the play he remains patient waiting for #70 to peel off his block.

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And Murray is rewarded with that patience as a nice hole emerges:

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Moving along, let’s have a look at the Cowboys sweep play which has some slight variations to the Eagles sweep. The Cowboys OL will all block to the right and Murray jab steps to the right at the snap. The two offensive guards will pull to the opposite side of the field:

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The Bears linebackers do a nice job reading this play and initially are in good position to attack the outside edge where this play is designed to go. However they overreact a little too much as Murray plants his left foot into the ground:

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And cuts back into a wide open lane for an explosive run:

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The final play we will highlight is one of the Cowboys best. It’s the outside zone stretch play which once again is a variation on the outside zone the Eagles like to run. Most notably, the Cowboys like to use a fullback. The blocking assignments are highlighted below, the Cowboys execute 2 nice combo blocks on the left side and the force defender is left for the fullback:

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Murrays runs inside the fullback block and looks to be in trouble as safety Ryan Clark has come up quickly in run support and is in a nice position to make a play. Murray looks dead in the water:

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But he cuts back in a very narrow space and makes a nifty move to break free for yet another explosive running play:

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Before ending this article I would be foolish not to mention a couple major caveats to this piece. One point is that McCoy has proven to be remarkably durable throughout his Eagles career. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Demarco Murray and Ryan Mathews who have collectively missed 31 games in their 9 combined seasons. Two, Murray, while coming off career highs in virtually every category, took a staggering 497 touches to do it. History has not been kind to running back coming off seasons with that kind of workload. Time will tell whether this bold series of moves by GM and Head Coach Chip Kelly was wise or foolhardy, but based strictly on the film it certainly passes the eye test.

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 http://chipwagon.typepad.com and follow him on twitter at @chipwagoneer