To no one’s surprise, the Philadelphia Eagles’ running game will consist of a running-back-by-committee approach for another season.
Doug Pederson essentially said as much during his press conference on Monday.
HOW WILL THE RUNNING BACKS BE USED?
“Well, I think number one, obviously, we’re not going to take five into the game. One of them will be [inactive], obviously. Maybe even two, depending on our needs for that particular week. And now that we get into these weeks, begin to game plan a little bit and get a little specific with guys by personnel, by play type, and really hone that in this week. So it starts on Wednesday. We begin our base game plan. And then we carry it on to Thursday, Friday, and get these guys going.”
HOW WILL YOU DECIDE WHICH RUNNING BACKS ARE ACTIVE? IS IT BASED ON THE GAME PLAN? OR MERIT?
“It’s game plan specific. We go into each game — and of course, injury, obviously plays a part into that as we get going. [It’s] by game plan and how we want to utilize our running backs. It’s week-to-week.”
IS LEGARRETTE BLOUNT THE FEATURED BACK AS FAR AS YOU WANT TO SPLIT CARRIES?
“Again, it goes back to the game plan, quite honestly. We understand that LeGarrette might be a little different runner even than [Darren] Sproles and Wendell [Smallwood]. So I think it’s game-plan specific. It’s hard to go into a game saying, ‘LeGarrette, you’re going to get X number of touches’ because you never know what the game’s gonna — what circumstances might be posed during the game. So it’s going to be a great effort by all three guys each and every week. Want to get all of them obviously involved in the game plan.”
IS IT BETTER TO HAVE A DOMINANT RUNNING BACK AS OPPOSED TO SPLITTING BY COMMITTEE?
“I think you can. You can have a runner that you kind of hang your hat on. And again, I don’t want to just sit here and say that, ‘Darren, you’re obviously a third down guy’ or ‘Wendell, you’re a first, second, and third down guy’ because we want to get all of these guys involved in the game plan. I think it’s important to what we do. If LeGarrette has the hot hand, he continues to carry the ball. If it’s Wendell, it’s Wendell. Again, I can’t sit here and tell you exactly how many touches these guys are going to get. But at the same time, that when we put game plans together, we’re very mindful of not only the run game but the pass game with these guys too.”
How the Eagles deploy their running games is one thing. How effective they’ll be is another.
Last year, Philadelphia ranked 11th in total rushing yards. The Eagles were only tied for 18th in yards per attempt, however.
Given the talent at the position, it’s hard to expect a major upgrade in 2017. The preseason didn’t do much to assuage concerns about the Eagles’ ground game. Blount, the team’s potential starter, ran the ball 13 times for a mere gain of 36 yards (2.8 average). Smallwood show some nice burst this summer. The problem is he’s had issues staying healthy. Sproles was a healthy scratch the entire preseason as the team planned to preserve him for when the real games start.
Then there’s the blocking. There’s an expectation that the Eagles will have one of the NFL’s better offensive lines in the league this year. That may turn out to be true, but there were some issues with that unit in the preseason. Pederson suggested the blocking would look better once the offense starts to game plan for their opponents, which is exactly what the Eagles will be doing as they prepare to play the Washington Redskins this Sunday.
Pederson claimed the Eagles’ carries will be split up by match-up, but he also noted the team is likely to stick with the hot hand. The feeling here is Blount will get a lot of work early in the season. If he struggles, the Eagles will start relying on Smallwood more often. Sproles should have his usual role no matter what.
As for Corey Clement and Donnel Pumphrey, we probably won’t see much of them this year, barring injury. If the Eagles keep four running backs active, Clement is likely to be the fourth guy due to his ability to contribute on special teams. Pumphrey told reports he expects to be inactive in Week 1.
Pumphrey said he was surprised he made team. Expects to be inactive against Washington #Eagles— Ed Kracz (@kracze) September 4, 2017
The Eagles’ running back rotation is fluid. It’ll be an interesting situation to monitor as the season goes along.
Who will lead the Eagles in rushing in 2017?
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