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What if the Eagles had run the ball all year?

The offense would be unrealistically absurd

NFL: Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In their last seven games the Eagles have run the hell out of the ball, becoming the first team since the 1985 Bears to have at least 175 rushing yards in seven straight games.

That it has been 36 years since anyone has put up those numbers for less than half a season shows that it is next to impossible to keep that up for a whole year. But just for fun, what if they had? How absurd would the Eagles offense look if they had played the way they have over the past seven games over the full 14 games?

The short answer is that it would be ridiculous.

Offensive yardage

The Eagles have run for 1,501 yards over their last seven games. If they had that pace all year they would have 3,002 yards over the 14 games so far (#math). How good is that? The 2019 Ravens set the 16 game record with 3,296. The Eagles would need just 295 yards in their next two games to set the unofficial 16 game record, and the same amount in three to set the official 17 game record. At the rate they are going at, they’d have it at halftime in Week 17. But since they went several games early in the season being afraid of running the ball, they’ll have to settle for passing the 2,500 yard mark.

Overall, they would be 5th in total yards because they’d be dead last in passing yards. 30 teams throw the ball more than 30 times a game, in an alternate universe where the Eagles are throwing 23 times a game (they have averaged 22.8 attempts in the last seven games), they’d still have one of the top offenses in yardage. That shouldn’t happen, but it has for two months.

Scoring offense

It gets even better when it comes to points.

The Eagles have scored 205 points during their last seven games, so we’re looking at 410 points. This would put them 2nd in the league in scoring, and just five points behind the Buccaneers.

Jalen Hurts

Being better on offense by having your QB throw the ball fewer times is neither conducive to winning games long term in the NFL nor what the Eagles want to be. But for 2021, it is what they have to work with.

Hurt’s pitiful performance against the Giants killed his first half/second half splits, but he also had 32 drop backs, his sixth most of the season.

This is admittedly moving the goalposts, but if we split Hurts’ season into high and low drop back buckets, he has 6 games of 30+ drop backs, and 7 of fewer than 30. In the higher usage games Hurts has been inefficient in all areas, in the lower usage games he’s still struggling but at least produces bigger plays. Any improvement is improvement.

Jalen Hurts rankings by workload

Higher Lower
Higher Lower
Attempts 6th 28th
Yards 10th 27th
Comp% 28th 28th
Rating 26th 23rd
Y/A 23rd 6th
AY/A 24th 9th

28th in attempts but 6th in yards per attempt is closing in on academy offense levels of absurdity. But that’s about all the improvement that’s been made. Still, it’s better than nothing.

Hurts’ decreased usage as a passer has seen an increase in his usage as a runner, but not by much. In his high usage passing games Hurts has averaged 9 rushes a game, in his seven low usage games he has averaged 10.8 rushes. His yards per attempt is basically the same, 5.7 in higher workload games, 5.5 in lesser workload games.

Dallas Goedert

Jalen Hurts was struggling to get tight ends the ball early in the season, but asking him to pass less hasn’t hurt Goedert. He’s actually been more efficient.

Certainly no longer splitting time with Zach Ertz helps the counting stats, but Goedert’s yards per catch has gone up from 14.4 to 15.6 since the Ertz trade. Over the past 7 games Goedert has averaged 4.3 receptions and 63.6 yards per game. Back to back 100+ yard games help, but he’s also had a 6 catch, 72 yard game and a 5 catch 62 yard game. Give him his seven game rate over 14 games and he’d have 60 receptions for 890 yards, which would be 5th and 3rd among TEs.

DeVonta Smith

Smith has been both hurt and helped by the run heavy offense. In his first seven games Smith had 32 receptions for 406 yards for an average of 12.7 a game, and just 1 TD. In the last seven, he’s had just 21 receptions but for 336 yards for an average of 16.0, and has 3 TDs. He’s gotten the ball less, but he’s been very efficient. 16 yards a catch over the full season would have him 10th in yards per reception. Among the top 10 players in yards per catch, his 42 receptions would be 6th, and his 6 TDs would be 2nd. That’s a trade off the Eagles can easily live with.

If you’re not going to throw the ball a lot, you have to throw the ball more efficiently to make up for it, and with Goedert and Smith, they are.

Miles Sanders

Of course running the ball also helps your running backs look good.

During the Eagles first seven games Sanders averaged 9 rushing attempts, in his four games since returning he’s averaging 16.8 attempts. Those four games prorate to 1,432 yards over 14 games. Suddenly Jonathan Taylor’s dominant season doesn’t seem quite so dominant. Taylor has 1,518 yards, 424 more than second placed Joe Mixon, here he’d only have an 86 yard lead. If we assumed he still misses three games, which for a running back isn’t out of the question, he would have 1,125 yards, which still puts him in 2nd place.

Basically doubling a running back’s workload will greatly increase his production. What’s worrying is that that Sanders has yet to score a TD of any kind this year.

Defense

After spending half the season having the Eagles looking like the worst of Chip Kelly, Nick Sirianni has pulled, or was allowed to pull, a 180. It has led to a ball control offense that puts up points and a defense that looks respectable. The defense is certainly helped by being on the field less, the Eagles are now up to 20th in time of possession.

In their first 7 games the Eagles defense was giving up 360.7 yards per game. In their last seven, just 298. Over 14 games the former would be 22nd in yards, the latter 3rd. In scoring the Eagles would move from 27th to 4th.

Let’s not get carried away

Of course improvement of this magnitude over a whole season would be ridiculous. The Eagles over the past seven games may have scored at a rate that would equal the second best scoring team, but they are clearly not the second best offense. Nor do they have a top five defense.

But it does show that yes, the Eagles would have been better if they had committed to what was obvious to everyone else: this team is best suited to be a run heavy offense, and it benefits the whole team. Better late than never.