How Eagles backfield could hold the keys to a Monday Night win

#BlackMonday is rapidly approaching and so might the long awaited breakout of the Philadelphia Eagles running game. It’s come close…scarily close, but has Chip Kelly finally completed his puzzle six games into the season? Well if he hasn’t, the team ranked third in the NFL when stopping the run looks set to take full advantage..but it may not necessarily be the run where the three headed monster becomes a game changer.

If the Eagles find a way to break through the Giants front seven early on just as they did against the Saints, then they will run rampant under the lights of Monday Night. But a failure to pick up yards early on could well see the running game rendered useless for the third week out of six..once again putting Bradford in a tricky scenario.

But why is this the case? Why can’t the Eagles backfield just have “an average” game? Well, for starters, listed below are all of the Giants opponents so far this season and the rushing yards allowed.

DAL 80 yards  
FAL  56 yards
WAS 88 yards
BUF 55 yards
SF  124 yards

The Giants have been prolific when stopping the run and we can expect much of the same on Monday night, especially when you look at the Eagles struggles. But like we analysed earlier in the week, that could all change now that Chip Kelly has worked out a way to effectively utilise the strengths of all three backs (article here).

But it’s against the pass where the Giants are weak, conceding 1521 yards through the air this season in just five games ranking them 32nd in the NFL. The team give up an average of 7.2 yards per attempt and 300 per’s a worrying sign.

So the immediate reaction is to think “but surely that makes the wide receivers the game changers?” but this is where the catch is. The Eagles have had a lot of drops this season, that’s a fact. The number is somewhere around seventeen, depending on how generous you are with the term “drop” but the point stands, Bradford’s targets have had difficulty in hauling the ball in, but how do they compare to the backfield?

Pass completion percentage  WR                            Pass completion percentage RB                          
Brent Celek 83%                                                           DeMarco Murray 90%
Jordan Matthews 75%                                               Ryan Mathews 72%
Josh Huff 72%                                                              Darren Sproles 64%  
Zach Ertz 57%
Riley Cooper 47%
Nelson Agholor 47%
Miles Austin 33%

DeMarco Murray has been the Eagles’ safest pair of hands this season so far with both Sproles and Mathews ranking above four Eagles receivers. Now notably, the passes are often different. For instance, a deep pass intended for Agholor that’s overthrown is unfair to compare against a 3 yard screen. But the next point is where things get interesting..

Jordan Matthews 45
Zach Ertz 26
Riley Cooper 17
Darren Sproles 25
Josh Huff 11
DeMarco Murray 20
Nelson Agholor 17
Miles Austin 12
Ryan Mathews 11
Brent Celek 6

The backfield accounts for a large percentage of passing attempts, but even more interestingly is that not only did Murray MISS A GAME..but STILL has been targeted more than the four receivers he is leading over in terms of a  better pass completion rate.

So what we have learned this far is that Sam Bradford likes to throw short and that the backfield has the potential to be a huge part of the passing game..but why is this so crucial against the Giants?

The team have allowed 8 passing touchdowns this season with a large percentage coming from within the targets for lateral passes like the one seen below.

But the main reason is that somehow, the Giants have been able to dictate the possession via Interceptions and turnovers..(we’re going to ignore Sammy B’s blunder against the Saints for now) so far and that’s something the Eagles physically cannot allow.

We saw in the Saints game what can happen if the Eagles are able to sustain drives, they score points. Luckily for the birds, the Giants have allowed the most third down conversions in the area in which until recently the Eagles themselves were struggling. But why did they succeed against the Saints? Because of the running game.

Sure the Giants may have an intimidating front seven and have been exceptional at making teams one dimensional..but the problem with Chip Kelly’s Offense is that there are more dimensions than there are in every Sci-Fi film combined. If you focus hard on eliminating the run through the trenches, (like we alluded to in our previous article) then it opens up the screen pass possibilities and of course the outside sweeps that the Eagles like to use.

If the Giants are able to dominate the Offensive Line all game long and eliminate those plays then there are always the wheel routes. In fact, it’s the Giants who are potentially at a disadvantage. Sam Bradford has thrown for 300 yards in his last game and aired out plenty of deep passes in his last two. The Giants have allowed 1500 passing on the year..this does not bode well.

So it’s almost as if they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they focus all the attention on stopping the run, then you have to pray that Sam Bradford doesn’t fire up his alien like accuracy in the second half and throw deep to guys like Josh Huff who will not only be covered by a weak secondary, but have proven that they can shake a tackle or two after the catch.

But then if you focus all the attention on stopping the deep pass…then slant routes, wheel routes, screen passes, trick plays, tosses & pitches all open up for the Eagles…and a lot of those plays are going to involve none other..than the three headed monster.

So why do the running backs hold the keys to a win on Monday night? One word, versatility. The Giants are great at stopping the run..but not every Offense is shaped like Chip Kelly’s and luckily for Chip, he promptly learned that Shotgun runs and DeMarco Murray mean negative yards…so the Eagles have changed things up.

The Giants struggle at defending the deep pass and they often fail when stopping third downs. Meaning that IF this Giants team comes out all guns blazing to stop the running game, the Eagles have three very elusive running backs that can block, start in the slot and run successful deep routes. They have dropped the least passes and perhaps most importantly..the most yards after the catch has been made.

What’s the worst nightmare for a struggling secondary? Receivers who can burn you out. Darren Sproles has 101 yards after making a catch and Murray has 106. This is a pair guys you do not want to see tearing down the sideline but who very well might come Monday Night.

There are a lot of key factors in this NFC East Rivalry showdown and the legion of zoom is present in almost all of them.