One of the most talked about topics surrounding this seasons’ Philadelphia Eagles has been the backfield. After rushing for 63 yards against the Falcons with Murray picking up 9 yards on 8 carries, the media was quick to write off the three headed monster and has been hot on its tail ever since. But here’s the problem. The Eagles backfield isn’t actually that bad..
Here are some basic rushing statistics from the season so far;
Rushing play %: 21st
Rushing touchdowns: T-9th (11th overall)
Yards per game: 22nd
Yards per attempt: 25th
Total yards: 23rd
Total attempts: 23rd
10+ yard rushes: 14th
Now here’s the fun part..here are those same stats from the end of last season;
Rushing play %: 12th
Rushing Touchdowns: T-5th (9th overall)
Rushing yards per game: 9th
Total yards: 9th
Yards per attempt: 15th
Total Attempts: 7th
10+ yard rushes: 10th
BUT..before we see the “What’s the point in this article, it’s obvious the backfield isn’t producing” comments, here are some interesting stats from the teams past three games…
Last three games:
Rushing first downs: 6th
Yards per attempt: 11th
Total rushing yards: 8th
Rushing yards %: 8th
Rushing attempts per game: 7th
…and here comes the eyebrow raise. The 2015 stats are only through five weeks so a lot can change before the end of the season…and the changes have already begun. After all, the 2014 rushing game wasn’t exactly lightning efficient all season. But the sheer difference in performance between overall and the last three weeks are astonishing.
The big thing to look at here is the DIRECT correlation between total attempts and the majority of the other stats. The Eagles know the run game isn’t working so they’re working around it and utilising the backs in other areas..areas where they are actually outshining their performances in 2014. They are only above nine teams in total rushing attempts so obviously the total yards etc are going to be lower. But strangely, the backfield still packs a punch.
There’s only a four position drop on rushes over 10 yards, why? Because when the running game gets going, it’s next to unstoppable when you have a committee of three drastically different styles of running back. It’s just until now, we have only seen flashes of what they can do.
The Eagles are also STILL ranked in the top 10 for rushing touchdowns which if anything is a dramatic improvement despite the rankings saying otherwise. The birds struggled incredibly when it came to scoring from inside the red-zone last year and this season we’re seeing the running backs actually dive into the end-zone from a 3rd & goal as opposed to a risky pass.
Over the last three games, the Offensive line has improved and DeMarco Murray has finally began to adapt his running style to the scheme as opposed to the Eagles adapting their scheme to DeMarco Murray. It took two weeks of being stuffed behind the line of scrimmage out of the shotgun and an injury for the team to realise that when everything is back to basics, the backfield can be one of the most efficient in the league, period.
The main reason that they are made to look bad is because of the storyline. Because LeSean McCoy left such a hole and there was such controversy when Chip signed Murray, the media are constantly putting the backfield under the microscope and anything less than amazing simply isn’t good enough.
On the flip side, there’s the pre-season hype. The Eagles ran rampant over four weeks of pre-season and the media perhaps set their expectations a little too high. But because big media outlets such as ESPN were finally paying attention to the Eagles and recognising them as legitimate contenders, fans began to believe in the hype..(we’re all guilty of it.) Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the dream start we all sat in our rooms envisioning..but progress is being made.
But until the Eagles have a “breakout” rushing game, nobody will give the running backs credit. This article hasn’t touched on receiving because quite frankly it doesn’t need too. Murray and Sproles have been two of the most efficient receivers on the Eagles roster which again shows that the backfield is actually doing okay.
Sure, things are bad and the problem is that the two bad weeks..were really bad. It’s going to take a lot statistically to catch up to the other teams because of it. But when you eliminate the opening two games..look how efficient the running game is. Look how many balls they’re catching and YAC they pick up. Look at how many first downs they’re creating and how many drives are being sustained because of it.
The main media outlets are refusing to report on the progress of the backfield..but we’re not the big dogs. We’re changing the game..and so are the Eagles. Don’t be so quick to brush the Eagles running game aside..because it might just spring a surprise or two on Monday night.