The Carson Wentz era officially begins this Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Cleveland Browns. The perception of the Eagles rolling with Wentz has garnered a negative outlook.
Many believe the Eagles are “punting” the season away moving on from former quarterback, Sam Bradford, but that could prove not to be the case. If the Eagles want to succeed with Wentz, the team’s rushing attack will have to step up in a big way in 2016.
The Eagles lackluster and inconsistent running game last year under former head coach, Chip Kelly, was incredibly frustrating. The Eagles finished 14th in the NFL in rushing, which isn’t bad, but isn’t spectacular either. Bradford, however, had a 7-1 record when the team rushed for over 100 yards in a game. Could Wentz provide the same results? Honestly expecting that isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, but he is a rookie quarterback. The situations are different, but Pederson and company could provide the same results.
Last season as the Chiefs offensive coordinator, Pederson helped manage the 9th ranked rushing attack in the NFL. Being in the top 10 for rushing is impressive, especially considering Chiefs star running back, Jamaal Charles, was lost for the season after his week five ACL tear. What’s even more impressive is how successful inexperienced running backs, Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, were to the team’s rushing attack.
The Chiefs were known to be a run heavy team and that didn’t lighten up after Charles’ season-ending injury. They finished ranked 30th in the NFL in team passing. That didn’t hinder their 10 game win streak, including a playoff win in the wildcard round versus the Houston Texans.
This further proves how pivotal the rushing attack could be to the Eagles overall potential in 2016. Pederson knows just how important it was to his previous offense and that shouldn’t change his philosophy now, especially with a rookie quarterback at the helm.
The Eagles, as many know, have two experienced and Pro-Bowl caliber running backs on the roster in Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. They also have the inexperience of Kenjon Barner and rookie Wendell Smallwood. The team’s rushing attack won’t be an individual effort by any means. This group will each be utilized in multiple and different ways. They’ll be heavily relied upon to ease Wentz’s workload and lead the offense this upcoming season.
The main concern for the rushing attack is Mathews’ durability issues. He’s only played one full season heading into his seventh season and is going to be the Eagles’ lead back in 2016. Given Doug’s previous success with inexperienced running backs, Barner, and Smallwood should be prepared to step up when called upon.
Taking a look at some notable rookie quarterbacks, who lead their respected teams to the postseason, you start to see a pattern here as well.
The Washington Redskins won the NFC east in 2012 under rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, and their rushing attack led the way. The Redskins led the NFL in rushing headlined by rookie running back, Alfred Morris, and Griffin.
The Baltimore Ravens were led by rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco, in 2008 and found themselves in the AFC Championship game. Their rushing attack led the way for the team’s offense finishing the fourth best in the NFL.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were led by rookie quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, in 2004 winning the AFC North and finishing the season in the AFC championship game. Their rushing attack again led the offense as they were ranked the second best in the NFL.
The pattern is simple to see. If the Eagles want to force their way into the playoffs in 2016, with Wentz as their starting quarterback, the rushing attack will have to lead the offense in that direction. The team’s four running backs will have to step up immensely this season. We’re only five days away from seeing what they can do.