We’re just hours away from the Eagles pre-season encounter with Buffalo. While there is a heavy focus on the secondary and the battles within, it’s Doug Pederson’s Offense that will need to take center stage. It may only be pre-season, but a less than stellar showing against Green Bay left a lot to be desired and that wasn’t lost on the Eagles coaching staff.
In the days that followed a 24-9 defeat to Green Bay, the Eagles players endured their longest practice of camp so far, as well as some laps for the offense.
Carson Wentz and the entire offense is running laps from sideline to sideline. #Eagles
— Matt Lombardo (@MattLombardoNFL) August 14, 2017
While Doug Pederson cited that this was due to minimal action from the starters during the game, you wouldn’t be hard pressed to imagine that the coaching staff were trying to iron out some kinks. The Eagles fumbled five times last Thursday night, losing the ball twice. An early touchdown from Mack Hollins opened the Eagles scoring, but a failed 2-point conversion would only be followed by 3 more points from the offense, leaving the Eagles with 9 points by the end of the game.
The problems went far beyond ball security however. The Eagles rushed the ball 19 times for a disappointing 47-yards. Frank Reich accredited this to the continuous blitz looks shown by the Packers, but again that was the least of their problems. The Eagles converted a lonely 6 of 17 third-down attempts and only two of those were converted on the ground. In comparison to the 54 passing attempts made by Eagles quarterbacks, it’s clear that there was still plenty to work on.
“There are things that you normally would do to attack that personnel-wise, game-plan-wise that quite honestly that we didn’t want to do or show once it got into it, but, yeah, we want to be balanced.” Frank Reich told the media. “We want to be balanced in the preseason. We want to be balanced in the regular season. But at the end of the day, each game is its own unit. Sometimes you’re going to have to throw it 60 times. I’d like us to have a couple games where we run for over 200 yards and throw it for 150. I’m hoping we have a few of those. So, yeah, I’d like us to run the ball better than we did last week.”
It’s balancing the offense that very much holds the key to the Eagles offensive success. With the starters still seeing minimal action, chances for those vying for roster spots to show their worth are plentiful. In a backfield deep in both talent and versatility, there is a lot to be decided when it comes to the rotation…and the only way we will ever find those answers is through balancing the offense.
“I feel good about our running game.” Reich went on to say. “Last year we were fifth in the NFL in run efficiency. You guys have probably heard me say that before. It’s hard to totally evaluate until it’s live all the time. You saw in the couple live practices that we’ve had out here, our running game looks better on days that it’s been live in training camp because you’ve got to bring the back to the ground and we’ve got some good runners. We didn’t run it very well against Green Bay, but I’m very confident that we will run the ball well this year.”
From pony packages involving Donnel Pumphrey and Darren Sproles, to the potential battle between Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood, the backfield poses plenty of questions. Last week saw the Eagles give Clement the reins to the backfield, but with next to no help from the offensive line, he and the rest of the backs saw the fire extinguished.
With Smallwood now back and fully healthy, Clement may not lead the unit in rushing attempts tonight. But if the Eagles do balance the offense and begin to expand on the countless possibilities lying within the backfield, then not only does it give the Birds that missing dimension they crave in a regular season scenario, but it paints a far more accurate picture as to who can thrive and who may struggle to survive in the Eagles new rushing rotation.
Again, it may only be a pre-season game, but with so many questions in the backfield and beyond, expect a balanced effort from the Eagles tonight…and one that may begin to crystalize some of the spots in the rotation as the season opener draws nearer.
Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports