It seems like only yesterday that the Eagles were walking into a week three clash against the Steelers at home. A hot start was expected to come to a sudden halt against the Pittsburgh Defense, but as the Eagles always seem to do in trap games, they prevailed. One year later and the team enter a week three scenario where once again their backfield is being called into question…and once again their offense success depends upon whether that can establish a clear direction.
Darren Sproles led the Eagles in receiving with 128 yards in week three last year, while fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood carried the ball a stunning 17 times for 79 yards. A number that seems crazily high for an Offense that ran the ball as many times overall in week two.
The versatility of the Eagles backfield was called upon against the Steelers…and with good reason. The team dominated with screen passes and short looks out of the backfield while constantly changing pace with the likes of Barner and Smallwood…both of whom would go on to record their first NFL touchdowns that game. Wentz had more weapons at his disposal than he had previously and this helped give the Offense an unpredictable feel on each and every drive..contributing massively to their success.
In fact, out of the total 426 yards, 243 came from running backs. Even though the Eagles struggled to find momentum on the ground early on..they came out swinging in ways the Steelers weren’t expecting. It’s safe to say New York will be in the same boat on Sunday.
LeGarrette Blount’s lack of efficiency in week one saw him effectively benched against the Chiefs, while Darren Sproles saw the Lions share of carries, running the ball ten times for 48 yards. The backfield has simply been underwhelming and suffocating for Pederson and the offense. Despite throwing for a combined total of 85 passes in two games, Carson Wentz also leads the team in rushing yards…something which frankly should not be the case for any franchise, let alone one with an offensive line so highly regarded.
The screen game has also been nearly non existent. Turnovers, incompletions and fumbles have painted a terrifying picture of an offensive area that is so crucial to the West-Coast Offense…and it’s something Doug Pederson is aware of.
“Yeah, it’s a number of things.” Said the Eagles Head Coach. “First man out blocking the first thing he sees. The other day, I believe it was [Chiefs LB] Ramik [Wilson], split us, came underneath one of our guards and made one of the tackles. We tripped, our back actually tripped on a lineman and went down. So timing and execution are everything when it comes to the screen game, and you’re trying to take advantage of the pass rush obviously and/or a man situation. We’ve just got to continue to work it, got to get better at it. It’s a big part of our game, and I think when you put the ball in [RB] Darren’s [Sproles] hands or [RB] Wendell’s [Smallwood] hands on the perimeter, these guys can use their special teams ability, punt return, kickoff return, and we’ve got to have more success.”
If the Eagles are ever going to ignite the backfield both in the rushing and receiving game, it has to be against the Giants…just as one year ago it was against a team who had come off a scarily dominant game from Giovani Bernard, the Eagles are facing a Giants team who have given up an average of 133 rushing yards per game this season.
If the Birds can figure out how to effectively use Sproles, Blount, Smallwood and Clement, then they may just see their offense finally click into place for Carson Wentz.
Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports