Losing the heart and should of a team is never easy to overcome. Carson Wentz has been extraordinary this season and his NFL leading 33 touchdowns have pushed the Eagles deep into #1 seed territory. The Birds now have to finish what Wentz started without the second overall pick from last year’s draft, instead handing the keys over to Nick Foles. Foles is a competent backup, but the Eagles can go a long way in giving him a helping hand.
This may sound too simple, but all the Birds need to do is establish the run early and often. It’s worked all season long and there is no reason why that plan should stop now. The Eagles rank second in rushing offense this year, despite being without Darren Sproles. Averaging 149 yards per game, the Birds have been unstoppable on the ground thanks to their new ‘punch in the mouth’ mentality. But over the last few weeks, things have gotten rocky.
An offense that has scored on eight of their opening possessions heading into the game against Seattle has failed to do so in each of their last two games. Of course, both situations were different, but one remained the same. The Eagles rode LeGarrette Blount in the early stages of the game with little success. By the time Jay Ajayi was given snaps, it was too little, too late.
LeGarrette Blount has enjoyed a brilliant season so far, rushing for 696 yards and barreling his way to two touchdowns. But over the last two games, the veteran has rushed for a combined total of 38 yards on 15 attempts, averaging a measly 2.5 yards per carry. He averaged just 1.7 yards per carry against the Seahawks and his longest effort went for 4 yards. Something simply isn’t clicking and when you look at the numbers from Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement, that much is clear.
For comparative purposes, Ajayi has 113 yards on 24 carries during that same window, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt. Since joining with the Eagles, he hasn’t had a longest effort go for less than ten-yards. Now obviously, the playbook argument can be made. But Ajayi is running like a man possessed. With anger in his eyes after every run, Ajayi is becoming a monster in the Eagles backfield and one they will need to rely on as the postseason draws closer.
Inside the red zone and on third down is where Blount has been at his most effective, and there is no reason why that should change. But on those long-yardage plays where the Eagles need to establish the run and take the pressure off of Nick Foles, that role should fall on the shoulders of the former Miami Dolphin.
LeGarrette Blount has been the bell-cow back that the Eagles craved this season, but now the roles need to change. There is no elite quarterback to turn a 3rd and 8 into a 20-yard gain, or second-year standout who can pull the Birds back out of negative plays. If Nick Foles is going to stand a chance at running this offense in the same vein as Carson Wentz, the Eagles have to figure out the run-game early and rely on Jay Ajayi, not LeGarrette Blount.
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Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports