In the NFL in 2018 very few teams, if any, will rely on the run game as their primary means of moving the ball on offense. However, sticking with the run, whether you’re gaining yards or not, is important to keep the defense honest.
In 2017, the Eagles were successful with a trio of LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement. With the departure of Blount in free agency and Darren Sproles returning from injury, the Eagles once again look to have an effective trio of running backs.
In the Philadelphia Eagles 18-12 opening weekend victory over the Atlanta Falcons, head coach Doug Pederson stuck with the run to the tune of 26 carries to Nick Foles’ 34 passes. Lead back Ajayi led the way with 15 carries while Clement and Sproles each added five carries and Nelson Agholor carried one for 16 yards. Together, the trio of Ajayi, Clement and Sproles combined for 25 carries and 98 yards.
Ajayi accounted for 14 of the Eagles’ 18 points with two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
One of the most important runs of the game came with the Eagles trailing 12-10. The Eagles had a 3rd-and-2 on the Falcons’ 35 yard line – on the edge of field goal range. Clement, at the time, had three carries for just two yards. The Eagles were not afraid to call his number, though. By the time Clement received the handoff he had yards and yards of green ahead of him. Clement’s burst of 21 yards set the Eagles up in the redzone. Two plays later Ajayi was back in the game and ran the ball 11 yards for his second score of the game and an 18-12 lead that the Eagles would not surrender.
Earlier in the game-winning drive, Sproles came up big on a 3rd-and-8, catching a short pass and fighting through three tacklers to gain nine yards and a first down.
Combined, Eagles running backs accounted for 52 of the 54 yards gained on the game-winning drive. All three running backs touched the ball twice.
With the aid of the heat, the utilization of the running game late in the Eagles week one victory proved to be the key to success. While the Eagles running back trio looks slightly different from their 2017 trio, Ajayi, Clement and Sproles proved that they can hold their share of the load to maintain the balance between run and pass.
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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports