Is it too late for the Eagles to fix their running back situation?

After a demoralizing loss to the Cowboys Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles hold a 4-5 record, good for third place in the laughably weak NFC East. The Eagles defense made Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot seem like Steve McNair and Eddie George in their primes, letting Zeke run wild and allowing Dak’s second-highest passing total of the season.

While the Cowboys offense was firing on all cylinders, the Eagles struggled to produce points. The lack of commitment to a running game can be a scapegoat. Ever since the loss of Jay Ajayi for the season to a torn ACL, the Eagles running backs have struggled to find a successful formula. Pederson has been reluctant to run the ball, and on Sunday night, the Eagles threw 44 times, while amassing only 16 rushing attempts. Not utilizing the running backs early in the game in order to find a rhythm led to more pressure being put on Carson Wentz’s shoulders.

It’s not hard to see why the Eagles struggled running the ball against the Cowboys. With star right tackle Lane Johnson out with a knee injury, the Cowboys defensive ends were able to create quick penetration and get into the backfield. This led to the Eagles mustering a measly 71 rushing yards against Dallas. Not surprisingly, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood have also been disappointing as of late. Clement has not been the same change of pace back since his quad injury, and Smallwood only had two rushing opportunities the entire game. The lone bright spot for the Eagles running attack has been Josh Adams. The Notre Dame product put up 47 yards on a limited 7 rushing attempts. The 6’2, 225 pound bruising back has caught the eye of co-offensive coordinator Mike Groh who stated,

“Yeah, we’re seeing good things from Josh, and he continues to warrant consideration for more playing time. I think that having missed the spring and most of training camp, he’s really just starting to play his best ball. I think you’ll see Josh moving forward.”

Adams is the ideal back to thrive in the Eagles offense. Against the Cowboys, one of the Eagles biggest issues was allowing penetration on key situations. On a 4th down and 1, Adams got stuffed quickly on a run to the right tackle because Vaitai could not get his hands on the edge rusher.

Groh addressed this play stating,

“We allowed some penetration. We’ve got to shut that penetration down on the edge. You know, they got an edge on us and forced – they penetrated and they stopped the run. They made a good play on it.”

With the possible return of Lane Johnson versus the Saints, Adams will have an established star to run behind. Eliminating quick penetration starts with good offensive line play, and will allow Josh Adams to thrive. Using Josh Adams to run between the tackles early in games has the potential to solve another problem plaguing the Eagles: starting slow. Each week, Pederson seemingly emphasizes the concept of starting fast to the media, but the only way to do this is to establish the run game early on. The Eagles have not been able to convert key third downs in the first quarter, and leave the defense on the field early on in the game, tiring them out for key situations later on. By feeding Adams and gaining steady yardage, the Eagles will be able to devise a winning game plan versus the Saints. Adams can serve as the first and second down back, and Clement or Smallwood can come in on the obvious passing downs.

Josh Adams ability to use his monstrous frame to work downhill will enable the Eagles to open up their offense entirely. Instead of Carson Wentz having to continually place the ball in tight windows because the opposing defense does not respect the run, Adams will be able to provide the spark the Eagles desperately need. Doug Pederson knows that he must stay committed to the run saying,

I do feel like [Josh Adams] can touch the ball a few more times.”

Traveling to New Orleans to play the red-hot Saints is no easy task. With the help of Adams, the Eagles might have the opportunity to control the game early and finally have a breakout scoring performance.

 

Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

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