If you’re like me, then you may have a mild heart attack followed by a fully blown nervous break down due to the play of the Eagles offense in the first half. One thing really stuck out like a sore thumb though and that was Darren Sproles emerging as the lead back. It was baffling to most, but not Doug Pederson.
“Well, some of it was by design, some of the plays that were effective.” Pederson said after the game. “As you know, when we construct games, we have multiple run schemes and they are designed for different guys. The ones that were kind of clicking today were the Darren ones, and so just kept calling his number there. Those other two guys I thought ran well, also. Unfortunate we get the late holding call late in the game there on that one, but Miles is explosive, as you know. Jordan ran extremely hard. So excited for all three of those guys.”
Running back seems to be the position that haunts Coach Pederson the most, Maybe it’s trust issues. I mean back in 2016, Ryan Mathews did fumble to set up a game winning field goal for the Detroit Lions. Pederson also completely lost his running back group last season as they all faltered due to injuries. I get it, it’s been rough but times have changed as has the backfield.
This offseason the Eagles front office went out and drafted Miles Sanders from Penn State after acquiring Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears. Darren Sproles didn’t make his return to the team until August and wasn’t expected to be as involved as he was on Sunday. Sproles finished the game with 9 rushing attempts for 47 yards with majority of his runs coming in the first half of the game.
“It’s great to have him out there.” Carson Wentz said following the win. “I love that guy and how hard he works for us. Situationally, from third downs, to punts, he’s a leader on this football team. It was great to have him back out there.”
While he was pretty efficient, it left fans scratching their heads as to when they would see Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders. Jordan Howard showed flashes of what he can do with this offensive live when the opportunity was present. Howard rushed 6 times for 44 yards while averaging 7.3 yards per carry. His patience in waiting for the holes to open up showed why the Eagles went out to get a player of his caliber. He was as great as advertised when it came to the short yardage plays and fighting for the extra yards. There should be no argument here when I say Howard definitely should’ve been the lead back against the Redskins.
Then there’s rookie RB Miles Sanders. All of Philadelphia has been waiting to see him since the moment he was drafted. Everyone knows just how much the Eagles value Sanders right now, even Duce Staley has been caught saying that he’s the “real deal”. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Sanders flourish in his first pro game. Yes, he had 11 rushing attempts for 25 yards which was terrible but it seemed the play calling may have worked against him as well.
Expectations are running high for Sanders, even from the top of the organization. Howie Roseman shared his thoughts on Sanders by saying, “Miles has a chance to really contribute to this football team this year,” the executive vice president/general manager of the Eagles said. “He has a great combination of feet and power. I think that one of the things that maybe it’s hard to realize until you see Miles in pads is how much power he plays with. He’s not afraid of lowering his shoulder, and really, he has some thump to him, and so he’s a guy that’s going to get an opportunity to play here and contribute right away, and I think that’s exciting.”
Outside of the rushing touchdown by Sanders that was called back due to a holding penalty on JJ Arcega-Whiteside, majority of the run plays called for Sanders were blown up by the defensive line. It seemed as if every time the rookie was getting the handoff, there was d-linemen there waiting for him. Could be a situation that Pederson needs to fix as the season progresses. The play designs seemed more fitting for a back like Sproles while the plays designed for Sproles seemed more fitting for a back like Sanders, confusing I know.
All in all, if Pederson really wants to win then his commitment to the run has to be consistent. Just like on the first drive of the second half, the Eagles need to replicate that formula with the intention of sticking to it. They also can’t heavily rely on Sproles as they did in this game. Yes, Darren Sproles is the ageless wonder and one of the greatest all around players of all time but you can’t afford for him to break down again as he did the previous two seasons. Howard and Sanders should be more than enough to carry this offense. Heading into week 2, look for Doug Pederson to focus on establishing the run game early on with either Jordan Howard or Miles Sanders.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports