Despite a revamped Eagles backfield, history is repeating itself early in the season

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They say patience is a virtue. I understand there’s a lot of football left, granted its only week 2. The first two weeks have been tough to watch for Eagles fans because there’s no clear indication as to why they’re starting slow, but what if there is?

Let’s backtrack a bit. Back in 2017, the Eagles lost a tough game against the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 27-20. In that matchup, the Eagles ran the 17 times. Their rushing leader? Carson Wentz. Their starting running back? LeGarrette Blount. An interesting note about this game was that Blount didn’t have a single rush all game long. Something that frustrated Eagles fans but not the Eagles running back at the time. Blount stated that he wasn’t frustrated but instead took the high road and focused on the next game.

In the game that followed, Blount ended up with 12 carries in that game for 67 rushing yards and one touchdown. The Eagles running back group ended the game with 39 rushing attempts while Carson Wentz only through the ball 31 times. Pederson knew what he had to fix and did it accordingly.

Now lets fast forward one season ahead, it’s 2018 and the Eagles were coming off a 23-21 loss to the Vikings. After the game, Jay Ajayi voiced his frustration with Pederson’s play-calling when it came to the run game. Ajayi only had 8 carries for 29 yards in that game while the running backs as whole only rushed 17 times for a total of 81 yards.

Ajayi voiced his frustration by stating, “Obviously we want to be able to run the ball early and start that rhythm early in the beginning of the game,” Ajayi said afterward per ESPN.com. “If I remember correctly, we had maybe three carries at the end of the first quarter.”

He then followed up stating, “With the offensive line we have on this team, running the ball like that, that doesn’t make sense to me.”

In that game, the Eagles were down 17-3 at the half so you couldn’t really expect them to sit back and run all day long but Ajayi stated something that caught my attention. He confidently stated that behind this offensive line the Eagles should’ve been running more. Pederson should’ve trusted the run game at the time then as he needs to now.

Since 2016, the Eagles have had issues with balancing out the offense. For example, take a look at the Pass-Run ratio per Eagles legend Ron Jaworski:

2016: 59% pass, 41% run

2017: 56% pass, 44% run *(Super Bowl LII Champions)

2018: 62% pass, 38% run

2019: 64% pass, 36% run

Now as you can see in the present time, the Eagles are passing heavy but they’ve also been down at the half in BOTH games. Thus the reason, that the team is passing more instead of running. Who’s to say what Sunday night would’ve been like if Goedert, Jeffery, and Jackson were playing. Dallas Goedert especially, he’s a big part of the run game this season. Jaworski also dropped a #JawsStats about that as well, see for yourself below:

M. Sanders…

1TE, 3WR sets: 2.0 yd/rush

2TE, 2WR sets: 5.5 yd/rush

J. Howard…

1TE, 3WR: 4.0/rush

2TE, 2WR: 6.0/rush

D. Sproles…

1TE, 3WR: 4.0/rush

2TE, 2WR: 9.6/rush

The difference in yards per rush is pretty significant, so significant that it explains the impact of Goedert’s absence. Especially when the team went into Sunday night with only two tight ends on the active roster.

Heading into Detroit, the running game will be a huge key to not only starting fast but also in coming out of the game on top. All eyes will be on 2nd round pick, Miles Sanders, as it seems Doug Pederson is favoring the rookie to be their lead back. A move that many have not agreed on but one that makes sense for the long haul. He’s struggled so far in his first two-game, but nor his or Pederson’s confidence in his ability has been altered. On Monday, Pederson mentioned,

I’m really confident in Miles, I think the more opportunities he gets, he’ll get better. He missed some things, a young running back, missed a couple of the holes. A couple of the holding calls he tried to bounce outside, and we got a couple holding calls that are going to happen. There are some things that he can get better, but our confidence in him is really high, extremely high and we are going to continue to play him and get him the reps.”

Miles himself has kept his composure regardless of what’s going on, the rookie has no thought of panicking right now as he said,My confidence is high as could be,” Sanders said after Sunday’s loss. “I’m competing at a level I’ve always wanted to be in. I’m competing with guys that love this game. They bring that all out every single play. My confidence …nothing to worry about really. It’s a long season. Come back next week and get an opportunity.”

Pederson’s back is against the ropes right now with injuries piling up against him and the team struggling to produce early on but if there’s one thing that you can count on when it comes to the Eagles head coach is that he shows no quit or panic. While Pederson remains patient with his young back, he also needs to put more faith in the running game from here on out. The team can’t afford for Wentz to continue to sacrifice his body week in, week out. Detroit will be a huge test for Pederson. If history serves us right, in week 3, we may find out who the real Eagles are.

Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

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