Which free-agent RB connected to the Eagles is the best fit?

Adam Caplan reported on Inside the Birds a few days ago that the Eagles are interested in bringing in former Texans running back Carlos Hyde. Mike Garafolo confirmed this report but also added that the team is also looking at former Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and former Bills/Chiefs/Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy is the Eagles all-time leading rusher, but of course, you knew that.

There are pros and cons to each move, I’m sure you can list off the cons pretty easily for each. Hyde has a bad knee and offers little in the passing attack. Freeman seems to be injured A LOT. McCoy is about to be 32 in July and is two years removed from a productive season.

However, each running back can be an asset in a limited role with the Eagles. We’ve (ok, I’ve) been so obsessed with finding a “wrecking ball” to complement Sanders and Scott. A running back who can burst through the tackles after Sanders and Scott exhaust the defense on the outside.

But what if we have that wrecking ball already?

Miles Sanders the Sledgehammer?

There were so many arguments prior to the draft as to why the Eagles should draft a running back capable of going up the middle after being slashed to death by Sanders and Scott on the edges.

But what if Sanders is the North/South guy and the Eagles need to find a guy to join Scott to be the edge setters to Sanders’ middle game?

To be completely honest, Sanders can really do it all. Take a look at his yards per carry in the “seven zones”:

Left End Left Tackle Left Guard Middle Right Guard Right Tackle Right End
5.68 2.83 6.4 6.54 4.92 3.31 3.09

So there are really three areas where Sanders needs work: off both tackles, and off to the right end. His struggles going that far to the right is understood to an extent, as he was often lined up next to Wentz’s left while in shotgun.

But that 6.54 YPC up the middle and 6.4 off the left guard is something. Take a look at his first run up the middle of the season in the first game versus the Redskins:

Of course, the play call helped, getting Goedert and Peters to double up the left while Seumalo and Kelce sealed up the right to create a highway for Sanders to run through, but a 19 yard gain is a 19 yard gain.

Here he is on the opposite side of Wentz, allowing Kelce and Brooks to create another highway for him. There were some bumps in the road, but Sanders navigated nicely for a 12 yard gain:

Finally, we take a look at the second Dallas game. Here he is churning some yards to set himself up for a TD two plays later:

Little tidbit: Sanders rushed 10 times up the middle against Dallas last season and averaged 6.4 YPC.

So with his prowess up the middle, were we searching for the wrong type of back all along?

Earth, Wind, and Fire revival?

When I was heavily touting A.J. Dillon as the next great Eagles running back to compliment Miles Sanders, I would often reference the Giants trio of Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Derrick Ward. That trio was called Earth, Wind, and Fire due to their complementary, dynamic skill sets.

I thought Dillon would be the Eagles’ version of Jacobs, while Sanders was Ward, and Scott was Bradshaw. Just look at how dominant that Giants trio was:

  Left End Left Tackle Left Guard Middle Right Guard Right Tackle Right End
Jacobs 7.2 6.12 5.33 4.56 4 2.95 4.71
Bradshaw 8.56 13.38 4.17 3.14 3.27 5.33 2.35
Ward 8.06 4.22 6.08 6.51 5.46 4.88 4.48

Wherever one player was deficient, another player or two made it up. They were completely dominant on the left side of the line, similar to what the Eagles did in 2019:

Eagles 2019 YPC 5.2 3.8 4.9 5.3 3.6 3.6 3.1

When I looked at Sanders numbers, and compared them to what Scott did in 2019:

Scott – 2019 5.2 4.38 2.83 4.13 3 4.17 3.89

I was so sure that Sanders was the “fire” in that trio, with Scott being the “wind”, and Dillon, or another big-bodied back, being the “earth”. But what if the well-rounded Miles Sanders is the well-rounded “Earth”? Yes, the Earth is round Kyrie. What if Scott is the “Fire” that lights up the defense? What if the “Wind” is a player that excels on the outside and is adept at moving East-West like the wind? I’m really good at analogies, aren’t I?

The Homecoming?

If you put Sanders and Scott side by side and see where they complement each other, you’ll see one glaring hole:

  Left End Left Tackle Left Guard Middle Right Guard Right Tackle Right End
Sanders 5.68 2.83 6.4 6.54 4.92 3.31 3.09
Scott 5.2 4.38 2.83 4.13 3 4.17 3.89

The right end of the running game still needs some work. That could be contributed to Peters not being able to lug his body over there on pulls, but it still should be addressed.

Now we’re finally back to the three names linked to the Eagles this week: Hyde, Freeman, and McCoy. Again, all three have their pros and cons, but let’s take a look at their YPC in each “zone” in 2019:

Hyde 4.57 3.64 5.94 3.88 4.5 4.26 4.31
Freeman 2.58 4.17 2.1 4.44 3.8 4.19 3.44
McCoy 5.89 4.73 2.38 3.62 5 6.78 4.38

Hyde had over 1,000 yards rushing, Freeman played sparingly in 14 games, while McCoy also contributed in limited snaps in 13 games.

If we’re looking at someone to complement the two dynamic backs, we should look at someone who helps their deficiencies. If you remember from the previous grid of Sanders and Scott, if not then scroll up for a minute, then you remember that the right edge showed a significant drop in production. Both Hyde and McCoy fill that void.

With Sanders and Scott being so adept at going up the middle, it would make sense to add someone who is adept at the outside runs, right? The East-West runner.

As you can see, McCoy still was able to bounce it outside in a limited amount of playing time. If he were to sign, he would have to understand that this is Sanders’ backfield. If McCoy understands that he’s there to complement and to mentor, then this move is a no brainer.

Here are the three together:

  Left End Left Tackle Left Guard Middle Right Guard Right Tackle Right End
Sanders 5.68 2.83 6.4 6.54 4.92 3.31 3.09
Scott 5.2 4.38 2.83 4.13 3 4.17 3.89
McCoy 5.89 4.73 2.38 3.62 5 6.78 4.38

As you can see, just like the Giants trio, where there’s a drop off in production, there’s at least one player who picks it up. McCoy would be the perfect (re)addition to the backfield. It also doesn’t hurt that his former offensive coordinator is back with the team in an advisory role. While with the Eagles, Marty Mornhenwig helped Shady gain 3,866 yards. McCoy would go on to gain 2,926 in the two years without him. Marty also was the offensive coordinator for the number one rushing offense in 2019. No brainer.

Welcome home Shady.

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