Can the Eagles undo the Saints rampant run defense once again?

NFL: OCT 18 Ravens at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 18: Philadelphia Eagles Running Back Miles Sanders (26) carries the ball in the first half during the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles on October 18, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles have been a dominant force on the ground for the last several weeks. Ever since Nick Sirianni committed to the run game, it seems as if the team has finally found its identity. On the season, the team is averaging 144.5 rushing yards per game, but they’ve surpassed the 200-yard mark twice in the last five games. During that span, they’re averaging 172.6 rushing yards per game. So what happens when they meet their match on Sunday against the Saints?

The Saints have been a stout run defense for quite some time now. Their run defense has been a bright spot for the team this season. The Saints lead the league in rush defense, allowing a lowly 72.8 rushing yards per game this season and only 3.1 yards per carry. They’ve only allowed one team to gain over 100 rushing yards against them this season and that was the Washington Football Team.

An interesting stat that I came across was that the Saints’ run defense has allowed only one opponent to gain over 200 rushing yards against them in the last 93 games. That same opponent also broke a streak that the Saints held for not allowing a 100-yard rusher in 55 games. Have any idea who that opponent was?

I’ll give you a hint. Not only did they allow one 100-yard rusher in that game but they actually allowed TWO 100-yard rushers! Still, have no idea? I get it, it’s unfamiliar because Jalen Hurts was wearing the number 2 and not 1 last season. Oh man, I spoiled the surprise. Well, the Saints lost to the Eagles last December to a score of 24-21 as Jalen Hurts rushed for 106 rushing yards and Miles Sanders went for 115 rushing yards.

An Eagles encore?

The Eagles have been without Miles Sanders for the last three weeks but have been able to do more than just enough on the ground. Boston Scott and Jordan Howard have spearheaded the attack against opposing defense in a very efficient way. The team has averaged 209 rushing yards for the last three weeks behind a resurgent offensive line.

A lost thought about the recent turnaround has been Nick Sirianni’s ability to adjust his offense to their current strengths. Jalen Hurts has been a bigger threat with his legs than his arm but that’s not a knock on Hurts at all. Allowing Jalen to be a game manager over the last few games has helped his development and he’s shown significant strides.

Add a dash of Lightning

The Eagles have relied heavily on the strength of Jordan Howard and the speed of Boston Scott as of late but the return of Miles Sanders could help break open this running game. Sanders has been a great mixture of both speed and strength early on this season before he went down with his ankle injury.

The one concern for Sanders was his inability to hit the right holes but you have to assume that he’s been able to see the game from a different angle for the last three games. Seeing Scott break open through the right gaps will be key for Miles Sanders. Both have a unique ability to fly in the open field so the question will be, what kind of running lanes will Miles Sanders see against this stout defense? How creative can Sirianni get with the blocking?

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Boston Scott and Jordan Howard have ran the ball equally thus far while Kenny Gainwell has taken a back seat to the rotation for some reason. With Miles Sanders coming back you have to wonder how the carries will be split. Nick Sirianni mentioned that once Sanders returns he will be the unquestioned starting running back.

This could mean that we see Miles take on about 12-15 carries per game but I’m sure the Eagles will ease him into it against the strong Saints run defense. So I’d expect about 8-10 carries against them with the offense leaning on the rotation more than just Miles.

Jordan Howard shouldn’t miss a beat at all. He’s experiencing a career resurgence right now and the Eagles can’t just toss him to the side. He’ll definitely receive between 8-10 carries per game going forward as long as Miles is healthy. Scott could be the one that sees a dip in usage going forward but I wouldn’t count him out completely.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire