The Philadelphia Eagles have relied on a heavy dose of screen passes dating back to the Andy Reid days. Guys like Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, and LeSean McCoy served as dual-threat weapons out of the backfield.
It was a lethal part of the offense, something that made game-planning for the Eagles such an impossible chore for opposing coordinators. And, with no disrespect to Miles Sanders, it’s been the missing ingredient for them since Darren Sproles retired. Sanders struggled mightily in the passing game due to unsure hands and concentration drops.
Fast forward to 2023 and there is a buzz around the backfield again. Hometown hero D’Andre Swift has flashed an electrifying ability to rack up receptions and make people miss in space over his first three NFL seasons. He has averaged 52 catches for 399 yards since 2020, with 7 receiving touchdowns. The screen game could be back in full force.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler cited sources saying how the Eagles are “really excited” about the addition of Swift to the offense. He said: “This is a player who could get you 50-plus catches in a year. The Eagles did not have a player with more than 23 catches a year ago so expect some designed easier throws out of the backfield for Jalen Hurts.”
Lack of Production Out of Sanders: Three-Down Back
Miles Sanders seemed to infer the Eagles weren’t using him properly when he told Carolina reporters that he was “looking forward to getting back into that three-down type back role.” It was an interesting choice of words that could be taken as a shot at Nick Sirianni. Sanders hauled in 50 passes for 509 yards in his rookie year (under Doug Pederson), then averaged just 24.6 receptions for 144.3 yards per year after 2019 (two of those years were under Sirianni).
You see, Sirianni had upped his touches on the ground while limiting his usage in the passing game. Why? He most likely didn’t trust Sanders to protect the football considering his well-publicized fumbling problem. He coughed it up seven times in his first three seasons, then dropped it only twice in 2022 before earning a Pro Bowl nod. Sirianni acknowledged turnovers had been an issue in previous seasons while crediting Sanders for improving his blocking in pass-protection situations.
“He’s been really good this year as far as taking care of the football,” Sirianni told reporters on December 5. “He’s been really good this year of picking up pressures. He’s been really good this year of seeing the pressures and identifying it and everything. So those are things that — some of those things are not even about the yards.”
Looking back at the great Eagles running backs of yesteryear, there was a serious emphasis on getting them the ball: Duce Staley averaged 39.2 catches per year; LeSean McCoy averaged 50 catches per year; and Brian Westbrook averaged 53.2 catches per year. All three players were difference-makers in all three phases: rushing, receiving, and blocking.
Eagles were not the only team interested in D’Andre Swift
The Eagles made a splash on Day 2 of the NFL draft when they traded for D’Andre Swift in a move that kind of fell into their laps. It was a win-win for everyone, including the Detroit Lions after they selected Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round and inked David Montgomery in free agency. The writing was clearly on the wall for Swift.
And, apparently, there were other suitors for Swift’s services. ESPN recently reported that the Miami Dolphins “inquired” about Swift on draft night after the Lions took Gibbs. Obviously, those trade talks didn’t get enough traction, so Miami used a third-round pick on running back Devon Achane from Texas A&M. What-if’s and almost’s seem to be trending right now.
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