Eagles

Eagles Film Review: Exploring the good and bad of run game vs. Chiefs

Eagles Film Review: Exploring the good and bad of run game vs. Chiefs

LeGarrette Blount didn't get a single carry and the Eagles had just 13 designed runs to 56 called passes in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. 

So much for balance. 

After the game, head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles needed to fix their running game and repeated himself on Monday. 

"We've got to focus on the run game and we've got to get the run game fixed," he said. 

But as CSNPhilly's Reuben Frank pointed out in his column that same day, there wasn't really anything wrong with the run game other than the fact that the Eagles didn't run the ball (see story)

Darren Sproles had a good game, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. And while two of Wendell Smallwood's runs went for negative yards, he did have a nice eight-yarder in the second half. 

Is there still work to be done in the run game? Absolutely. 

But when asked about the team's rushing attack on Tuesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich took a much different stance than Pederson. 

"There was some good things in the run game," Reich said. "We had a few nice runs. Darren's Darren. I mean, Darren made some plays and the offensive line did a good job at times. So, yeah, there were some good flashes."

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past two days, you're probably already sick of the word "balance." Should Pederson have run the ball more? Should Blount have gotten at least a few carries? Will Pederson ever actually commit to the run? You're probably sick of it. 

So we're not going to keep rehashing it. Instead, we'll look at a few run plays from Sunday — good and bad — to get a sense of where the run game is ... you know, when the Eagles actually do run the ball. 

If you wanted some proof that the Eagles at least put some thought into their run game heading into Kansas City, it came pretty early. Check out how the Eagles were lined up on their second offensive play from scrimmage. 

You'll notice that Jason Peters and Lane Johnson are both lined up to the left side of the line of scrimmage. Here was the line from right to left: Zach Ertz, Brandon Brooks, Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo, Johnson, Peters. Carson Wentz is in the shotgun, with Sproles to his right. 

"It was just a little change-up that you throw in there," Reich said. "Typically, you have a couple play packages off there. It was something we saw that we thought we could specifically use to attack their defensive front and their scheme."

Here you'll see each of the offensive linemen's assignments as Sproles is ready to take the handoff and run behind the powerful left side. While the difference in this formation was at left tackle, Kelce is the key. He'll need to get in front on the linebacker. 

The hole is starting to open up and Sproles sees it. Still, if Kelce can't hold his block (circled), it won't matter. 

Not only does Kelce hold his block, but he finishes it too. He ends up driving his man completely out of the play and throws him to the ground. Sproles goes off for a 12-yard gain on 1st-and-10. It was the biggest gain of a designed run on the day. 

Give credit to Pederson for running this next one. Just three plays after that first run, the Eagles are faced with a 2nd-and-13 and Pederson dials up a run to Sproles that picks up six yards and puts them in a manageable third down (that they'll convert). 

Nothing fancy. Peters does a good job in front of holding down his man for just long enough for Sproles to get to the corner and pick up a nice gain. Also, give Kelce credit for getting out and blocking safety Daniel Sorensen. We all seem to notice when Kelce gets blown up at the line of scrimmage, but getting out front on these types of blocks is what he does best. 

The Eagles' next drive is where they start to find some trouble in the run game. Two of their three runs on their second drive of the game went for negative yards and Pederson called just seven run plays after this drive. Perhaps the failure on this sequence drove him away from the ground game for the rest of the afternoon. 

This is a rare time the Eagles actually run the ball from under center. It doesn't work. 

At the handoff point, this play seems doomed. The left A gap is clogged by veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson but it's supposed to be a counter play. Lane Johnson (circled) is left blocking no one, while Brent Celek ends up with two guys. 

Celek takes out the linebacker, but that leaves Allen Bailey all alone with Smallwood, who doesn't have enough time or space to get around him. Meanwhile, Johnson is still blocking air, which very well could have been a miscommunication or a missed assignment. Either way, something didn't go right on this one. 

A few plays later, the Eagles are facing a 2nd-and-15. Like they did earlier in the game, the Eagles are going to use the run to try and set up a more manageable third down. This time, it doesn't work. 

It's a somewhat similar play to the one that picked up six on 2nd-and-long in the first quarter, but this time the Eagles use the bigger side of the field instead of going short field to the right. 

The problem here is that Peters has trouble holding his block on Pro Bowler Justin Houston, who is an underrated run-stuffer because of his pass-rush ability. If Peters is able to keep Houston outside, Seumalo is nailing his assignment and Sproles has a huge hole inside.  

Sproles realizes that Peters has been beaten but it's too late. He tries to bounce it outside but is dropped for a three-yard loss. Peters looked pretty frustrated after this play. 

Instead of setting up a manageable third down, the Eagles end up with a 3rd-and-18. They can't convert. 

After that second-quarter series when the Eagles had two negative plays, they didn't run the ball much, but they didn't completely abandon it either. This play came with 5:41 left in the third. 

Seumalo pulls on the play and does a nice job to get just enough of his man to create a hole (circled). And Trey Burton is fast to the hole, acting almost like a lead blocker. 

From there, Smallwood shows his burst to gain eight yards. Sproles carried the ball on the next play for a gain of three to pick up a first down. It was the only time all game the Eagles ran the ball back-to-back times.

So, no. The Eagles' run game wasn't great on Sunday against the Chiefs. There are still a lot of things to fix. 

But it wasn't that bad either. So while Pederson kept talking about fixing the run game, Reich had it right; there is plenty good about the run game right now. The Eagles just have to stick with it. Even though, if we're being honest, they probably won't. 

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

With a 5-1 record, the Eagles sit all alone atop the division and conference standings, and are tied for the best mark in the NFL. Their quarterback was recently given the best odds of winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award. So, yes, right now, a trip to the Super Bowl seems to be very much on the table for this squad.

But take it from LeGarrette Blount, somebody who’s won a couple of world championships — the Eagles can’t afford to get caught up in the hysteria right now.

“We could lose 10 in a row,” Blount said Tuesday. “We could go 6-10, so we don't want to jump the gun, jump to conclusions. We want to make sure we take it week by week, day by day, keep a level head and make sure we're going to be ready for whoever the next opponent is.”

Blount is one of only five Eagles players with a Super Bowl ring, and the only member of the roster who owns multiple. The veteran running back won two of the last three years with the New England Patriots organization, which has been a perennial championship contender for the better part of the last two decades.

In other words, Blount knows better than anybody inside the Eagles’ locker room exactly what it takes to not only reach the big game and come away victorious, but also how to sustain that success.

“You have to stay grounded,” Blount. “You have to stay humble and make sure that all the guys that are in the building are on the same page. The coaches, the staff, everybody is on the same page, ignoring the noise, not worrying about what other teams are doing, what other teams' records are – just worrying about ourselves and locked into us.”

Easier said than done given the week the Eagles just had.

After going to Carolina and upending a tough Panthers squad on Thursday night, the Eagles watched as massive blows were being dealt to some of their stiffest competition over the weekend. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on Sunday, potentially crippling one of the NFC’s elites for the remainder of the season. And Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is awaiting word on the status of a six-game suspension that could seriously hamper the division rival.

But the noise can also be Eagles fans and their exponentially rising expectations, or a media that’s quick to point out any tiny flaw and raise controversy.

Blount has experienced the latter firsthand. Two weeks into the 2017 campaign, he finished a game without a carry — an Eagles’ loss — and was averaging 3.0 yards per carry going back to the preseason. The constant questions coming from reporters about his role easily could have become a distraction.

In the four weeks since, Blount has 344 yards on 56 carries for a 6.1 average. He never allowed the noise to get to him, instead becoming a big reason behind the ongoing four-game winning streak.

“We know what we've been doing to get to this point,” Blount said. “We know what it takes, so we just have to buy in to continue to do that, and continue to do every that it takes to continue winning games.

“A big part of it is just making sure you ignore the noise, don't listen to the outsiders, everything that is in house stays in house, and that you make sure and know that everybody that you see on TV isn't in your corner. Sometimes that can discourage the younger guys. Every now and then you'll hear them say, 'Oh, did you hear them say this,' or, 'Did you hear them say that? Or, 'Did you see this,' or 'Did you see that?'

“The big part is making sure that everybody ignores that stuff.”

Blount has been through extraordinary highs and lows in his football career and learned to maintain an even keel. But Eagles leadership has also done a tremendous job insulating players from the kinds of rumblings that have a tendency to create discord and cause entire seasons to come off the rails.

For evidence, look no further than rumors that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was trying to undermine head coach Doug Pederson — and how quickly such talk dissipated.

“The veteran groups have a lot to do with it,” Blount said. “I also think the coaches have a lot to do with it — keeping the guys grounded, keeping the guys to where we have to continue to come here and work if we want to continue the success.

“Most of the young guys, all of them have bought into the program, and everybody's locked in and knows their role and what they want to do.”

While Blount wouldn’t go so far as to draw parallels between the ways the Eagles and the Patriots handle distractions, it’s clear he’s been able to quickly establish a bond with his new teammates and coaches since signing in May.

“Every team is different,” Blount said. “I can't compare this team to the New England teams, or any other team. We have a really close-knit team. We believe in each other. Everybody loves each other and we have each other’s backs.”

As far as Blount’s performance on the field is concerned, the best may be still to come. He’s finished with at least 12 carries in each of the last four games, and looked explosive and elusive while doing it. And with extra rest between a Thursday night game in Carolina and this Monday’s contest at home against Washington, the bruising runner said he’s feeling refreshed.

Most of all, it sounds as though Blount is in a great frame of mind and feeling comfortable with all of his surroundings. And if you’re looking for a great read on the Eagles’ situation through six games, just listen to the guy who’s come to expect confetti and parades in February.

Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

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Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

NEW YORK -- Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott has been granted another legal reprieve in the running back's fight to avoid a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking the league's suspension Tuesday night, clearing Elliott to play Sunday at San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty's ruling comes five days after a federal appeals court overturned a Texas court's injunction that had kept Elliott on the field this season.

Crotty granted the request for a temporary restraining order pending a hearing before the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Fialla.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, was barred from the team's facility Tuesday as players returned from their off week. The NFL placed him on the suspended list Friday, a day after the ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The Eagles visit Dallas in Week 11 on Sunday night, Nov. 19. They host the Cowboys in Week 17 on New Year’s Eve.