Eagles

Plenty of blame to go around for Eagles' rushing struggles

Plenty of blame to go around for Eagles' rushing struggles

Breaking news: The Eagles are not running the ball well. More specifically, they’re just not running the ball. Fifty-six called passes to 13 called runs vs. the Chiefs. The Week 1 ratio in Washington was 39 passes to 24 rushes. That excludes Carson Wentz's scrambles. That’s a grand total of 95 passes to 37 rushes. Even in the pass-happy league, the NFL has become, those numbers are an extreme.

So who’s to blame? There appear to be several branches to climb, so here goes.
 
Let’s start with the head coach. The three-headed monster of Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount had 13 carries for 52 yards combined. Blount did not have an official rushing attempt. Doug Pederson doesn’t seem to grasp that you don’t have to rip off giant chunks of yardage early in games to stay true to it. He didn’t need to look any further than the opposing sideline where his mentor, Andy Reid, stuck with his running attack even though it did not flourish through three quarters.

Big Red’s commitment to the run eventually wore the Eagles down. And the K.C. rushing attack took the considerable heat off of Alex Smith, who was under serious fire from the Birds' defensive front.
      
Could it be the offensive line, which was billed as one of the better units in the league going into the season?  Isaac Seumalo has been a turnstile through two games. And really, the entire group has underperformed in both run and pass protection. Wentz was sacked six times and hit 10 more against the Chiefs. That’s eight total sacks through Weeks 1 and 2. As young and big and strong and agile as he is, Wentz will not make it through the season at this rate.

Hey kids, who’s ready for Nick Foles 2.0? Woo-hoo.

Door No. 3 leads us to the talent pool of the backfield, which is a direct reflection of the Eagles' front office. Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas and crew chose to go to battle with this group. There was immediate help in the draft. Dalvin Cook went to the Vikings two spots ahead of the Birds in the second round of the draft. The Eagles went with a long-term investment of the injured Sidney Jones instead of trading up. They understandably passed on Joe Mixon and his baggage. He was taken five picks later by the Bengals. Kareem Hunt, remember him? He was also an option. He lasted into the third round and was selected by the Chiefs. Hunt has 355 total yards and five touchdowns through two weeks.

All of the above appear to be better options than what the Eagles came away with. They took a 5-foot-8, 176-pound halfback in Donnell Pumphrey in the fourth round with the 132nd overall pick. After an awful camp and preseason, Pumphrey is now on injured reserve with a torn hamstring. So they’re left with the short-yardage specialist, Blount, the unproven Smallwood and the always productive, but age-challenged, Sproles. Clearly, Pederson has little confidence in Blount and Smallwood, and Sproles' touches need to be rationed if you want him to be fresh later in the season. Maybe undrafted free agent Corey Clement is the answer, but who knows at this early juncture?

Perhaps we could check every blame box here. Regardless of where the fault lies, the running game needs to improve and improve quickly. To expect a 50-50 ratio is foolish. Ezekiel Elliott’s is not running through that tunnel. But some semblance of balance is not too much to ask. It will eliminate their predictability and help keep your franchise quarterback upright. There are a lot of positives with this team. And there’s no shame in a 1-1 record after two tough road games, one in the division.

But if the hope is playoffs, the Eagles must get better on the ground.   

Jay Gruden 'very upset' Eagles were able to land Carson Wentz

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Jay Gruden 'very upset' Eagles were able to land Carson Wentz

Washington head coach Jay Gruden has faced Carson Wentz just three times so far.

That's all he needed to think Wentz is special.  

"I think he's progressed at a rate as fast as anybody I've seen really," Gruden said on a conference call with Philly reporters on Thursday. "His ability to make plays in the pocket, his ability to stay in the pocket in the face of a rush and still deliver balls accurately, his command of the offense. 

"I think he's already proven this short in his career that he's one of the top quarterbacks in the league, quite frankly, and he's going to be for a long time. And I don't know how he got to Philadelphia. And I'm very upset about that." 

Wentz is 1-2 against Washington in his first three games, but that first win came in this season's opener on the road. In that game, Wentz completed 66 percent of his passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and one pick, for a passer rating of 96.8. 

And Wentz has gotten even better since then. He's now the favorite in Vegas to win the NFL MVP. 

When asked how daunting it might become to face Wentz twice per season for the foreseeable future, Gruden pointed out that it's similar to the Cowboys and Dak Prescott. Then he pointed out they still have to face Eli Manning twice per season. 

"Every week it seems like we're playing against an excellent quarterback and knowing that Wentz is going to be there for a long period of time just puts a few more gray hairs on my head," Gruden said. "But love the competition and it's our job to get after him and make him uncomfortable." 

While Wentz is clearly the Eagles' quarterback of the future, things are a little cloudier in Washington, where Kirk Cousins is in his second year of playing on a franchise tag. 

Gruden said the "intent" is to have Cousins for the long-term, but it's already been a long saga and there's still no deal in place. 

Cousins has had a crazy career path. He began as Robert Griffin III's backup after being taken three rounds later in the same draft in 2012. But he won the starting job and he's started every game for Washington the last three seasons. 

Thursday, on a conference call with Philly reporters, Cousins said he thought there was a good chance the Eagles were going to draft him in 2012. He felt that way after meeting with Howie Roseman and Andy Reid before the draft. But instead, the Eagles took Nick Foles 14 spots ahead of him. 

After watching the Eagles rotate quarterback since then, Cousins doesn't have any hard feelings. 

"I think the Eagles have ended up with the guy that they want," Cousins said. "I think they're really excited about Carson Wentz and for good reason. They're one of the best teams in the league on third down, and some of the plays he's making off-schedule are very special. I think they're very content and I'd like to think the Redskins are as well. Hopefully, it can make for a great rivalry that a lot of fans can get behind and get excited about, hopefully, for many years ahead."

Doug Pederson responds to Chris Thompson's comments about Eagles fans

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Doug Pederson responds to Chris Thompson's comments about Eagles fans

Redskins running back Chris Thompson doesn't want to bring his family to the Linc Monday night because he's afraid of what Eagles fans will do.

Doug Pederson hopes Thompson changes his mind.

"Philly fans are some of the meanest fans I've ever experienced," Thompson told ESPN radio's Washington affiliate, ESPN 980, on Wednesday, according to a story in the Washington Post.

"I heard that's the one stadium you keep your family from going to. My family will be (up from Florida) this week, and they were like, 'I want to come to the Philly game.' I said, 'Absolutely not, you're going to have to wait until Dallas comes around. … I was told that right away my rookie year: Keep your family away."

Pederson said he loves Eagles fans and the energy and passion they bring but also said he hopes Thompson or any opposing player feels comfortable bringing his family to the Linc.  

"I just know that playing at home is a great advantage for us," Pederson said before practice Thursday. "Our fans are great, they're energetic, I love playing at the Linc. 

"You know, I hope every family can watch their sons play. I think it's important that they're there and have a chance to watch their siblings play, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents.

"Right now in the league, every stadium is great for the home team and ours is no different. We're just excited now to finally be getting a stretch of games where we can play for the home fans."

Thompson, a fifth-year running back out of Florida State, has played at the Linc twice, in 2015 and 2016, both Redskins wins.

The Eagles, 5-1, host the 3-2 Redskins in a national TV game Monday night at the Linc. The Eagles are 8-2 at home under Pederson, including a 2-0 mark this year, although they're only 4-6 at home against the Redskins over the last 10 years.