Eagles

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.