Eagles

# Why on Earth did Doug Pederson quit running? Roob can't figure it out

The most disturbing thing isn't that Doug Pederson stopped running the football.

The most disturbing thing is why.

Pederson said he abandoned the run simply because the Eagles weren't running the ball well.

"Obviously, I was not pleased with how we ran the ball," he said after the Eagles lost Sunday, 27-20, to the Chiefs in a game in which he called 56 pass plays and 13 running plays — the ratio was 38 to five in the second half.

"It's an area that we have to fix."

With 20 hours to reflect, Pederson didn't change his stance:

"We've got to get the run game fixed," Pederson said at his Monday presser.

But in reality, the Eagles didn't run the football that badly.

At all.

And I for the life of me can't figure out why Pederson believes they did.

How on Earth can you conclude that the running game needs fixing when your backs averaged a respectable 4.0 yards per carry, got just 13 carries in the game and just seven in the last 41½ minutes and your presumed starting running back never touched the ball and the only guy who got more than three carries averaged 4.8 yards a pop?

Math. Facts.

Let's take a look at the Eagles' 11 drives with a list of how many running plays and pass plays (passes, sacks and Carson Wentz scrambles) they ran and exactly how many yards the backs got on those running plays:

1) 3 run, 7 pass → 12, 6, 3
2) 3 run, 4 pass → -2, 2, -3
3) 1 run, 6 pass → 6
4) 1 run, 1 pass → 11
5) 1 run, 5 pass → 3
6) 2 run, 5 pass → 8, 3
7) 1 run, 9 pass → 5
8) 1 run, 3 pass →-2
9) 0 run, 3 pass
10) 0 run, 13 pass
11) 0 run, 1 pass

A few things stand out in this breakdown.

• First of all, after the second drive, Pederson called only seven running plays on the Eagles' last nine drives. Throw out the last two drives because the Eagles trailed by 14 points and then had a Hail Mary, and you still have a ratio of 13 runs and 43 passes while this was still a one-possession game.

• But other than the second drive of the game, when three runs produced minus-three yards, the running game was effective. On the first drive, three runs netted 21 yards. The next five drives contained just six running plays, but they netted 36 yards — that's 6.0 yards per carry. So with the game tied at 13-all with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles' running backs were averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

The Eagles' final running play of the game was a two-yard loss by Wendell Smallwood with 10 minutes left in the game, and that dropped their average to 4.0, but it was only Smallwood's third carry of the game. Certainly not enough to evaluate him on.

• Sproles finished with a 4.8 average, which is anything but "struggling," which was Pederson's word. So was Pederson's conclusion that the Eagles were "obviously" having trouble running the ball based on Smallwood's four yards on three carries? One of those three was an eight-yard gain, so is he basing that obvious conclusion on two carries 34 minutes apart by a backup back who had just three carries in the game?

• Pederson said Monday one of the main reasons he abandoned the run against the Chiefs was because the Eagles kept finding themselves in 3rd-and-long situations.

Here's his quote:

"You put yourself in a 2nd-and-12 or a 2nd-and-13, and it's hard. Now you're going uphill, and yesterday we had seven 3rd-and-10-pluses and another five 3rd-and-7s and that's unacceptable. We can't be in that many long-yardage situations in these football games, so we've got to focus on the run game."

Wrong.

Those 2nd-and-longs weren't because of the run game! The Eagles actually averaged more yards per play on first down when they ran than when they threw!

Their 26 passing first downs averaged 4.8 yards per play, and their eight first-down runs averaged 5.0 yards per play.

More pointedly, 12 of those 26 first-down passes resulted in a gain of zero yards or a loss of yardage. That's 46 percent. Only two of the eight first-down runs netted zero or fewer yards — that's 25 percent. And both were runs by the third-string back.

Where were the struggles? The backs averaged 5.0 yards per carry on first down (40 yards on eight runs), so that wasn't the problem. So what was it?

It was imaginary. It did not exist. It was a figment of Pederson's mind.

The only issue was Pederson once again struggling to stick with a running game that was operating at a functional level.

And I don't even know how you evaluate a running game when your last nine series include only seven running plays. How do you make any kind of determination about what's working and what's not working when over the last 40½ minutes of the game, Sproles had just five carries and Smallwood had two?

And if your issue is that Sproles can't handle much more than 10 carries, well then … there are other backs on the roster. But we never saw Blount and we never saw Corey Clement.

It doesn't make sense. It doesn't add up.

Maybe the Eagles' running game really is in need of an overhaul. I certainly agree that this isn't the most dynamic group of backs ever assembled. But you can't determine that from Sunday's paltry sample size.

Why do I keep harping on this?

Because when you don't run the ball, defenses tee off on the quarterback. We saw it Sunday at Arrowhead.

Wentz was sacked a career-high six times, four times in the second half, when the running game wasn't a factor, and he absorbed a number of vicious hits as well.

And here's the really alarming thing.

Players know. They openly questioned Pederson in the locker room after the game.

Lane Johnson: "In order to win games in this league, you have to able to run the ball."

Zach Ertz: "You can't be throwing the ball 40 times in a game."

Brandon Brooks: "I wish we would have ran the ball more. But we didn’t."

Their front four is thunderous. The secondary has played as well as you could hope with a bunch of kids and a bunch of injuries. Wentz looks more and more each week like a budding star. Ertz is off to a great start. Alshon Jeffery is starting to look like a stud. Special teams are as good as anybody's and always will be under Dave Fipp. And this team always plays hard for Pederson.

This could be a playoff team. This should be a playoff team. But it won't be unless Pederson gets all of this figured out.

USA Today Images

# More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

The Eagles have given veteran defensive end Chris Long a raise, but according to one report, Long is concerned enough about his playing time with the Eagles that he's mulling his options regarding his future.

What is certain is that at some point before March 15, Long signed a new contract with the Eagles that increases his 2018 base salary from \$1 million non-guaranteed to \$2½ million fully guaranteed.

However, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported Monday that Long may decide he doesn't want to accept the new contract — which he already signed.

According to Silver, Long is concerned about how many snaps he would get as a third-down rusher following the addition of Pro Bowl pass rusher Michael Bennett.

The Eagles officially acquired Bennett on March 14, although the deal was reported a week earlier. Long's new contract was filed with the NFLPA on March 15, but there is a good chance he agreed to it and signed it before the Bennett acquisition.

Whether or not Long knew Bennett was coming to the Eagles when he signed the restructured deal is unknown. But at some point Long knew about their interest in Bennett and even gave Bennett a "glowing recommendation" when the Eagles asked, according to an interview Long gave to SBNation.

Long wouldn't appear to have many options. He could retire, in which case he would have to return the \$500,000 bonus he received from the Eagles last week.

He could request a trade, which would be bizarre for someone who signed a contract extension just a few days earlier.

Or he could simply play under the terms of the contract restructure and pay increase, which was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia with a source familiar with the renegotiation.

As for the contract itself, including that \$500,000 roster bonus — which was also in the previous version of the contract — Long would receive \$3 million guaranteed this year instead of \$1.5 million non-guaranteed plus \$750,000 in easily achieved roster bonuses.

Long had five sacks and forced four fumbles last year as a rotational defensive end. He wound up playing 496 snaps, 10th-most on the defense and only about 10 per game fewer than starter and Pro Bowler Brandon Graham and five per game fewer than starter Vinny Curry, who the Eagles released.

Long, who turns 33 next week, has 63½ career sacks. His 5.0 sacks last year were his most since 2013. He's won back-to-back Super Bowls the last two years with the Eagles and Patriots.

What happens next?

Long has demonstrated that the money is secondary to him. He donated his entire 2017 base salary to charity.

At some point very soon, the Eagles will need him to decide whether he's even going to have a 2018 base salary.

AP Images

# Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

A day after we found out that Brian Dawkins picked Troy Vincent to introduce him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, Terrell Owens has picked his presenter.

No surprise: It's not Donovan McNabb.

After alienating many people in the league throughout his tremendous career, Owens picked a name from his early days. Longtime NFL assistant coach George Stewart, who was Owens' receivers coach in San Francisco, will introduce T.O. at the 2018 induction.

In a video released by the Hall of Fame, Owens said Stewart "knew what to get out of me."

Now special teams coordinator and assistant head coach for the Chargers, Stewart has been an NFL coach for three decades. He began his time in San Francisco in 1996 (Owens' rookie season) as a special teams coach but was their wide receivers coach from 2000-02.

"Things that George Stewart may say, it may be shocking to a lot of people, but not to him because he knows who I am," Owens said. "... To know who Terrell Owens is, you really have to spend some time with him. Fast forward, George Stewart became a father figure to me."

The first season Stewart became the 49ers' receivers coach, Owens went to his first of six Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro for the first of five times in his career. Owens was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in all three of the seasons that Stewart held the position in San Francisco.

Of course, Owens' growth under Stewart led to his becoming one of the biggest stars in the NFL.

Eventually, Owens forced his way out of San Francisco and got to Philadelphia. With the Eagles, Owens had a short and tumultuous two seasons, but was also dynamic on the field and nearly helped them pull off a Super Bowl win over the Patriots.

Owens averaged 93.5 receiving yards per game during his time in Philadelphia, the highest average in franchise history. It wasn't his play that led to his downfall in Philly. It was his beef with McNabb, along with his attempt to strong-arm the Eagles into a new contract.

Owens was a divisive personality for his entire career. It's likely the reason it took him three tries to make it into the Hall of Fame. Because his numbers don't lie: He's one of the best receivers of all time.