Eagles

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

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."

There's a lot to like about this Eagles team. 

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.

NFL Notes: Ezekiel Elliott reportedly getting an emergency hearing

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NFL Notes: Ezekiel Elliott reportedly getting an emergency hearing

A person with direct knowledge of the situation says attorneys for Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott are set for an emergency hearing in federal court in New York as they try again to stop the running back's six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

Elliott's legal team filed a request for a temporary restraining order Monday and will get a hearing Tuesday in the Southern District of New York, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the filing hadn't been made public.

Last year's NFL rushing leader is suspended for Sunday's game at San Francisco after a federal appeals court overturned an injunction that had allowed him to play this season.

The case is shifting to New York because the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ordered the dismissal of Elliott's lawsuit in Texas. Elliott's attorneys have indicated they are still pursuing the case with the New Orleans court.

The person told the AP that U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty would hear arguments Tuesday in New York because the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Fialla, is out of town (see full story).

Packers: Rodgers to have surgery on collarbone
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy says quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have surgery on his broken right collarbone, and that his season could be over.

McCarthy said Monday that the two-time NFL MVP would have surgery in the near future. He says that there is no timeline for his potential return.

"The key is to get Aaron healthy, it's not to develop a timeline," McCarthy said.

Rodgers got hurt in the first quarter of the 23-10 loss on Sunday at Minnesota.

Brett Hundley is now the starting quarterback. The Packers also promoted third-stringer Joe Callahan from the practice squad to become the backup quarterback.

Cornerback Quinten Rollins was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury to make room for Callahan (see full story).

Steelers: Bryant downplays reported trade demand
PITTSBURGH -- Yes, Martavis Bryant wants a trade.

To the Golden State Warriors.

Otherwise, the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver insists he's just fine even after multiple reports that he asked the team to ship him elsewhere.

Asked Monday if he'd like a change of scenery, Bryant reiterated he's happy in Pittsburgh.

"I'm doing fine, everything is good," he said.

Even if -- at least statistically -- in his return from a year-plus suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy has been underwhelming.

Bryant caught two passes for 27 yards in Sunday's 19-13 victory over Kansas City and has just 17 receptions and one touchdown through six games for the first-place Steelers (4-2). His 13.6 yards per catch is more than 4 yards below his career average while splitting playing time with rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster (see full story).

Raiders: Linebacker Bowman signs 1-year deal
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- NaVorro Bowman will make a short move following his release last week from the San Francisco 49ers, signing a $3 million, one-year contract with the Oakland Raiders on Monday.

"It's a refresher for me," Bowman said after taking part in a walkthrough with his new team. "It's a new picture, new scenery. The guys are a special group of guys. You can just see the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball. I'm excited to go out there and play for an offense that is eager to score points. I look forward to it."

Bowman visited the Raiders on Monday and then signed the deal shortly after that, cancelling a planned visit to the Dallas Cowboys. He went right into meetings with the assistant coaches and could be ready to play when the Raiders (2-4) host the first-place Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

Bowman said he will do extra work this week to learn the defense and said he plans to play this week if he's prepared enough. The Raiders will be happy to get him on the field to add some experience to a young group of inside linebackers (see full story).

Redskins dealing with numerous injuries heading into Week 7 vs. Eagles

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Redskins dealing with numerous injuries heading into Week 7 vs. Eagles

ASHBURN, Va. — Quinton Dunbar takes pride in the way Washington Redskins defensive backs coach Torrian Gray makes every member of the secondary prepare as though he's starting.

"When you get in, you are expected to play like a starter," Dunbar said.

That approach has come in handy this season. Already 2015 All-Pro Josh Norman, fellow cornerback Bashaud Breeland and safety Stefan McClure have gone down with injuries, and second-year safety Su'a Cravens left the team to contemplate retirement.

It's possible Breeland, who sprained his left knee Sunday against San Francisco, and Norman, who has been out with a broken rib, play Monday night.

If they can't go, Washington will lean heavily on Dunbar, Kendall Fuller and rookies Montae Nicholson, Fabian Moreau and Joshua Holsey against quarterback Carson Wentz and the NFC East-leading Eagles.

"It'll be a great challenge because he's playing extremely well," Gruden said.

"Our guys will have to step up. That's just the way it is. There's a lot of teams around the National Football League this time of year that are dealing with key injuries at certain positions and we just had a couple of them at the corner spot. Fabian, Dunbar, they'll have to step up and play well (along with) Holsey, Fuller."

Breeland began the 49ers game as the top cornerback with Norman out and took a block at the knee from offensive lineman Joe Staley. Gruden said Breeland escaped serious MCL damage and is a quick healer, so he could be ready to face the 5-1 Eagles.

Norman will ramp up his running and exercise this week, and Gruden said "there's a chance" he plays Monday.

The news isn't so good for rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who could miss three weeks or more with a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot, and kicker Dustin Hopkins, whose right hip rotator muscle strain will force the Redskins to work out free agent kickers this week.

Even with all the injuries in the secondary, Washington hasn't yet had to look for external help because it has four 2016 or 2017 draft picks on the roster and able to take on extended roles.

"We are as strong as our weakest link and we always talk about not having the drop-offs," said Fuller, a 2016 third-round pick. "Anybody who is in there, we trust to make plays."

The Redskins have had no choice but to trust their young players, including Dunbar, a 25-year-old converted receiver. Injuries to D.J. Swearinger and Nicholson on Sunday almost forced Fuller to move from cornerback to safety where he saw no snaps at practice, and Moreau had to take over on the outside when Breeland was hurt in the second half.

Moreau, a third-round pick who missed the start of training camp with a torn pectoral muscle, said players follow Swearinger's lead to be ready for any situation.

"We got dogs," Moreau said. "We all trust each other. We all feed off of him, and we know that."

Of all the young defensive backs, no one has made a bigger leap than Dunbar, who was a receiver at Florida. Gruden joked that Dunbar isn't "really smart enough to know the magnitude of the situation he's in" and just goes out and plays.

Dunbar said after what he went through growing up that football's a pleasure for him and he doesn't blink. But he has made incredible strides since shifting to cornerback.

"Mentally I'm a thousand times better," Dunbar said. "I always had the physical attributes, man. It was more mental for me -- just breaking down the offenses, learning what's coming and stuff like that."

That'll come in handy against Wentz as the 3-2 Redskins try to close the gap and keep this a competitive division race.

From the coverage to the pass rush, Washington's defense must be better against Wentz than it was in a 30-17 loss in Week 1.

"We've got to figure out a way to contain Wentz," Gruden said. "He killed us with the off-schedule plays, and he's been doing that consistently throughout the year. That's why they're 5-1. It's a big game for us. We know that."