Beau Allen

Eagles' winning blueprint: Run the ball, stop the run, control the clock

Eagles' winning blueprint: Run the ball, stop the run, control the clock

It's hard to imagine a more effective blueprint for winning football games.

Rush for 176 yards per game, hold your opponent to 46 rushing yards per game, control the clock.

That's it.

It's not complicated. It's not fancy. But it sure works.

The Eagles kind of fell into this blueprint by accident. Coming out of the Chiefs game, head coach Doug Pederson hadn't yet committed to the run, but he gave the ball to LeGarrette Blount early against the Giants, and Blount responded. And the veteran running back and the ground attack haven't slowed down since.

The same formula has repeated itself three weeks in a row now, and the Eagles are 4-1 because of it.

Giants? Eagles ran for 193 yards, allowed 49 rushing yards, held the ball for 37:32.

Chargers? Eagles ran for 214 yards, allowed 58 rushing yards, held the ball for 39:18.

Cards? Eagles ran for 122 yards, allowed 31 rushing yards, held the ball for 35:47.

Three wins, three dominating performances by both lines.

This is only the sixth time in franchise history the Eagles have put together three consecutive games with 120 or more rushing yards while allowing 65 or fewer rushing yards. They did it four games in a row over the 1944 and 1945 seasons.

And despite not doing much running the first two weeks of the season, the Eagles are now fifth in the NFL in rushing yards along with second in rush defense.

Combine those two strengths, and you're going to control the clock. And the Eagles are best in the NFL in doing that, averaging a league-best 35:32 in time of possession. Control the clock and most of the time you're going to control the game.

Simple. Elegant. Effective.

And what's really impressive is that the Eagles are running the ball despite missing Darren Sproles (along with Donnel Pumphrey and this past weekend Wendell Smallwood). They're grinding out the rushing yards with a 30-year-old tailback who's with his fourth team in six years and didn't get a single carry in Week 2.

And they're stopping the run without Fletcher Cox. Tim Jernigan, unwanted by the Ravens, has been a beast in the interior of the line, and Beau Allen has been solid as well.

Five weeks in, the Eagles have more than twice as many rushing yards (694) as they've allowed (314).

They're the first team to rush for at least 690 yards and allow fewer than 315 after five games since the 2000 Ravens (who happened to win a Super Bowl) and only the 12th in NFL history (and seventh since 1950) to boast that kind of disparity at this point in the season.

Run the ball. Stop the run. Control the clock.

You just can't beat that combination.

This is the first time in 27 years the Eagles have held the ball over 35 minutes for three straight games.

When the Eagles rush for 120 or more yards while allowing 65 or fewer yards, they've won 22 straight games (dating back to a 21-20 loss to the Cowboys in 2005), and they're 47-3 since 1992.

The Eagles upgraded both lines this offseason, and upgraded at running back, and it's all paying off.

"It's been a good recipe for us in the last few ballgames," Pederson said Monday. "I think it's important … to establish the run in football games to start. It just helps our offense, helps our offensive line settle into games. And when you see your defense, the three-and-outs that they have and stopping the run, it can frustrate an opponent as it would us when you can't run the ball.

"So both have really contributed to the success that we've had these last few games, and our offensive line has done a really nice job at rising to the challenge against some really good defensive fronts, too."

The Eagles piled up 193 and 214 rushing yards on the Giants and Chargers, and even though the Cards have been statistically very good against the run, Pederson really committed to the ground attack, and Blount responded with 68 of his 74 yards in the second half.

When we talk about a team's identity, I think of it meaning a style of playing that doesn't change week to week and doesn't depend on the opponent and doesn't even depend on what players you have in uniform that day.

You find what you do well, and you do it against everybody. And you keep doing it. That's where the Eagles are right now. It's a winning formula.

These last three weeks, no opposing back has rushed for more than 35 yards against the Eagles, and in each game, Blount has averaged at least 5.3 yards per carry.

The Eagles are only the 13th team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1966 — the first since the 2007 Jaguars — to put together a three-game stretch at any point during a season with 520 or more rushing yards gained and 140 or fewer rushing yards allowed.

It's a roadmap for success, and as long as Pederson follows that map, the Eagles are going to keep winning.

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Beau Allen to start against Chargers

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Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Beau Allen to start against Chargers

The Eagles will be without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox on Sunday in Los Angeles, which means Beau Allen will get the start. 

Allen came in for Cox during Sunday's game and ended up playing 50 snaps after entering the game with just 40 in the first two games. 

"It's a good opportunity," Allen said this week. "I've started a handful of games here so it's not anything new, but it's always special when you start a football game. So it will be fun."

This will be the sixth start of Allen's career. The former seventh-round pick started three games in 2016 and two games in 2015.  

How will Cox's absence change the Eagles' rotation along the defensive line? 

"You think I'm going to give you all my secrets?" Allen said half-joking. "You're gonna have to wait and see. I'll be playing a lot. We'll see how everything kind of shakes out. I don't want to give away too much but we have a deep defensive line. I don't think people really realize that. We have guys that can kind of play all over. You'll see guys line up in different spots."

Without Cox and fellow DT Destiny Vaeao (wrist), the Eagles are down to four defensive tackles (the team promoted DT Justin Hamilton from the practice squad Saturday). While Allen and even head coach Doug Pederson were hesitant to divulge the plan, it's pretty clear the Eagles will use some of their defensive ends inside this week. 

Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and even Steven Means, who has been inactive through the first three games, all have the ability as defensive ends to line up inside. 

"Hopefully that's the idea," Means said about the possibility of playing this week. "I've been preparing the same way. I'm ready to go. Coaches know I'm ready to go. If my number gets called, I'm definitely going to be ready." 

Ready for some futbol?
It'll be a little weird for the Eagles this week, playing at StubHub Center, a soccer stadium that has a maximum capacity of 27,000.  

To put that in perspective, the paid attendance at Lincoln Financial Field last week was 69,596. 

The Chiefs went into StubHub last week and came away with a 24-10 win over the Chargers. So this week, Pederson has reached out to some of his former colleagues in Kansas City to ask them about playing in a 27,000 seat venue. 

"It's different," Pederson said. "It's obviously the smaller crowd, smaller venue. It's not what the actual norm is for a typical game day. You're looking at 27,000, 28,000 people. It's a smaller venue [StubHub Center], so it feels a little more of that intimate feeling when you're there. They really enjoyed the atmosphere. It is pretty exciting, though. But I think the biggest thing they mentioned was just the crowd size and the noise, just wasn't the same as playing in a 60- or 70,000-seat stadium."

The Eagles are trying something a little different this year for this West Coast trip. They are flying out Saturday morning and trying to stay completely on an East Coast schedule, which includes having an earlier curfew. The Eagles made the decision based on data they collected starting back during OTAs. 

Anthem dilemma 
As of Friday morning, Pederson wasn't sure what his team will do when the national anthem is played Sunday afternoon in L.A. Last week, the team locked arms on the sideline. 

Malcolm Jenkins, who has been at the forefront of these protests from early last season, is clearly worried that what teams physically do during the anthem has distracted from the focus. Jenkins began his demonstration last year to not just show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick but to highlight racial injustice and systemic racism in America. Raising his fist was just a vehicle. 

So what does he think is going to happen around the league this week? 

"Not my concern," Jenkins said. "My biggest thing is drawing light to the actual issues and the work guys are doing in the league. What happens on Sunday is none of my concern."

Eagles-Jets preseason finale: 10 players to watch

Eagles-Jets preseason finale: 10 players to watch

Ahh, the fourth preseason game. I know you're excited. 

It's a game that means nothing to most but everything to a select few. Those few will have one last shot to battle it out for a roster spot Thursday night when the Eagles play the Jets in North Jersey. 

The starters won't play, which means Carson Wentz and his group will watch. 

If Nick Foles actually plays in this game, he's worth watching. He has practiced minimally throughout the summer and hasn't played in any of the preseason games. He finally returned to practice Monday but missed Tuesday because he was sick. Head coach Doug Pederson as of Tuesday hadn't made up his mind about whether or not Foles would play, but the team doesn't seem to be worried about forcing him into action. 

With that said, here are 10 other Eagles to watch on Thursday night: 

Dexter McDougle 
The Eagles traded for McDougle on Sunday and he'll face his former team Thursday night. Not a ton of time to prepare for the young cornerback. But as Jalen Mills said earlier this week, "Man is man, zone is zone," no matter what defense a corner is playing in. McDougle is a late-arriver but keep an eye on him in the slot. That might be a position that fits him in Philly. 

Beau Allen
Allen returned from the non-football injury list this week after completely healing from his torn pec. He's entering a contract season and is probably still the Eagles' top backup defensive tackle, although Destiny Vaeao was impressive in Allen's absence. Don't expect Allen to play a ton Thursday, but he should get a few snaps and we'll see where he is. 

Rick Lovato 
It's the fourth preseason game and I'm telling you to watch a long snapper. I apologize. But let's be honest, you were going to watch Jon Dorenbos' replacement anyway, weren't you? The Eagles were impressed enough with Lovato at the end of last year and this offseason to move on from their longest-tenured player. If Lovato has a bad snap Thursday … 

Billy Brown 
When asked recently about which position battles he's watching in these final days, Pederson surprisingly mentioned the tight ends. That's surprising because the top three guys — Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Brent Celek — haven't changed. What has changed is Brown, a young receiver-turned-tight end from Shepherd. Brown has been impressive all summer and might have the Eagles thinking about keeping four tight ends.

Corey Clement 
Clement has done everything right this summer. The running back from Glassboro, New Jersey, has run the ball well, pass protected and even shown his growing ability as a pass-catcher. But will it be enough? It seems unlikely the Eagles would keep five running backs, so in the group of LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey, who would go? The easy answer might be Pumphrey, but he's a fourth-round pick and it would be very rare to give up on him this early. Clement has one more chance to prove his worth. 

Greg Ward
After a really strong start to training camp, Ward has kind of been forgotten in recent weeks. The former University of Houston quarterback made a pretty seamless transition to NFL receiver and turned heads early in camp. He still has a chance to make the roster. After the first four receivers — Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins — Marcus Johnson is probably the next guy up. If the Eagles keep six, Ward is battling with Shelton Gibson and Bryce Treggs for that last spot. 

Taylor Hart 
It's crazy to think, but it wouldn't be that big of a surprise if Hart makes the Eagles' roster as an offensive tackle. He switched positions in the spring, flipping from defensive to offensive tackle and hasn't looked completely out of place. Now, he very likely wouldn't be ready to take snaps this year, but the Eagles might think they have something in him. 

Alex McCalister
Expect McCalister and Steven Means to play a ton in this last game. We listed McCalister instead of Means because, based on performance and the latter's extension Wednesday (see story), McCalister is the one playing catch-up. Now, he was a late-round draft pick a year ago, so maybe that gives him one advantage. But in terms of on-field play to go with a new deal, it will be tough to keep Means off the roster. A big game from McCalister can't hurt, though.

Justin Hamilton 
Allen's return from the NFI list was bad news for Hamilton, who has been having a very quiet but good summer. With Allen back, there's one less roster spot up for grabs. That means Hamilton is fighting with draft pick Elijah Qualls for a spot. Qualls has come on strong lately and has a lot of untapped potential. 

Aaron Grymes
The former CFL cornerback might have made the 2016 team but he injured his shoulder in this game a year ago. With Ron Brooks gone, it appears that either Patrick Robinson or McDougle will take the slot role, but don't sleep on Grymes just yet. He got some run with the first-team defense in the nickel corner spot and is a natural fit there.