Eagles

Eagles

They scored the second-most points in franchise history. They became only the second team in NFL history to score 38 points in both a conference championship game and a Super Bowl. They scored at least 30 points in 10 of their last 15 games.

At times, they were unstoppable.

There was one thing they didn’t do.

Throw to the backs.

The Eagles won a Super Bowl, but one thing missing from the offense — one thing we’re used to seeing around here — was a passing game in which the backs are a weapon.

Can you imagine this offense with this offensive line and these wideouts and tight ends and this running game … with an added dimension?

Start now, because that’s where the Eagles are headed.

LeGarrette Blount was a valuable member of the championship team, but he’s definitely not a pass catcher. His 54 career catches are third fewest in NFL history by anybody with 5,000 or more rushing yards (ahead of only Michael Vick and Steve Van Buren) and he had only eight catches last year, so when he was in the game, opponents knew the Eagles were going to run. 

Jay Ajayi has never been a big receiver either, but by the end of last year, the Eagles were starting to feel pretty comfortable throwing to him, and he had six catches for 70 yards in the postseason. He looks more and more comfortable every day in the passing game, and with his skill set, there’s no reason he can’t be a 30-catch guy.

 

But the key to all this is Corey Clement. He was pretty much a non-factor last year during the regular season — he had just four catches the first 11 games of the season. But by the playoffs, he had evolved into an incredibly dangerous weapon out of the backfield, and we all know about his legendary and historic 100-yard receiving game in Super Bowl LII.

Take Clement's playoff numbers and extrapolate them over a full season and you have 53 catches for 741 yards. Now, Clement isn’t going to have that many yards, but I really believe he’s going to catch 50 balls for 450 to 500 yards.

With Ajayi growing into a bigger receiver role, Clement picking up where he left off and Darren Sproles back healthy, the Eagles will easily double last year’s total of 53 catches by the backs. 

Heck, they may triple it.

When you watch practice every day, you can see how much Doug Pederson loves to throw to the backs. They work on it a lot, and Clement, in particular, looks flat-out terrific in the passing game.

The Eagles have always had elite pass-catching backs. 

Last year was the first time since 1956 the Eagles didn’t have a single running back with at least 15 receptions.

Keith Byars: Had the second-most catches among running backs from 1988 through 1992 (339).

Herschel Walker: Say what you will about the former Georgia great, he did catch 125 passes in 1993 and 1994, fourth most in the league among running backs.

Ricky Watters: From 1995 through 1997, Watters caught 161 passes, fourth most among NFL running backs.

Duuuuuuuuce: From 1998 through 2002, Duce Staley — now the Eagles’ running backs coach — was ninth among NFL running backs with 237 catches. 

Brian Westbrook: B-West had the most catches in the NFL among running backs during his last seven years with the Eagles (417).

LeSean McCoy: Shady had the fifth-most catches among running backs during his six years here (300). 

Sproles: In his first three years with the Eagles, Sproles caught 147 passes, sixth most in the league.

DeMarco Murray: Even the former Cowboy caught 44 passes in 2015, his one year with the Eagles.

So the Eagles had an elite receiving back on the field every year from 1988 through 2016.

Now they do again. They have two. At least two.

And when you look at this offense … how are defenses going to cover everybody? There are weapons everywhere.  

Dumping the ball off to the backs is such a great weapon because it allows a quarterback to stand tall in the pocket and look down the field but still be able to pick up positive yards if the play isn’t there or protection breaks down.

That the Eagles were able to win a championship last year without a legit receiving back — Wendell Smallwood actually had the most catches by a running back with 13, and he barely played the second half of the season — is a testament to just how brilliant a play-caller Pederson is and how talented both quarterbacks are.

 

But give Carson Wentz or Nick Foles a big-time pass-catching back out of the backfield? Are you kidding me?

The offense will be more efficient, more dangerous, more productive than ever.

And that’s saying a lot.

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