Once upon a time, the Eagles had a three-headed monster running attack, and Duce Staley, a three-time 1,000-yard rusher earlier in his career, wasn’t too thrilled about it.

But it worked. And he didn’t complain. And the Eagles won a lot of games.

So Staley, the Eagles’ longtime running backs coach, understands as well as anybody what Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard — as well as Darren Sproles and Corey Clement — are experiencing these days.

There will be times they don’t get the ball. There will be times they don’t play.

They won’t like it.

They will deal with it. Just like he did.

It doesn’t come easy,” Staley said Monday. “But those are some of those OTA conversations, those are some of those conversations when they’re free agents or traded or whatever. We try to have them in the beginning, try to give them an idea of who we are and what we do [and] they’ve been good.

Thursday night’s win in Green Bay was a blueprint of what Staley, Mike Groh and Doug Pederson want in a running game.

Howard and Sanders split the carries in unpredictable fashion, the Eagles ran for 176 yards overall and they left Wisconsin with a win in a stadium where very few visiting teams win.

The Eagles are only the fifth team in the last 10 years (covering 88 games) to beat the Packers at Lambeau while rushing for at least 175 yards.

So what determines who plays when?

It’s predicated on the play but also when you get that feeling,” Staley said. “So as a play-caller, Doug will get a feeling of the guy that’s doing well, and we all see it. So we may keep that guy in the game — I think you saw that vs. Green Bay. You saw Jordan start to get on a roll. It’s all about the hot hand. Then there’s certain plays that we might want another guy — certain plays are tagged to certain guys.


Sanders was The Man at Penn State last year, averaging 17 carries per game — fifth most in the Big Ten.

Howard was The Man with the Bears the last three years, averaging 17 carries per game — third most in the NFL.

Sproles has more than 8,000 career yards from scrimmage.

Clement was a Super Bowl hero.

They all understand that they’re in an offense that’s produced three 100-yard rushers in 57 games under Pederson — none in the last 37 games.

Heck, only four times in those 57 games has an Eagles running back gotten 20 carries.

In Pederson’s first three seasons, the leading carries per game belong to Ryan Mathews (11.9), Jay Ajayi (11.2), LeGarrette Blount (10.6) and Josh Adams (8.1).

This year has gone right along those lines, with Sanders (11.3) and Howard (10.0) both averaging right around 10 carries per game.

Jordan understands our rotation here, every back does,” Staley said. “We have a three-headed monster and it’s been like that for a while around here, and it will continue to be. Each and every week the game plan itself changes, so you saw from Washington and what we were doing from that game plan moving forward and you saw what we did last week with Green Bay. So each and every week we’re going to change those guys, we’re going to rotate those guys and we’re going to try to put the best guy in for that play call.

Sproles had nine carries in the opener, just three since. Howard’s carries have increased each week, and his 15 on Thursday were the most by an Eagle back in the last 10 games. Sanders has been in the 10-13 range each week.

What's the plan for the Jets Sunday? Good luck trying to figure it out.

You never know,” said Staley, who’s been on the Eagles’ coaching staff under Andy Reid, Chip Kelly and Pederson. “Next week it may be a lot of Jordan, a lot of Miles, the week after that it may just be Jordan, sprinkled in with a little Miles. You never know. But all of them know it’s a rotation that’s constantly going.

Staley knows the backs aren’t crazy about sharing the load, just like he wasn’t a decade and a half ago when he shared the load with Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter.

I understand,” he said. “They want the ball and I want them to want the ball so when they get out there they give their best, because they never know when they’re going back out there. You want guys like that. You want guys who are driven. You want guys who go out there and leave everything they have for the team, but you also want guys who understand the situation.


It’s all about avoiding tendencies, remaining unpredictable and giving defenses as many different looks as possible.

It’s tough to figure out what’s next game to game, series to series, play to play.

But that’s the whole idea.

Keep defenses guessing. And then right when they think they have it figured out, hit 'em with the other guy.

It's not going to get any of these guys to the Pro Bowl, but it's a heck of a formula to win some football games.

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