Doug Pederson shaking up Eagles' running back rotation

Doug Pederson shaking up Eagles' running back rotation

Jordan Howard fans appear to be getting their wish.

Howard, the veteran running back the Eagles got for just about nothing from the Bears this offseason, will be the Eagles’ lead back moving forward, head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday.

Things have been trending that way the last couple weeks, but Pederson indicated that this is now more of a semi-permanent arrangement instead of a week-to-week plan.

The first three weeks of the season, rookie second-round pick Miles Sanders got 34 carries and Howard 25. 

The last two games, Howard has had 28 carries and Sanders 20.

Sanders hasn’t been bad. After averaging 2.5 yards per carry in his first two NFL games, he’s at 4.2 in the last three. And he’s been terrific in the passing game.

But Howard has just been more consistent. He followed a 15-for-87 against the Packers with a 13-for-62 on Sunday against the Jets, when he was one of the few bright spots on an offense that sputtered much of the game.

For the season, Howard is at 4.7 yards per carry, which is eighth-best in the NFL among the 30 running backs with at least 50 carries. Sanders is 23rd on that list at 3.6.

Most importantly, Howard leads all NFL running backs in highest percentage of carries that have gone for a first down (minimum of 50 carries). He’s rushed for 17 first downs on 53 carries (32 percent). Only Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (18-for-50, 36 percent) is higher.

Sanders has recorded a first down on just 7 of his 54 carries for 13 percent.

Here are the top 10:

36.0% … Lamar Jackson
32.1% … Jordan Howard
30.7% … Marlon Mack
28.8% … Carlos Hyde
28.4% … Mark Ingram
28.2% … Ezekiel Elliott
26.9% … Aaron Jones
26.6% … Chris Carson
26.6% … David Johnson
25.4% … Austin Ekeler

Howard runs with force, power and vision. He pushes the pile forward and moves the chains. 

But Sanders hasn’t been awful at all. He ran very well in the Packers game — 11-for-72 rushing — and he’s made a big impact in the passing game with catches of 33, 36 and 40 yards. 

Those are the Eagles’ three longest receptions in their last three games.

Sanders is the first Eagles rookie with three 30-yard catches in his first five NFL games since tight end Jason Dunn back in 1996. Interestingly, Dunn had only three more 30-yard catches in his 157 remaining NFL games. 

Sanders is the only running back in the NFL with three 30-yard catches.

Knowing Pederson, he’ll still use a committee approach. It just sounds like the percentages will start to favor Howard a little more.

“We’ve still got a lot of season left,” he said. “It’s a good mix of guys with those two guys. You’re seeing Miles in the passing game be a little more explosive with some of the down-the-field throws with him, and with Jordan, he’s kind of the guy that you settle down in the run game and give him those touches. He’s a between-the-tackles guy, he’s big and powerful, got good vision. And I really think Miles is learning from Jordan running the ball, which is a positive. … Jordan has been kind of the lead back the last couple of games for sure, but Miles is learning and coming and I’m really happy with both of them.”

Sanders’ snaps have ranged from 36 in the opener to 22 on Sunday with an average of 30. 

Howard has ranged from 17 in the opener to 33 on Sunday with an average of 23.

Sanders will continue to play a significant role, and he has to continue getting enough carries so defenses can’t assume he’s running routes as soon as they see him on the field.

Both these backs are new here, and the offensive coaches are still figuring out exactly what they have. As that process continues, we should see Pederson dial up more and more plays that play to their strength. And that can only be good news for the offense.

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Watch Eagles cheerleader Kyle Tanguay crush his American Idol audition

Watch Eagles cheerleader Kyle Tanguay crush his American Idol audition

Rookie Eagles cheerleader Kyle Tanguay captured Philly fans' collective hearts this past season with his energy and excitement at the Linc. It was an instant connection. 

Over the weekend, he did the same thing with American Idol's judges.

Tanguay, 21, zipped down to Washington, D.C., to audition for the rebooted singing competition after his first year with the Birds' cheerleading squad, looking to broaden his performance horizons after the warm reception he received in 2019.

The Eagles' cheerleading squad showed out in a big way for Tanguay's audition in front of Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan, including performing a quick custom "Kyle" cheer after flooding the audition room.

Ultimately, though, Tanguay wasn't going to get a free trip through the contest if he couldn't sing.

His clip on Sunday night's show showed: he can really, really sing.

That's a no-joke performance from someone who had never sung in public.

Tanguay talked with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra earlier this month about the audition:

It was the most craziest experience ever and it really allowed me to remind myself that it’s okay to step outside your comfort zone. The experience on the show was so awesome, so exciting and it’s something that I cannot wait for the world to see.

Tanguay keeps the hits coming. Auditions continue through mid-March, and then we head to Hollywood, where Tanguay will probably win even more fans.

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Doug Pederson explains why he no longer has an offensive coordinator

Doug Pederson explains why he no longer has an offensive coordinator

As Doug Pederson enters Year 5 as Eagles head coach, there’s a notable change to the structure of his coaching staff. 

He doesn’t have an offensive coordinator. And now we have a reason why. 

Earlier this offseason, Pederson fired offensive coordinator Mike Groh a day after he said Groh was safe and then shook up the structure of his coaching staff, electing to move forward sans an official OC. 

As the NFL world gets ready to take over Indianapolis this week for the annual NFL Scouting Combine, Pederson spoke the the Eagles Insider Podcast and finally explained his decision. 

It’s a great question because it’s a question I have really pondered about for quite some time, really for many years. You look around the league and there are teams who don’t have coordinators. There are teams that have coordinators. I’ve had a coordinator by title. I look at the structure of what we’re doing offensively and how collaborative we put our game plans together. It’s like players; it’s not about one guy. Same way on the coaching staff. It’s not about one coach who has to do everything. It’s a collaborative effort. 

“Bottom line, I’m the one calling plays on game day. So in some facets, you could consider me the offensive coordinator as well. The more I thought about it, I’m like, just again, I’m really excited about Press (Taylor). I think he’s got a bright future. Giving him the title of passing game coordinator, really again, gives him the opportunity to give more thought and input on our game plans. Having Rich (Scangarello) being as a senior offensive assistant, he can assist and help sort of bridge the gap with [Jeff Stoutland] and Press and putting all the pieces together, along with myself and Justin Peele and Duce Staley. Just bringing our game plans together. That’s what I want. That’s my vision for this season and really having a seamless transition that way. 

“When we win, we win as a team. Again, it’s not about one guy getting the credit. I feel like this is the best structure for us, for me as the play caller. Because there’s times when I get pulled in a lot of different directions and I gotta lean on Press. And I’m going to have to lean on Rich and Jeff Stoutland and the guys to really pull the game plans together and really give me the information that I need as we prepare for games.” 

While Pederson — and really everyone inside the NovaCare Complex — has always stressed a collaborative effort in all football manners, he didn’t really give any specifics about how the workload will be split and how Groh’s former responsibilities will be divided up in the new power structure. 

Hopefully, we’ll get some of those answers in Indianapolis this week. 

As a reminder, he’s an updated look at the new structure of the Eagles’ offensive coaching staff. 

Head coach/play caller: Doug Pederson

Quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator: Press Taylor 

Offensive line coach/run game coordinator: Jeff Stoutland 

Senior offensive assistant: Rich Scangarello 

Running backs coach/assistant head coach: Duce Staley 

Tight ends coach: Justin Peele 

Wide receivers coach: Aaron Moorehead 

Pass game analyst: Andrew Breiner 

It’s not unheard of for an NFL coach with a clear focus on one side of the ball — like Pederson on offense — to not have an official coordinator. But this is just the first time he has elected to have this setup. 

The optics weren’t great a month and a half ago when Pederson gave Groh a vote of confidence only to fire him a day later, but on the podcast claimed he was still going through his evaluation process at the time. 

At the time, one obvious theory was that Pederson wanted to keep Groh and the front office overruled him. But that’s a theory that has been shot down multiple times by the Eagles. And Pederson on this podcast said that he listened to input from his bosses but, ultimately, the coaching staff is up to him. 

“The coaching staff is my responsibility,” he said. “I’m the one that hires them and I’m obviously the one that has to do the dirty work and sometimes let coaches go. That’s my responsibility.”

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