Running back by committee makes no sense for Eagles

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Running back by committee makes no sense for Eagles

I’ve never been a big “YOU HAVE TO RUN THE BALL” guy. The NFL has become a big-time passing league, never more than it is now.

You win by throwing.

I get it.

The average NFL offense this year has thrown the ball 60 percent of the time and run it 40 percent.

The Eagles throw a little more than that — 63 percent through nine games. That’s eighth-most in the league, which isn’t out of whack.

Their running backs are getting 21½ carries per game, which is a reasonable number.

A running game has to be at least part of even the most high-powered vertical offense just to keep defenses guessing, to run the clock, to keep pass rusher off the quarterback.

My biggest issue with the Eagles’ running game isn’t the number of carries the backs are getting.

It’s the way they’re getting them.

The Eagles are essentially trying to operate a running back-by-committee system with three backs — Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement and Josh Adams — despite running only 21 times a game.

What that does is prevent any of the three backs from getting enough carries to ever get into any sort of rhythm.

There just aren’t enough carries to go around.

As soon as one guy gets hot, another guy is taking his place.

So you end up with a situation where Smallwood is the Eagles’ leading rusher but hasn’t had double-digit carries in back-to-back games all year, Clement has gotten only 28 carries in four games since returning from his quad injury, and Adams has only 27 carries all year despite showing some real positive signs the last few weeks.

Only once in the Eagles’ last five games has a running back gotten even 10 carries, and that was the Giants game, which the Eagles won easily.

Forget trying to figure out who the last Eagle with 20 carries in a game was (Ryan Mathews, who’s been retired for two years) or the last with 800 yards in a season (LeSean McCoy, who’s been a Bill for four years).

The Eagles haven’t had a back with more than 70 yards in a game this year. And since Week 5 they haven’t had a back with more than 51 yards in a game.

Too often it seems like the running game is an afterthought for Doug Pederson. 

He’ll throw in a running play here and there, but the running attack never really seems to have a purpose. Running plays don’t seem to set up other plays. And when a couple in a row don’t work, don’t hold your breath waiting for the next one.

And the rotation often seems odd and counterintuitive.

One drive we see Clement, the next we see Smallwood, and then we see Adams.

A guy works up a head of steam and then you don’t see him on the next couple drives.

What is the Eagles’ philosophy when it comes to the running game? What are they trying to achieve? I honestly don’t know.

Certainly, the absence of Jay Ajayi has hurt. He was so good down the stretch last year and in the playoffs.

Clement? I’ve seen him make huge plays on the greatest stage in sports. But since returning from a two-week layoff, he’s gotten only 17 carries and 24 total touches in four games. He just hasn’t had a chance to get going.

Smallwood? He’s the Eagles’ leading rusher, but he isn’t even on pace for 500 yards and has had four games with five or fewer carries.

Adams? He’s had runs of 17, 21 and 29 yards the last two weeks and looks like he might be a player. He’s averaging 5.7 yards per carry but averaging fewer than 4.0 carries per game since being promoted to the 53-man roster.

I’m not positive what the Eagles’ best option is at running back right now. I think it’s probably Adams.

But I am fairly certain that trying to shoehorn three backs into an offense that runs the ball as infrequently as the Eagles do isn’t the answer.

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Good injury news! Eagles to get Kamu Grugier-Hill back

Good injury news! Eagles to get Kamu Grugier-Hill back

Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill has been cleared through concussion protocol and is expected to return to practice on Thursday and will be able to play against the Redskins Sunday.

The circumstances around Grugier-Hill’s injury are a little mysterious, since he played the entire Dolphins game and didn’t appear on the Eagles’ injury report Thursday, four days after the game.

The Eagles didn’t practice Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday after the Dolphins game because they had a long week leading up to the Monday Night Football game against the Giants this past Monday.

Grugier-Hill missed the Giants game, the fourth game he’s missed this year. He missed the first three games of the season with a knee injury that he suffered the first week of training camp. Thursday’s practice will be the Eagles’ first since the Giants game.

Head coach Doug Pederson said Grugier-Hill first reported concussion symptoms last Thursday morning when he reported to the Nova-Care Complex.

Grugier-Hill has averaged 33 snaps per game in the nine games he’s played, third-most among Eagles linebackers, behind Nigel Bradham (60) and Zach Brown (46), who’s no longer with the team.

The Eagles were required to issue an injury report on Wednesday even though they didn’t practice because of the Monday night game.

That report lists players’ status as projections based on whether they would have participated if the Eagles did have a practice Wednesday.

According to that report, Nelson Agholor (knee), Derek Barnett (ankle) and Lane Johnson (ankle) would have missed practice.

Alshon Jeffery (ankle) is also listed on the injury report as “did not practice” since he is technically still on the 53-man roster, although his season is over and he’s expected to be placed on Injured Reserve later this week.

Agholor said on Wednesday that his knee injury has been an issue much longer than he had let on.

The Eagles also listed Jalen Mills (elbow) and Jordan Howard as limited, which means they would have participated in parts of practice if there were one.

Howard has missed four games but has been listed as limited throughout his shoulder injury since he’s cleared for non-contact drills but not contact.

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Doug Pederson highlights 6 young players in postgame speech

Doug Pederson highlights 6 young players in postgame speech

The Eagles snapped their three-game losing streak on Monday night with a gutty 23-17 overtime win over the Giants. 

They were down 14 nothing and lost a few key players during the game, which was a big part of Doug Pederson’s postgame message. 

“I’ve been around a long time in this league as a player and a coach and I can’t tell you that I’ve seen a team hang together like we did all night long,” Pederson said in the video above. “The way you guys battled. Offensively through adversity. We lost a couple more guys tonight. Through adversity, you hang tough. Our young guys stepped up!”

Then Pederson mentioned six younger Eagles by name. Here they are in the order he said them:  

Greg Ward: A practice squad call-up earlier in the year, Ward caught four passes for 34 yards. 

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: The second-round pick caught two passes for 29 yards, including what might have been the best catch of the season. 

Josh Perkins: Playing tight end and receiver, lining up all over the field, Perkins caught five passes for 37 yards. 

Boston Scott: The 5-6 running back had 128 yards from scrimmage and was the star of the night. 

Sidney Jones: He played just one snap but he made it count on a crucial third-down PBU. 

Halapoulivaati Vaitai: After Lane Johnson went down, Big V stepped in at right tackle. 

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