Plenty of blame for Eagles’ poor running game
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — DeMarco Murray went from breaking records in Dallas to historically terrible stats in Philadelphia.
Yet, it’s not his fault.
Two years after the Eagles had the best rushing offense in the NFL, they now have the worst. Everyone deserves part of the blame except the guys actually running the ball because they have nowhere to go.
Poor blocking on the offensive line is the biggest reason for Philadelphia’s dismal run game. New guards Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner are struggling.
Center Jason Kelce isn’t playing like a guy who went to the Pro Bowl last season. Jason Peters certainly doesn’t look like a seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle.
“Right now, it doesn’t matter who the running back is, we are not doing anything upfront to give him an opportunity,” Kelce said. “We have got to get this fixed up front. We have to get it better. I’m not playing well. It doesn’t matter who is next to me if I’m not getting my job done.”
Perhaps the Eagles miss Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans more than coach Chip Kelly anticipated. He released Mathis, the two-time Pro Bowl left guard, because he wanted a new contract. He released Herremans, the longtime right guard, to save $2.8 million in cap space.
“The guys we have are the guys we are playing with for the remainder of the season,” Kelly said. “It’s not about a change thing.”
Murray, who broke Emmitt Smith’s franchise record with a league-leading 1,845 yards rushing last season, has 11 yards on 21 carries in two games.
No player has run 20 or more times in his team’s first two games and gained fewer yards, according to statistics dating back to 1960. Denver’s Montee Ball had the previous low of 38 yards on 20 carries in 2013.
For Murray, that’s an average of 1.6 feet (not yards) per carry.
“I have to get better.” Murray said. “Individually, we all have to get better. Collectively, we all have to get better. We have to look in the mirror and each guy has to take it upon themselves to get things going.”
Murray might not get the chance to get on track this week against the New York Jets (2-0) because he has a hamstring injury. Ryan Mathews would replace him in the starting lineup.
Mathews, who ran for 1,000 yards twice in five seasons in San Diego, has 4 yards on four carries. Veteran Darren Sproles has 46 yards on six carries.
So much for that three-headed monster rushing attack everyone expected.
Give Kelly some blame for his playcalling.
He traded franchise rushing leader LeSean McCoy partly because he’s more of an east-west runner, though that didn’t matter when he had 1,607 yards in 2013.
He signed Murray and Mathews because he preferred downhill runners who hit holes quickly. But they’re not getting opportunities to run straight ahead because the blocking up the middle isn’t opening any holes.
So, Kelly is calling more sweeps. Those plays better fit McCoy’s style and worked better when the athletic Mathis was here. Gardner and Barbre are having trouble pulling out, allowing defensive linemen and linebackers to burst through the line and stop the backs for losses.
“I don’t think the running backs even really had time to assess if there was a hole,” Kelly said after the Cowboys held the Eagles to 7 yards rushing in a 20-10 win. “Too much penetration up front. Too many guys in the backfield.”
With Sam Bradford at quarterback, zone-read plays don’t fool the defense.
Still, Kelly insists on running much of the offense in a shotgun formation. Murray and Mathews have been most successful during their careers when they line up behind the quarterback and follow an attacking, aggressive offensive line.
“I don’t think how we are handing the ball off is the problem right now,” Kelly said, dismissing that idea.
Another problem could be defenses have figured out how to stop Kelly’s offense and his plays are too predictable. Opponents and even Eagles players suggested it.
“Everybody has predictabilities and tendencies going into every game,” Kelly said, shrugging off that notion.
No matter how you dissect it, the Eagles need to figure it out or they won’t come close to those lofty preseason expectations.
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