Mathews has outperformed Murray so far for Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — DeMarco Murray got the bigger contract. Ryan Mathews has the better numbers.
Still, there’s no running back controversy in Philadelphia.
“It’s about the team. It’s not about me,” said Mathews, who missed Thursday’s practice because of a groin injury.
Mathews leads the Eagles with 342 yards rushing and a 6.1 average yards per attempt. Murray has rebounded nicely after a terrible first month, but only has 307 yards with an average of 3.5 per carry one year after leading the NFL in rushing.
Coach Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur are asked each week how they plan to split the carries. Kelly insists running backs coach Duce Staley is responsible for rotating Murray, Mathews and speedy veteran Darren Sproles. Shurmur is more forthcoming.
“I think they both need to play,” Shurmur said. “I think they both can be efficient and dynamic. So we just have to try to get them both in there. I don’t know if it’s equal, but I think they both need to play.”
It certainly hasn’t been equal. Murray has 56 more carries in the six games they’ve played together.
Mathews had 97 yards rushing on six carries, including a 63-yard TD run in a 27-16 loss at Carolina in Philadelphia’s last game before a bye. Murray ran 18 times for 65 yards.
A week earlier, Mathews had 73 yards on eight carries. Murray had 83 yards on 20 carries.
“We utilize the backs throughout the game based on how they’re doing, how they’re feeling at times,” Shurmur said. “It changes as the game goes on. If a guy is having a little bit of an issue, maybe nobody knows that, so you play the other guy more. We talk about it constantly. Adjustments are being made constantly. If a running back is in a groove, you let him go maybe a snap or two more than you had planned. But that still doesn’t mean you don’t sub in the other guys.”
The offensive line wasn’t opening holes for anyone early in the season. Murray had 11 yards on 21 carries in the first two games, including 2 yards on 13 runs against his former teammates in Week 2.
Mathews had 4 yards on four carries in the first two before a breakout effort in Week 3 when with Murray injured, Mathews had 108 yards on 24 carries against the Jets.
But he went back to a secondary role when Murray returned the following week.
“It hasn’t bothered me much,” Mathews said. “He’s done a lot of great things in his career to get where he’s at and he deserves it.”
After trading franchise rushing leader LeSean McCoy in the offseason, the Eagles first agreed to a contract with former 49ers star Frank Gore. But he changed his mind and went to Indianapolis.
So, they made a deal with Mathews for $11.5 million over three years with $5 million guaranteed. Mathews ran for 1,000 yards in San Diego in two seasons and went to the Pro Bowl once.
But Kelly couldn’t pass up a chance to snatch Murray away from the Cowboys so he gave him $40 million over five years with $21 million guaranteed.
“The biggest challenge is obviously not playing that many snaps,” Murray said.
He’ll get another chance against his old team when the Eagles (3-4) visit Dallas (2-5) on Sunday night.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_RobMaaddi