The Eagles have been a pretty good offense over the last couple weeks.
They just haven’t been the offense they planned on being.
It’s been quite a metamorphosis from an offense that was averaging 23 rushing attempts and 37 passing attempts per game through seven weeks into one that’s averaged 43 rushing attempts and just 17 passing attempts the last two games.
Head coach Nick Sirianni seemed to indicate on Monday that this newfound focus on the running attack is how the Eagles want to play offense moving forward.
“We’re playing a certain way right now, and we’re running the football,” he said. “We’re doing it the way we’re doing it now and having some success on offense doing it that way.”
The Eagles ran 46 times for 236 yards in their 44-6 win in Detroit and 39 times for 176 yards in the 27-24 loss to the Chargers at the Linc.
This is only the third time since 1994 the Eagles have run the ball at least 39 times in consecutive games and only the sixth time since 1994 they’ve rushed for at least 175 yards in consecutive games.
This after they ran just 104 times in a five-game stretch.
This monumental shift in philosophy has achieved a few things:
• It’s decreased Jalen Hurts‘ workload tremendously. Through seven games, Hurts had either thrown a pass, run the ball or been sacked on 322 of the Eagles’ 421 offensive snaps, an NFL-high 77 percent. In the last two games, those numbers have plunged to 49 of 119 snaps — just 41 percent.
• Being asked to do less has allowed Hurts to be more efficient. He completed 64.3 percent of his passes in the win over the Lions and 64.7 percent against the Chargers with no turnovers, the first time in his career he’s had back-to-back games at 64 percent without an interception.
• The new emphasis on the running attack has also allowed the Eagles to finally use the deepest personnel group on the roster: the running backs. Even with Miles Sanders out, the Eagles have three good backs in Jordan Howard, Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell. Those three have combined for 66 carries, 258 rushing yards and six rushing TDs the last two weeks. It’s almost like the Eagles had no idea what they had in Howard or Scott, who have gone from invisible before the Lions game to key components of the offense the last two weeks.
• It’s also allowed this offensive line to use its massive size and bulk to steamroll defenses by run blocking instead of having to pass block 40 times a game. It’s no coincidence the Eagles have been over 50 percent on 3rd down the last two weeks after hitting 50 percent only once in the first seven games.
Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen is extremely guarded when he talks to the media, but on Tuesday he did allow that although Hurts “can handle a lot on his plate,” the increased use of the running game has helped the 23-year-old quarterback.
“Does it help? Yeah, it does,” he said.
Now, it’s important to remember the Lions rank 25th in the NFL in rush defense and the Chargers are last. It’s easy to be a running team when the defense can’t stop the run.
But the Eagles’ next two opponents, the Broncos and Saints, are 10th and 1st in run defense. So we’ll learn a lot the next two weeks.
Will Sirianni stay with the running attack and stick to the formula that worked against the Lions and Chargers or will he go back to asking Hurts to throw the ball 40 times at the first sign of the running game sputtering?
Teams that are genuinely committed to the running game will try to run against everybody, and that only makes the passing game more effective.
Complicating matters a bit is that Sanders will be eligible to come off Injured Reserve after the Broncos game, and that will give the Eagles four backs who’ve had success this year.
But if they keep running it 40 times a game? They’ll need every one of them.
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