Running On Full

Posted: August 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 30 Comments »

LeSean McCoy, Ronnie Brown, and Dion Lewis give the Eagles their best trio of RBs since the great 2003 lineup of Duce, Buck, and Westy.  That group combined to run for 1,618 yards and 20 TDs.  They caught 83 passes for 847 yards and 7 TDs.  That was a great season for the RBs.  FB Jon Ritchie added 17 catches and 3 TDs.

I’d love for the current trio of backs to match the running total, but I’m not sure how likely that is.  We all know that Big Red is a passing coach, through and through.  Donovan McNabb was hurt in 2003 and that forced us to run a bit more.  The thing I’m hopeful about is that Reid has to know what a good trio of RBs he has at his disposal.

In some past years the drop-off from starter to backup was pretty significant.  That’s not the case right now.  Ronnie Brown could start for a lot of teams in the league.  He was hurt by the shortened offseason and had to settle for the backup role with us.  Ronnie is a complete back.  He’s got size and running ability.  He is our best pass blocker.  He’s also a good receiver.

Shady McCoy looks like he’s ready to have a great season.  He was terrific in the open field against Cleveland.  He looked great up at Training Camp.  He got through the summer in one piece and didn’t look the least bit rusty.  He’s got a chance to be a Pro Bowl type RB this year.

Dion Lewis is someone I had doubts about.  No more.  He has impressed the heck out of me.  He looks faster now than he did at Pitt.  Maybe the pre-Combine training got him into great shape and he stayed that way.  Whatever the reason, I’m thrilled about it.  Normally the number three back for us gets a touch every 6 to 8 weeks.  Lewis looks like the kind of player you want to mix in.  He’s a bit different from Brown and Shady.  Just give him 2 to 4 touches a game.  Run  him on a draw.  Throw him a screen.  Let the guy get in space and show you what he can do.

The Saints had a great passing offense from the moment that Sean Payton and Drew Brees arrived.  The 2009 Super Bowl team was the one group that had a great set of RBs.  Pierre Thomas was the workhorse, Reggie Bush the playmaker, and Mike Bell the big back.  We don’t have the exact same formula, but having 3 RBs gives you the ability to mix them in heavily without wearing anyone down.

If we have a good lead late in a game, why not feed the ball to Lewis and let him gets some work in?  We did that with Eldra Buckley a couple of times in the last 2 years, but Buckley is an effort guy and that’s all.  He’s got limited skills.  His long run in the NFL is 13 yards.  I’m willing to be that Lewis will have a longer run than that this year.

Andy Reid has under-used his RBs more than a few times since the great 2003 season.  I think one of the reasons why is that he’s been nervous about depth.  You couldn’t help but think of Buck as fragile.  Westy had his knee and ankle issues.  The young players just didn’t develop as hoped.  This year Reid has a trio of quality runners.  Brown and Shady have proven to be durable.  Lewis is an impressive rookie.  There’s no reason not to feed them the ball.

We aren’t going to suddenly become a running team, but we should see an upswing in RB touches.  The last 2 years the numbers were down from 2006-08.  If we can just get back to that level, it will bring more balance to the offense and that will help the passing game.  The OL would love that and Mike Vick would take fewer hits.

I don’t care if it is Iso plays, draws, screens, or what…use the RBs, Big Red.

* * * * *

The coaches decision to take Casey Matthews out of the Nickel defense proved to be a wise move.  He played better in the base defense.  That move also got Brian Rolle, the little ball of hate, out on the field.  Rolle is made for the Nickel D.  He’s fast enough to cover ground and cover.  He’s also tough enough to take on inside runs and be effective.

Matthews is a gifted cover LB.  Taking him off the Nickel had nothing to do with skill.  It was simply a way to let him catch his breath and clear his head.  Rookies biggest obstacle is the mental side of things.  If you can clear a guy’s head and help him get in a comfort zone, he’s more likely to thrive.

Instead of having one player struggling, the Eagles now have 2 rookie LBs playing solid football.

* * * * *

I’m sorry for avoiding all the OL stuff.  I’ll post a link to my column as soon as it goes up.


30 Comments on “Running On Full”

  1. 1 Dan in Philly said at 9:35 AM on August 29th, 2011:

    There may be complaints as in last thursday that we’re throwing the ball to the RBs a lot. Give the talent level, that’s a really good problem to have. When you consider that when we do have our full load of WRs up to speed (including Mac and Smith) and the safetys will be playing 30 yards off due to Jackson, I predict record amounts of catches and yards to the RBs this year.

  2. 2 nicolajNN said at 9:40 AM on August 29th, 2011:

    Sooo, what’s your stance on the Wildcat?

    Anyway, the RBs will be fun to watch, Shady looks amazing. But does any of them have ability to motion or line up out wide like Westy? A huge part of that was his great route running.

  3. 3 Tommy Lawlor said at 9:49 AM on August 29th, 2011:

    I’m all in favor of using the Wildcat. We’ve got the guys to do it, that’s for sure.

  4. 4 Eric said at 9:50 AM on August 29th, 2011:

    Tommy,

    Now with TH at the right tackle – assuming he performs admirably – does LG now move up higher on the 2012 draft list?

  5. 5 Austinfan said at 10:04 AM on August 29th, 2011:

    AR likes to run the ball, he just likes to run the ball at 5 yards a pop. One reason Mudd may have been brought in was a change in running philosophy, while they’re not going for Shanahan one cut RBs, they do have two guys who are elusive and can cut back on a dime, one guy who can hit the hole with power on a spread, and three guys who can run screens. So I expect more ball control using the RBs as both runners and receivers.

    The Eagles haven’t had a dependable backup RB since Levens, Bucky could play, but you think coaches had any confidence in his longevity? Moats, Tapeh, Bell, etc. Last year Harrison blocked fewer blitzers than Lewis has already stopped in preseason. AR doesn’t like RBs out there that scream: “we’re running the ball because I have hands of stone and can’t block a paper bag”

    Matthews is very similar to Gaither, very good cover guy within 10 yards of the LOS, but lacks the speed (I think with the weight he’s probably running in the 4.85 range) to drop deep into zones or run across the field with a WR or TE on a crossing pattern. So he’s a good cover guy for a 2 down MLB who you want off the field when teams go with 3 or 4 WRs/TEs in a spread type formation on passing downs.

  6. 6 RogerPodacter said at 10:20 AM on August 29th, 2011:

    totally agree with austinfan.
    we want the RBs on the field who can run, but also pass block or release out into a route. Now that we have 3 RBs that can play, i think we are going to see a lot more of them.

    question: can schmidt or havili or any other FB come even close to matching Jon Ritchie’s performance from that season?

  7. 7 iskar36 said at 10:36 AM on August 29th, 2011:

    Count me in the group that doesn’t buy the idea that we will run all that much more this season. I fully agree we have one of the strongest groups of running backs we have had in a long time under AR. On top of that, I think Brown will see the field more often than most of our backups in the past have seen due to his pass blocking abilities. That being said, running is simply not what AR likes to do. What I do think is a possibility though is that we go back to the days where we can consider the short dump passes and swing passes to RBs as run plays. We used to do that back in 2003 with Duce, Buck, and BWest, but have gotten away from that in recent years (other than the screen pass). I think with 3 backs that can catch and have shown the ability to make people miss with the ball in their hands, AR will see mismatches with the RBs and get them more touches that way.

  8. 8 penn7980 said at 10:55 AM on August 29th, 2011:

    Concur that we have a good trio of RB this year. There may be the reason why they stick with the athletic OL who can block at the 2nd level. Run the screen and drew plays to feed the ball to the RBs and let them gain yardage after catch. This is AR’s version of running game. This should also make Vick a better QB and not risking him to injuries with less chance to run on his own.

  9. 9 Stan said at 11:26 AM on August 29th, 2011:

    @Eric

    I think it’s too early to say what positions the Eagles will target a year from now. Evan Mathis was a pretty good LG with Cincinnati and he’s only 30 years old. If he plays well the Eagles might be willing to draft a LG with a mid round pick and hope to develop him.

    I’m going out on the limb here and say that the Eagles are going to draft a QB in the 1st round. Think about it. Vick will be 32 years old by the start of next season. If Andy drafts a QB now, he can develop him and let Vick walk when he turns 35.

  10. 10 justrelax said at 11:41 AM on August 29th, 2011:

    “I don’t care if it is Iso plays, draws, screens, or what…use the RBs, Big Red.”

    None of the above. Well, the occasional draw. Our running plays will be two in number – stretch left and stretch right.

  11. 11 mattman said at 12:00 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    There was another reason we ran the ball so much in 2003 – we had the most pitiful receiving corps in team history. The infamous Thrash/Pinkston/Mitchell team combined for a whopping FIVE touchdowns that year, while Chad Lewis and L.J. Smith added one apiece. SEVEN touchdowns by pass-catchers and 30 by running backs. It’s kind of amazing that actually happened on an Andy Reid team.

    Anyway, the current receiving corps is JUST a bit more accomplished than that, so I’m not expecting a 2003 repeat. But we could see more runs – I’ve always felt that Reid’s problem isn’t so much refusing to run as giving up on the run if it’s not working early.

  12. 12 ATLEagle said at 12:16 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    RE: the wildcat… with our new athletic pulling center, do you think there is any possibility that JamJax can come in for a jumbo package to really start pushing things around. I would love to see a wall of Peters/Jackson/LG with Kelce pulling around to lead the way for Brown.

    You just have to find a way to get all your weapons on the field, and put players in the right position to make plays.

  13. 13 PC said at 12:38 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    Tommy,

    Silly (off-topic) question. Cowboys cut Gurode. Any idea if the Eagles could be interested? Or is he too old and immobile for Mudd’s athlete-biased system?

  14. 14 hankbaskettGOD said at 1:14 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    Is it correct to say that Mudd’s new “attacking” style limits how fast the defense can read a play (run or pass) because the O-line will be pushing forward every play and not the classical backstep pass protection? I think this could be quite effective

  15. 15 hankbaskettGOD said at 1:17 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    Will it be harder for defenses to read and react against Mudd’s new attacking method? They can no longer read the O-line’s blocks to gauge run or pass, correct?

  16. 16 ppk said at 1:31 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    The Cowboys have released their starting C Andre Gurode. My understanding is they couldn’t reach a contract agreement. The guy has been to several Pro-Bowls. Does anyone know any more details? Would he be a valid option for the Eagles?

  17. 17 Cliff said at 1:35 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    You have to think even Ronnie Brown, who probably had few options during free agency, signed here with some sort of assurance that he’d get touches. At least SOME touches.

  18. 18 Kevin (RC) said at 1:38 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    Yes, it should make our play-action more devastating…provided we actually run the ball.

    The reason is that each OL starts the play in the same way (engaging at the snap). The difference is that in run blocking, the OL keeps going and in pass blocking, he’ll usually stop at a certain point in case of a delayed blitz.

    If we get a legit 60-40 pass/run ratio, it will really help 1st down play-action.

  19. 19 Dewey said at 1:46 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    Are some of the commenters here on Pluto?

    What, on God’s green earth, make anyone with a rational mind think Andre Gurode fits Mudd’s system at all.

    Just give me one way the two can be reconciled.

  20. 20 Dewey said at 1:48 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    One more that was marginalized on the last article:

    Questions for the group:
    1. I’ve seen other readers mention it, so I need to ask. What is “the plan”?
    2. With rookies at both kicker positions, at MLB, c and RG. With 2nd year players at S, SLB. With new coaches on both lines and at DC. WHO SAYS THE EAGLES ARE IN WIN NOW MODE?
    3. Parker, Laws, Hanson, Jamaal? All gone?

  21. 21 eagleizeit said at 1:51 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    Tommy’s brilliance!! Can’t be denied. With the current variables they’d be foolish not to do this for the 1st qtr. plus of the season. Besides the talent at RB the variables include necessity’s like OL gelling, 2 of top 3 WR’s getting healthy and building QB confidence(also safety) behind OL. Non-necessity’s, but more strategic, would be opponents studying of game tapes that they have on previous yrs. offense for the 1st 4 games. The 2nd qtr. may or may not change somewhat afterwards, but should at least cause confusion after the 1st qtr. of evaluations.

  22. 22 Dan in Philly said at 1:51 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    @Cliff: “You have to think even Ronnie Brown, who probably had few options during free agency, signed here with some sort of assurance that he’d get touches. At least SOME touches.”

    Cliff – if you have never been in the job market or joined the army, you might not know this, but RECRUITERS LIE!!! 🙂

    I’m not saying Brown will not be a part of the offense, but anything he was told during the wooing process will have to be taken with a shovelfull of salt. He will get touches not because he was promised them, but if and only if the Eagles will benefit by him getting touches.

  23. 23 ppk said at 1:58 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    @Dewey

    Never been to Pluto, but one may notice that my post from God’s green earth about Gurode ended with a question mark. That’s because my limited rational mind isn’t familiar enough with the guy to know if he would fit Mudd’s system. I welcome anyone with more knowledge than me to help me understand the situation.

  24. 24 eagleizeit said at 2:31 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    @Dewey
    Yo!! You saying Muddy can’t roll AR out there to fit his scheme also?? Even if it really was real muddy? LOL

    @Dan
    You know what time it is. Some cats just listen and don’t think. Just ignore the 99%ers.

  25. 25 justrelax said at 2:36 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    Re: Gurode.

    No, he doesn’t fit. He is JJ, only not as good.

  26. 26 eagleizeit said at 3:30 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    Trading a Dreamer for protection from the Blind Side…

    Tommy I wasn’t sure, but what do you think about acquiring Michael Oher & Vick’s boy Tyrod Taylor for VY, Justice, McGlynn and Colt Anderson. They don’t have a veteran QB who could even takeover & make them better contenders right now. Kafka & Taylor should only improve, if we need to give up more we got the ammo(ex. Higgins, draft picks, etc.). Oher looks like the size and quality player that would fit for many yrs., but I’m far from an OL, or trading expert. The players we trade wouldn’t be going to our rivals, or even our conference though.

  27. 27 Tommy Lawlor said at 3:47 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    @ eagleizeit…

    No trade. Eagles weren’t real high on Oher coming out. Don’t see him as Mudd guy. Oher is also best in run offense like BAL’s.

  28. 28 Tommy Lawlor said at 3:59 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    @ Dewey…

    The Plan is to win now. Now means 2011, not necessarily today. Eagles are adding talented young players to the roster. You can live with a few mistakes early in the year if the player will be performing at a high level in October.

    Sometimes you roll the dice on talent over experience. If the players are quick learners, that can pay big rewards. Both SB teams had rookie starters last year.

  29. 29 ppk said at 6:33 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    @justrelax

    re: Gurode

    Thanks.

  30. 30 D3Keith said at 9:03 PM on August 29th, 2011:

    Just want to concur that I love our RBs this year, and now that Ryan Harris is on a gurney, I think Ronnie Brown might be our second-most impactful signing.

    Not only can we use him any down, any situation, but we can lean on him if McCoy were to — God forbid — get hurt.

    I also think these guys give us options against teams that want to obsess over containing Vick — while they’re keeping contain, we can gash them up the gut.

    And while they’re playing deep to take away Jackson and Maclin, we can hit our RBs out of the backfield until they stop it. I could see a lot of 7-yard McCoy checkdowns followed by 4-yard Brown runs this year.