Eagles RBs

Posted: October 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 54 Comments »

Yesterday the Eagles dealt Ronnie Brown to the Lions for Jerome Harrison and a 2013 7th rounder.  That means the biggest back on the Eagles is…LeSean McCoy?

LeSean is somewhere in the 210-pound range.  Dion Lewis is under 200 pounds and Harrison lists at 205.  He might be 210 himself.  There is no big back.  There is no power runner.  Is this an issue?


Shady is playing great right now.  I think the only RB in the league I’d be willing to deal him for is Adrian Peterson.  Shady has developed into a workhorse runner.  He’s shown that he can carry the offense on his back.  He had 28 carries against a good run defense.  Even after Sunday, WAS is 11th in the NFL vs the run.  That was no picnic for him and his blockers.

Teams with great RBs don’t need situational players.  Usually.  Who do you want on the field on 3rd/2, Emmitt Smith or Lincoln Coleman?  Smith was smaller, but infinitely better.  There are some exceptions.

Barry Sanders is the greatest RB I’ve ever seen.  Unbelievable talent.  But, he wasn’t a great short yardage runner.  Barry liked to run to daylight, much like Shady.  This meant moving laterally and looking for seams.  Barry ran his way into the Hall of Fame doing this, but didn’t get in the endzone nearly as much as you might expect.

Barry Sanders – 3062 carries – 99 TDs
Emmitt Smith – 4409 carries – 164 TDs
LaDainian Tomlinson – 3128 carries – 144 TDs
Marcus Allen – 3022 carries – 123 TDs
Marshall Faulk – 2836 carries – 100 TDs
Jim Brown – 2309 carries – 106 TDs
Priest Holmes – 1780 carries – 86 TDs

The Lions knew Sanders wasn’t a great short yardage runner and tried to develop someone to take his place. They used guys like Derrick Moore and Tommy Vardell near the goal line.

Shady is only in his 3rd year.  We still haven’t seen the finished product.  The one area that he must work on is short yardage running.  Against the Giants on 4th/1 he tried to bounce the run wide and was stuffed.  Against the Skins on 3rd/1 he tried to bounce the run wide and was stuffed.  Can’t do that.  Those were running plays late in the game.  You must think situationally.  It is critical to get the yard.  Better to get 1 yard low risk than 25 with a high risk move.  Be smart.

Early in a game, you take risks.  You want talented playmakers to do their thing.  You live with losses and bad plays because you know that a good portion of the time the player will deliver positive plays.  Once you get late in the 3rd quarter or definitely in the 4th quarter, you must take a different approach.  1st downs are critical.  Move the chains.  If your team is behind, then you take chances.  In a close game or with the lead, play it safe.

Dallas never needed a short yardage back because Emmitt was a N-S runner.  He didn’t have great power, but was going to hit the hole and get they needed yards most of the time.  I do seem to recall a good stop in Philly in 1995, but sadly…that was the exception and not the rule.

Bill Parcells has a phrase he teaches to RBs…”trust the play”.  If the play is designed for the runner to go between LG and LT, that’s what Bill wants to see.  All 5 OL know where the RB will be.  They can block accordingly.

With guys like Barry and Shady, blockers have no idea where they are going to be.  They might cut left, maybe right.  They might circle back and go to the other side completely.  You have no idea what to expect.  The Eagles call running plays based on Shady’s unique ability.  There’s a reason we run so much from the shotgun and don’t slam it up between the tackles from the I-formation.  Most of the time this is great.

Shady must learn to trust the play on short yardage situations.  He can do it.  You saw on his short TD run that he was disciplined and followed his blocks into the endzone.  I hope the coaches get on him about this.  It is one of the few things keeping him from being a truly special player.  He can block.  He can catch.  Dynamic runner.  All he needs to do is get better on short yardage.

I was hoping that Ronnie Brown would solve that situation for us back when we signed him.  Never happened.  I loved the move in August and thought it was a sign that Andy Reid was serious about using a backup runner.

Andy for years has loved the idea of a big back.  Back in 2004 Thomas Tapeh was used as a RB.  Later we made him a FB.  Andy liked Brandon Jacobs a lot and considered drafting him.  Andy did draft Tony Hunt.  He signed Mike Bell.  He drafted Charles Scott.  He then signed Brown.  All these guys were 230-pound thumpers.

The guys we did get, didn’t succeed.  Part of that is on the players, but I think Reid bears a lot of responsibility as well.  I don’t know what he has envisioned in his head.  Reid was frustrated with Hunt and Scott because they didn’t pass block well enough.  He couldn’t trust them on the field and that led to them getting cut.  Brown was an outstanding pass blocker.  He could catch and run.  There was no excuse not to use him.  But we didn’t.

I don’t blame Reid for wanting Shady to get as many snaps as possible, but you must find a way to use your primary backup so that he is part of the offense.  Ronnie Brown was used to 10-15 touches a game.  He got 13 in 4 games here (none in the final 2 when he was in the doghouse).  That’s not enough.

Reid has done a good job of developing Correll Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook, and LeSean McCoy.  He did good things with Duce Staley.  That’s a darn good set of RBs over 13 years.  Not bad for a passing coach.

You would think using backup running backs would be the easy part of it.  I thought Reid did a great job of that in 2002 and 2003.  Maybe that was actually Brad Childress.  Marty Mornhinweg could be part of the problem as well.  He is the guy calling plays.  No matter who or what, the Eagles must do a better job of using multiple running backs in the future.

Dion Lewis and Jerome Harrison are not going to get many touches.  There really isn’t much of a reason to use them.  They aren’t significantly different from Shady in running style.  In that case, do stick with the star player.  Lewis and Harrison won’t complain.  They’re happy to have jobs.  They’ll play STs or do whatever is asked of them.  And when we do have a 38-10 lead on someone later this year, one of the backups will get 10 4th quarter carries and Reid will talk about how it was good to get the backup some work…since you know…that isn’t possible in the other 15 games.

* * * * *

I love ProFootballTalk.  I like Mike Florio, for the most part.  But there are times when he can really get under your skin.  His report today on the whole Vick concussion situation is over the top.

I’m on board with him in regard to concussions.  Teams do need to be watched closely.  And the Eagles were wrong in the 2010 season opener when both Kevin Kolb and Stewart Bradley got back into the game after suffering concussions.  That was bad.

Florio compares Vick with Jahvid Best in the report.  There’s one teeny-tiny difference.  Best did suffer a concussion.  Vick did not.  But why let facts get in the way of a headline?

Florio’s report would be more reasonable if he mentioned London Fletcher’s admission that he was trying to get Vick off the field.  Nope.  Somehow that isn’t relevant.

Florio then talked about what he saw on the tape in great detail, as he looked for signs of a concussion.  Did he mention seeing Vick talk as he stood on the field?  Nope.  We’ve all seen players with concussions.  They look out of it.  There are glassy eyes and slurred speech.  They look drunk.  You can’t see Vick’s eyes because of the shield, but you can see him speaking.  Looks completely normal.

I don’t know what happened.  Vick and the Eagles say he had dirt in his eyes.  His helmet was driven into the ground.  Someone from the Eagles also said Vick had the wind knocked out of him.  He went to the sideline for 2 plays and then came back on the next offensive series.  He didn’t show any signs of concussion on the field or in his postgame press conference.

The NFL must be very serious when dealing with concussions, but let’s also not go crying wolf on every play where a guy gets up slowly.

54 Comments on “Eagles RBs”

  1. 1 jeff m. said at 12:42 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    I’m not a huge Florio fan…but we don’t know for sure Vick didn’t have a concussion. I thought D-Jax and several other players signaling over for the training staff right after it happened was kinda telling. Sure, the Eagles denied he had one, but that’s also in their best interests.

  2. 2 Anonymous said at 12:54 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    London Fletcher got up and put his arm on Vick. London then signaled to the Eagles sideline to come get Vick. DeSean was a few yards away and signaled as well, but he was just copying Fletcher.

    London admitted doing this because he wanted Vick out of the game.

    I’m not saying definitively that Vick was 100%. We don’t know. Florio goes too far the other way without acknowledging that Vick might have in fact been fine. Florio’s BS meter is overly-sensitive. He questions anything and everything. Not every odd situation is a conspiracy.

  3. 3 Anonymous said at 2:07 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    I thought it was fairly obvious- Florio does what he does to get attention, and site hits.

  4. 4 Anonymous said at 4:45 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Correct. That is why he’s been hammering the “Dream Team” stuff since August.

  5. 5 Anonymous said at 9:22 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    I stopped reading PFT 2 or 3 years ago. What was once a place filled with great nuggets about the game and rumors before they happened now clearly just appeals to the lowest common denominator.

    Since there are a million places to get NFL news, there’s no reason for me to support that. Your traffic speaks to what you support, so I prefer to use it at places that feature more reasoned analysis.

    That said, I sort of yearn for the days when there wasn’t all this feigned outrage about concussions and hard hits. I realize you can’t trust a player with his own safety because 95% of the team he’s going to want to go back in the game no matter the circumstances, but it’s to the point where guys can’t take any kind of hit without us assuming the worst.

  6. 6 Anonymous said at 10:29 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    No, you can’t trust the players.

    I think I have shared this story once before at IgglesBlog, but what the hell.

    In college we were playing a backyard football game. I caught a pass over the middle, turned upfield and immediately smashed into a guy that outweighed me by 100 pounds. I got up, checked for blood, told everyone I was find and we ran the next play. My friends had no idea anything was wrong until after the next play. I went out for a pass and didn’t come back to the huddle. I continued to make cuts and call for the ball until they walked me to the car. In the 3-block ride back to the house I apparently asked my friends 5 times why we stopped the game.

    I say apparently because I cannot remember any of this. The window between the start of the game and finding myself in the shower with my very scared girlfriend watching me is a complete blank.

    My other concussion led to me, again, apparently, trying to convince the ski patrol who found me face down bleeding into the snow that I was fine and I was going to walk down off the mountain.

    So, no, you can’t trust the players. But you can trust the medical personnel. They didn’t let me walk down and they didn’t let Vick back in in Atlanta.

  7. 7 Anonymous said at 3:11 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    I fully agree with you that Florio is taking Vick’s supposed concussion stuff over the top, but I can understand the logic he is using. Keep in mind that Florio views things through the eyes of a lawyer, so he reads the memo as saying “any suspicion about a player being concussed” and puts more value into the word “any” than anyone looking at the situation using a reasoning eye would. For example, you said, “I’m not saying definitively that Vick was 100%.” I think the way Florio reads the rule, to him, that would suggest that there is “some” potential suspicion about a player being concussed, therefore, by rule, he should be sat.

    While I completely disagree with his conclusion that the league should look into this, I do think Florio is pointing out (intentionally or unintentionally) a logical flaw in the way the NFL should handle concussions. The NFL clearly needs to take a very cautionary stance, but at the same time, that stance shouldn’t be to for players to sit for “any” suspicion but rather for “any reasonable” suspicion. Of course, from the NFL’s point of view, using language such as that which seems to be backing off on it’s stance on concussions could also be a potential PR challenge.

  8. 8 Derek Campbell said at 12:44 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Two good stops in 1995

  9. 9 Ben Hert said at 12:50 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    You mentioned it in your DGR, and I want to restate it…Vick NEEDS to learn how to dive. I don’t care how they do it, but if he wants to run around all over the place and be an active QB, he needs to learn how to slide. I would be so unbelievably pissed off if he went out with his second concussion of the season after not diving on that play.

  10. 10 Anonymous said at 12:54 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Vick must learn to slide/go down. Must.

  11. 11 Alex Karklins said at 12:53 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Right now, I wouldn’t trade McCoy for anyone, at any position. Something McCoy has that Peterson doesn’t: upside. He can be scary good.

    I also don’t remember Westbrook’s size being an issue on the goal line when he was running behind Shawn Andrews. If the blocking is there, it really doesn’t matter.

  12. 12 Anonymous said at 5:05 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Westbrook has a significantly different build and thus is a different runner. Listed GENEROUSLY at 5’10 (measured at 5’8 at the combine) and 203 pounds, Westy had most of his mass concentrated in those tree trunk legs. Accordingly, his center of balance was low, but he had a lot of power in short spaces.
    Shady is 5’11 and 208. It doesn’t seem like a significant difference, but the weight distribution in his body is really fluid. He has a balance to his running that I can’t even figure out (check out the shovel pass at 2:00 for the 2 point conversion his rookie year against Washington http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIbZeAfDXfw). He has the shake and bake of Westy, but more “up top” and “fluid” power than lower body power, but what’s rare is having that kind of distributed pop and being so damn balanced and agile.

    What makes Adrian Peterson rare is that he is a power back with balance and great speed. Shady has pop, but it’s fluid and it lacks brute strength. But he is so preternaturally balanced that he doesn’t need the truck-strength of AP. Shady can run in the redzone. He makes it work when there’s a little wiggle room, but it isn’t always there. This he should figure out in time, and that will get him to that definitive spot as the best RB in the league.

  13. 13 Anonymous said at 8:38 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Watching this, the first thing that comes to my mind is: WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR SCREEN GAME?!? I remember Westy/Youn Shady usually busting 15-35 yards on almost every screen call… What happened..?

  14. 14 Eric Weaver said at 1:18 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    “I hope the coaches get on him about this. ”

    And about tucking the ball away properly. I’m amazed he hasn’t fumbled this year.

    As for Vick, didn’t they state he took the concussion test on the sideline? I do think Florios post was garbage, however.

  15. 15 Matthew Verhoog said at 2:01 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    I think Lesean has gotten better keeping the ball secure then when he was a rookie. I’ve speculated that his untackleableness (that should be a word) contributes to his lack of fumbling, defensive players are just trying their best to get him down, without swiping for the ball.

  16. 16 Anonymous said at 1:26 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    I liked Florio a lot better before he became part of the NBC-NFL family.

    Not quite the humble West Virginian working two jobs any longer.

    That piece on Vick had more than a whiff of arrogance.

  17. 17 Matthew Verhoog said at 2:02 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Humble / Florio , coult you ever put those 2 words in the same sentence?

  18. 18 Anonymous said at 1:31 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    “You would think using backup running backs would be the easy part of it. I thought Reid did a great job of that in 2002 and 2003. Maybe that was actually Brad Childress.”

    yes yes yes yes yes!

  19. 19 Anonymous said at 2:03 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    That’s a huge hit, though.

    And Dion Lewis does look promising.

  20. 20 Anonymous said at 2:15 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    True, I’m a huge fan of McCoy. However, I’m going to wait and see with Dion Lewis. Moats showed even more promise…

  21. 21 Anonymous said at 12:01 AM on October 20th, 2011:

    Don’t remind me of Moats’ potential. I still have an authentic #23 Moats jersey hanging up in my closet.

    sad face.

  22. 22 Anonymous said at 3:40 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Isn’t that a bit like saying that the only hit the 49ers had at WR after Rice was Owens? When you go from #1 back to the next #1 back without a hitch, that’s pretty good drafting.

  23. 23 Anonymous said at 4:11 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    I’m not saying that the eagles are bad at drafting RBs, just not as good as they used to be.

    Also I think going from #1 back to #1 back is a lot more common than people are making it out to be. If I wasn’t at work I could post a number of examples of other teams doing the same thing.

  24. 24 Anonymous said at 4:49 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Actually, someone did that in the Comments section of a recent post and it isn’t very common. It has been done before, but usually there are gaps between the good players.

  25. 25 Anonymous said at 1:46 AM on October 20th, 2011:

    I don’t make a good devil’s advocate as I’m a self-professed homer. However I think when making lists like this people are overestimating the significance of both Westbrook and McCoy. Both good backs but not elite when compared with all the other good backs in the NFL.

    Now that I have the information, these are some examples of teams that pulled off the same, or similar. While not perfect comparisons, I’d like to submit these recent examples:

    Bills – Henry, McGahee, Lynch, Jackson (all 4 in a row)
    Jaguars – Taylor, Jones-Drew
    Colts – Faulk, James/Rhodes, Addai
    Saints – Ricky Williams, Deuce McAllister

    Now right away you can see a lot of these guys only had a couple peak seasons. But I feel the same way about westbrook, who had 3 peak seasons and McCoy has had 1 so far. Hopefully many more to come.

    Nonetheless, whether you agree with my list or not, there are not a lot of teams that pull this off. I just don’t think it’s a historic event, rather something that several good teams have done.

  26. 26 Anonymous said at 1:46 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    The greatest test for Shady will come on Sunday night when the best rushing offense (Eagles) faces the best rushing defense (Cowboys).

  27. 27 Anonymous said at 2:42 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Vick’s scrambles distort the Eagles’ gross rushing yardage numbers.

    In 1990, the Eagles led the NFL in rushing because Randall Cunningham rushed for more than 900 yards. (Heath Sherman was the “go to” RB that year . . . aargh.)

    That said, the Eagles have to be at or near the top in YPA for RBs.

    In that regard, the Eagles — and McCoy (unlike old Heath-bar) — make the Birds/’Boys an interesting match up.

  28. 28 Anonymous said at 3:58 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Who have the Boys shut down?

    NYJ – struggling to run this year
    SF – Gore was hurting back then
    WAS – Tim Hightower was about to get benched
    DET – struggling to run this year
    NE – mostly passing team

    Dallas is playing good run D, but they’ve been helped by playing teams that don’t run that well or that weren’t running well at the time.

    We’ll be a major test for the Boys.

  29. 29 Alex Karklins said at 5:33 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Let’s hope that “best rushing defense” stat doesn’t translate to fewer carries for McCoy in the game plan. Andy and Marty must stay with the hot hand against the Cowboys.

  30. 30 Anonymous said at 1:47 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    They’ve had one successful big back in the last few years. Unfortunately, he bent his knee the wrong way against GB week 1 last year.

  31. 31 the guy said at 3:21 PM on October 19th, 2011:


    I think Reid had finally found the big back he was looking for, and we all loved the guy. No offense to Schmitt, but the offense wouldn’t be struggling so much if Weaver hadn’t been hurt.

    Reuben Frank had an article where he looked at yds/game for the season, and found that the Eagles are currently #8 all time and on pace for #2 all time. He can talk about yards all he wants, but while the Eagles are 3rd in yds/game they are 12th in points, tied with that powerhouse Jets offense. Extrapolating for 16 games, the Eagles are on pace for 387.2 points for the season, which is a bit below the record of 589.

  32. 32 Anonymous said at 3:46 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    You forgot to factor in our 212 point showing in the season finale.

  33. 33 Anonymous said at 8:27 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    How did he extrapolate 3rd in the NFL this year to #2 all time? That is some pretty fancy figurin’.

  34. 34 Anonymous said at 9:32 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    OP misstated.

    The Eagles are on pace to come within 10 yards of the all-time yardage record. However, the Patriots and Saints are on pace to smash it, which would make No. 2 all-time no higher than No. 4 all time, and third this season.

  35. 35 the guy said at 11:24 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    As he stated in the article, offenses tend to slow down as things get colder and defenses tighten up.

    My main point was there’s a pretty big dropoff between #8 in yards all time at this point in the season and #12 in points for this season alone. A guy like Weaver is tailor-made for helping out in the RZ.

    Article for those who want to read:

  36. 36 sunset shazz said at 2:03 PM on October 19th, 2011:


    Can you discuss Steve Smith for a bit? Are you seeing a different guy post-surgery, or is Vick just not yet comfortable with him?

  37. 37 Anonymous said at 3:45 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    I think Smith is here for the 2nd half of the season. As the weather worsens, we need to be able to be more of a ball control offense. That’s where Smith has value. He can catch short passes and move the chains.

    He hasn’t played enough for me to say he’s got physical issues. Could be, but I don’t know for sure.

  38. 38 Anonymous said at 4:03 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    I know they denied it, but I can’t see the Eagles bringing in Smith if they were actually comfortable with Maclin’s health. At the time, they thought Maclin could have lymphoma, so you had to bring in someone. With the uncertainty, Smith made perfect sense considering if Maclin was in fact healthy, he wasn’t a huge signing that would force Maclin or DeSean off the field, and if Maclin was in fact going to have medical issues, at least you have Jackson and two solid WRs in Smith and Avant to fill in. When Maclin turned out to be healthy, Smith went from potentially the number 2 or 3 WR to the number 4 wr and frankly a wasted signing. You can’t fault the Eagles for the signing at the time, but with hindsight, I am not sure there is a significant role for Smith here.

  39. 39 Anonymous said at 4:49 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Smith could easily have been added due to concerns with Mac. Definite possibility.

  40. 40 Anders Jensen said at 2:14 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Tommy how much has this to do with the o-line? It have seemed a few times this year that the o-line have been pushed back in short yardage situations

  41. 41 Anonymous said at 3:43 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    There are holes to hit. You don’t expect interstates on 3rd/1 or 4th/1. You hope for a crease. You lower your shoulder and burrow for the 1st down.

    OL could be better, but there has been some room Shady has big-play-itis.

  42. 42 Anonymous said at 6:21 PM on October 19th, 2011:


    Another article about it, I tried to make a stand with the first comment! haha

  43. 43 Anonymous said at 10:06 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    I gave you a thumbs up. You are getting two to one positive.

    Still, it feels like paying the carnival sideshow attendant to see the lady with the fake beard that you knew was fake before you gave the guy your money.

  44. 44 Anonymous said at 7:03 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Per Schefter: Filed to ESPN: Ronnie Brown-to-Detroit trade voided because RB Jerome Harrison had health issues. Brown still an Eagle, Harrison a Lion.

    Welcome back Ronner!


  45. 45 Anonymous said at 8:46 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Great–nothing like a disgruntled third-string RB to liven up things at practice.

  46. 46 Anonymous said at 9:34 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    Kinda funny that no sooner does Tommy analyze the post-Ronnie Brown world than he awkwardly walks back into the building.

    I hope we use him this time and not cut him. But the latter seems more likely.

  47. 47 Steve H said at 10:49 PM on October 19th, 2011:

    We’d still probably need to bring in another guy to be the 3rd RB if we cut him and I’m not sure theres anyone on the street right now I’d rather have than Ronnie.

  48. 48 Anonymous said at 12:05 AM on October 20th, 2011:

    I think we should force Ronnie to change his number again before allowing him back into the NovaCare complex.

    Just for shits and giggles.

  49. 49 Steve H said at 12:36 AM on October 20th, 2011:

    His number should be -3, as in the amount of points he costs us every time he touches the ball.

  50. 50 Anonymous said at 2:03 AM on October 20th, 2011:

    He already wears Mahe’s old number, 34 must be cursed or something

  51. 51 Anonymous said at 6:26 AM on October 20th, 2011:

    I think Florio has become an Eagles hater (God knows why) but I found this quite funny:

    Curiously, Harrison didn’t appear anywhere on the Week Six injury report, and he wasn’t generally known to be injured.

    Maybe the Eagles doctors decided during the physical that Harrison had dirt on his face.

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