A Philadelphia Eagles head coach heavily favoring the pass game over the run game is nothing new for this organization, the media, and its fans. Former coaches Andy Reid and Doug Pederson have been known for their tendencies to abandon the run during games. Their philosophy is to pass to get the lead early and run to maintain the lead late. Now, with new head coach Nick Sirianni being a protégé of former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, there was hope that the team would finally place more of an emphasis on running the ball.
Six games into the 2021 season, however, that’s been far from the case. It’s gotten even worse.
For four straight games now the Eagles offense has refused to establish any sort of ground game with their running backs, particularly with Miles Sanders. Although the offense had a balanced attack in Weeks 1 and 2 against the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers, respectively, Sanders has gotten little work on the ground since then.
The #Eagles have given Miles Sanders 1 carry all half!!
Hell, at this point I’m convinced Chip Kelly liked LeSean McCoy more than Sirianni likes Miles Sanders! #TNF
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) October 15, 2021
When it comes to Sirianni’s offense it’s understood that RPOs and zone-reads are going to be heavily featured concepts. The team’s rushing attack is embedded into those play calls. In other words, it’s up to Jalen Hurts to read the defense and determine when it’s advantageous for him to hand the ball off or to keep it. The times when the ball is handed off should be sufficient when it comes to calling run plays, according to Sirianni and the coaching staff.
What Sirianni doesn’t see right now is that choosing to roll with RPO and zone-read concepts as the foundation of your run game is a huge flaw. Some of the blame does fall on Hurts for choosing to make bad reads and keeping the ball instead of handing it off. In that aspect, he must be better. However, you’re also limiting your offense and making it predictable by choosing to only run with RPO and zone-read calls. There need to be traditional and straight-up run design calls.
If you look at the Indianapolis Colts offense, not only does Frank Reich makes sure there is always some sort of balance in his run-pass ratio, but he also comes up with some effective run designs. He uses Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines well, and that in turn only helps their passing game. It’s very puzzling to see Reich call plays the way he does and then see Sirianni do the opposite.
One must wonder how much of this isn’t Sirianni’s doing but that of the owner, Jeffrey Lurie. It’s no secret how much Lurie loves analytics and the passing game, and therefore he will always want his team to win by passing the ball instead of running it. If you recall, there was a joint article by The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia, Bo Wulf, and Zach Berman that cited Lurie being critical of the team’s victories over the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills simply because they ran the ball too much.
“Apparently, that wasn’t good enough. Lurie, who has long advocated the use of analytics, wanted to know why Pederson hadn’t called more passing plays. The interrogation was the same after another win that season — this time in Buffalo on a day with 23 mph winds.”
The Eagles are trending in the wrong direction right now, and it’s getting uglier each week. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to prioritize the pass game over the run game, but this has reached alarming levels of negligence. The importance and impact of establishing some sort of ground game with your running backs can never go understated, even in today’s era of football where passing is king. I would highly suggest listening to this press conference clip of Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley as he explains why running the ball should always be a point of emphasis for any offense. Now, if only there was some way for Jeffrey Lurie and company to listen to it as well.
— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) October 6, 2021