What Doug Pederson could learn from the Browns

Reuben Frank
·3 min read

What Doug Pederson could learn from the Browns originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles are averaging 5.1 yards per carry. The Browns are averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

The Eagles have two backs averaging over 4½ yards a pop, and so do the Browns.

The Eagles have a quarterback whose play has been uneven, and the Browns do as well.

Everything's the same.

Except one thing.

The Browns run the ball 10 times more per game.

Nine weeks into the season, Browns running backs are getting 28 carries per game, and Eagles running backs are getting 17½ carries per game

Oh ... and the Browns are 6-3, and the Eagles are 3-5-1.

Sunday's Eagles-Browns game is a story of contrasts. 

One team that relies heavily on the running game, has stuck with the ground attack, has kept pressure off the quarterback by being balanced, has won games.

The other ignores the running game, is getting the QB sacked at a record pace, and is losing games.

There are a lot of factors that go into any team's success, but the Browns and Eagles are great examples of what an authoritative running game — or the absence of one — can mean for any team.

The Browns are one of three NFL teams with more rushing attempts than passing attempts, and Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb have already combined for nearly 1,110 rushing yards, a 5.2 average and eight touchdowns for the Browns.

"It's our biggest challenge of the season in the run game," Jim Schwartz said. "And how well we stop the run is going to go a long way to how well we play in this game. They are an outstanding run team. Probably the best two running backs we face this year. Not just the best two on the team, but the best two overall. Great balance. Great power. They know what they want to do in the run game. Nothing sort of takes them out of it. They are going to run it. It doesn't matter what your look is."

We all know the NFL is a passing league these days, but NFL teams are averaging 27.1 rushing attempts per game this year (highest since 2012) and they're averaging 118 rushing yards per game (highest since 2003). The 4.4 average is the highest in NFL history.

So the running game is making a sort of comeback this year. 

Maybe because it's easier to develop an effective running attack during a season without an offseason than a complicated passing attack.

Whatever the reason, the Browns are doing it as well as anybody. At 6-3 under rookie head coach Kevin Stefanski, they're on target for their first winning record since 2007 and perhaps their first playoff berth since 2002.

Then there's the Eagles.

They're on pace to become only the third team since 1950 to average more than 5.0 yards per running play and less than 5.0 yards per pass play.  

Yet while they're 30th in the NFL in yards per pass play and third in yards per running play, they're sixth in the league in called pass plays (passes plus sacks) and 27th in rushing plays.

Talk about a study in contrasts.

If all goes according to form, the Eagles and Browns will both run the football well Sunday afternoon. One of them will just do it a heck of a lot more than the other.

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