How the Eagles' defense keeps on getting fooled by the same thing

Reuben Frank
·4 min read

How the Eagles keep getting fooled by the same thing originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles can’t stop anybody running the ball.

Except running backs.

And that sounds like it doesn't make sense, but in this crazy season, it really does.

The Eagles have allowed eight rushing plays of 20 yards or more, and only one of them was by a running back.

They’ve allowed 25 rushing plays of 10 yards or more, and only 10 have been by running backs - four by the Rams, six by the Eagles' six other opponents.

Opposing offenses keep making huge plays against the Eagles with their running backs and wide receivers running the ball.

“It's just the way offenses are now,” Jim Schwartz said. “That's been a layer to the run game that 10 years ago, five years ago, wasn't as big. You might get a reverse in a game, but you didn't have all those different things. … If we can eliminate those plays, we can make it hard for people to drive the ball.”

The Rams’ three running backs netted 141 yards on 26 carries against the Eagles. No other running back has averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry.

Check out these rushing numbers by RBs against the Eagles vs. all other teams:

  • Antonio Gibson (4.0, 4.5)

  • Jerick McKinnon (3.9, 5.0)

  • Wayne Gallman (5.1, 3.4)

  • J.K. Dobbins (7.9, 3.1)

  • James Conner (5.1, 2.9)

  • Joe Mixon (3.7, 2.9)

  • Benny Snell (4.0, 2.7)

  • Gus Edwards (5.7, 1.9)

  • Peyton Barber (2.5, 1.7)

“I thought the only team that really consistently drove the ball on us was the Rams - I guess the Steelers, also,” Jim Schwartz said Tuesday. “But the other games, it's been big plays, whether it's been run or pass, that have put them in scoring range. I think this Giants game, they really had one series that they drove and scored on. The other one was a one-play drive and the other one was set up by an 80-yard run by the quarterback.”

QBs and WRs have run the ball 31 times for 396 yards against the Eagles this year with four TDs (not including kneel downs).

That's 12.7 yards per carry.

RBs have run the ball 158 times but for just 521 yards and seven TDs.

That's 3.3 yards per carry.

Something is terribly wrong here.

“It's been rare that people have methodically driven the ball on us,” Schwartz said. “It's been more perimeter oriented. It's been more reverse, a quarterback loose play, maybe even a quarterback scramble in some of those, a zone read-type play. Those are plays that just stretch your whole defense, whether it's a reverse or a quarterback play like that. And every single person along the front needs to be right, and one person out of their gap, it can really, really look bad. Where a lot of inside runs, one guy out of his gap, you've got a linebacker that overlaps it or a safety that overlaps it and it's a gain of five and you guys don't even really notice. Just puts more emphasis on just being stone cold on the outside part of the field.”

The two leading rushers against the Eagles this year are quarterbacks. The 4th-leading rusher against the Eagles is a wide receiver who had one carry. 

And teams are going to keep beating the Eagles by getting a receiver outside or letting their quarterback run around and make plays until they figure out how to stop it.

And it’s not just Lamar Jackson and Daniel Jones.

The since-benched Dwayne Haskins – who’s hardly a running QB – hit the Eagles for a career-long 23-yard gain in the opener. Heck, even Jared Goff hit the Eagles with a 10-yard run – his longest in two years. 

Who would have thought we’d ever see an Eagles’ defense that shuts down opposing running backs but can’t stop the run?

But in this strangest of NFL seasons, that’s exactly what it’s come to.

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