Sirianni pushes back against criticism of run game

Sirianni pushes back against criticism of run game originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The statistics will tell you the Eagles’ rushing offense hasn’t been nearly as good in recent weeks.

Nick Sirianni will tell you differently.

The Eagles’ head coach on Monday pushed back against a question based on the premise that the rushing offense hasn’t looked very good recently.

“I know you're just asking the question. I don't agree with it,” Sirianni said on Monday afternoon. “And because there's more to the run game, like those numbers, than just what the stats say. And so that's how I'm kind of answering that. You guys can take that, I think I've done a good job explaining that and I don't want to get too far into that, the scheme things, but yeah, that's how we see it.”

When asked for a clarification on if he’s OK with how the run game has been performing, Sirianni indicated that he is.

Before we get to the reasons Sirianni disputed what the stats say, let’s get to the stats.

Overall this season, the Eagles aren’t a bad rushing team at all. They have the NFL’s No. 7-ranked rushing offense, averaging just under 130 yards per game. That’s pretty good. But they haven’t rushed for more than 109 yards in any of their last four games. In fact, over the previous four games, they’re averaging 86.8 yards.

You probably remember in Weeks 2 and 3 when the Eagles rushed for 259 yards and 201 yards in back-to-back weeks. They haven’t come close to that recently.

And it’s not just that the overall rushing numbers are down. Yards per carry are way down too.

Here’s a look at the season broken down into the first three games and the next six:

Weeks 1-3: Averaged 4.9 yards per attempt | 185.7 yards per game

Weeks 4-9: Averaged 3.4 yards per attempt | 101.7 yards per game

The Eagles’ best running back, D’Andre Swift, was off to a fantastic start this season. He had 130+ yards in back-to-back weeks against the Vikings and Bucs. But after averaging 6.8 yards per game in the first three weeks, he’s averaging just 3.8 over the last six.

Even longtime center Jason Kelce after the Commanders game talked about the need to clean up some elements of the Eagles’ rushing offense.

But here was Sirianni’s take on Monday:

“I think the run game is executing differently than what you've seen,” Sirianni said. “Again, when you just look at a stat book, you're not going to get that information exactly the way it is, right. So, I mean, we run a jet sweep to D’Andre (Swift) that goes for 22 yards; that counted as a pass. That's a run, right. That's a run. It's just the way we gave them the football. Some teams are under center and turn it around and hand it to the guy. Some teams that are gun teams catch it and pitch it forward. For the teams that catch it and pitch it forward, they get pass yards. For the teams that turn around and hand it, they get run yards. It's a style of what you are in your offense as far as if you're a gun team or an under team.

“You look at the other plays, the explosive play to Dallas Goedert, well, it counts as a pass. Well, I've got it but it's an RPO. It's an RPR. When you do that, you're reading an end and then some teams play -- some teams read it, and I don't want to get too much into the scheme of it, but some teams read it and they play option football and some teams read it and play pass-forward football. Those are runs.”

All somewhat valid points. The Eagles have plays they consider to be extensions of their run game and the play to Swift against the Cowboys is a perfect example. And if we were talking about a smaller sample size, this would make plenty of sense.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. Maybe the Eagles’ rushing offense hasn’t dropped off as much as the stats suggest. But to explain away the entire drop-off with schematic answers seems off too.

To be fair, all of this is somewhat nitpicky. The Eagles have the No. 3 offense in terms of yards this season and the Birds are the second-highest scoring team in the league. They’re 8-1 and have the best record in football.

But as Jalen Hurts says, there’s winning and then there’s playing to the standard. The stats and the eye test say the Eagles’ rushing attack hasn’t been playing to the standard, even if Sirianni disagrees with that.