I have always chided fans and commentators for calling on Andy Reid to run the ball more. First of all, such pleas fall on deaf ears within the Eagles organization -- Reid has his offense and it doesn't change much. Second, Reid is right, statistics show that passing is now a much more effective way to win football games.
However, at the risk of reading too much into Thursday night's third preseason game, it might be time to shift the scales back more to the Brian Westbrook-centered offense we saw from 2006 through 2008. It's not that the Eagles ran so much more during that span, but their entire offense largely went through Westbrook with runs, screen passes and dump-offs.
I believe that wasn't by choice. Reid realized that the Eagles had few other offensive weapons. Of course, that certainly isn't the case now. But that doesn't mean the strategy won't still work. Here are three reasons it makes sense:
1. After last season's coming out party for Vick, it seems clear to me that defenses are going to load up in the secondary to prevent the deep ball from beating them. Unless I missed one, Vick hasn't completed a single one of his signature downfield bombs this preseason. Right now, opponents would rather let Vick complete dink and dunk passes underneath than beat them with one quick, demoralizing touchdown. And especially as Jeremy Maclin may not be 100 percent, the Eagles offense doesn't have a full complement of downfield weapons.
2. The offensive line is still in a state of flux. With King Dunlap at right tackle and two rookies starting in the interior against the Browns, pass blocking was a nightmare. Unless that line improves rapidly -- moving Herremans to tackle could help -- Vick isn't going to have time to sit back and let deep routes develop. The quick passes, the dump-offs underneath and the run game will likely continue to be more consistent options.
3. LeSean McCoy, the new Westbrook, is making a quietly persuasive case to be the No. 1 offensive threat. He never got the headlines last year, even though his production was very impressive for a second-year running back. Recliner GM found that in 2010 McCoy became only the ninth RB to post more than 1,670 yards before his 23rd birthday. And if the preseason can be trusted for anything, it has shown that McCoy might be ready for even more now. For a player who came into the league in Westbrook's shadow, he's already close to surpassing his mentor.
The offense from the third preseason game wasn't pretty, but it hinted that a McCoy-centric system could win football games. With defenses gearing up to stop the deep passing game and a leaky offensive line, why not use DeSean Jackson more as a decoy in the early going? Do the unexpected and run the football right at these over-aggressive defensive tackles. Take what they give you and ram it back at them. If you're successful, defenses will have to respect McCoy, and the long balls for DeSean and company will surely open up.