With New Weapons, Eagles Committed to Running Game More in 2017 | NBC 10 Philadelphia

With New Weapons, Eagles Committed to Running Game More in 2017

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    With New Weapons, Eagles Committed to Running Game More in 2017
    CSNPhilly.com
    With new weapons, Eagles committed to running game more in 2017

    Carson Wentz threw 607 passes last year, most in Eagles history, second-most in NFL history by a rookie and a figure that only nine quarterbacks in NFL history have ever surpassed.

    Everybody watching the Eagles last year thought it was too many.

    And now apparently Doug Pederson agrees.

    With the signing of LeGarrette Blount, the drafting of Donnel Pumphrey and the addition of premium undrafted free agent Corey Clement, it sure makes sense that the running game will be more of a focus in 2017.

    Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley said Monday Pederson has assured him that the running attack will be more of a focus in the offense in 2017 than it was in 2016.

    "He talked about running the ball, not bringing these guys in here to sit on the shelf," Staley said. "We want to run the ball and impose our will."

    The Eagles threw the ball on 58.2 percent of their plays last year compared to 41.8 percent running plays.

    But there were plenty of games where that ratio was really out of whack. From Game 7 through Game 14, a stretch in which the Eagles went 1-7, that ratio was 65 to 35, with 388 called pass plays and just 198 running plays.

    Staley was a fan favorite as a hard-nosed physical inside runner during his 10-year career, the first seven of which were with the Eagles.

    And he wants this team to be the same way.

    "It's all about identity," he said. "We've got to see who we're going to be. I want to run the ball and create that smash-mouth identity where the pass game comes off that, and we can do that with the backs that we have."

    The oft-injured Ryan Mathews was the Eagles' lead running back last year. DeMarco Murray was the lead back the year before. So the Eagles really haven't had an authoritative running game since Chip Kelly traded LeSean McCoy to the Bills.

    But Staley believes the Eagles making running back an offseason priority is a sign of an increasing commitment to the ground attack.

    "I think it's a sign, I think that's a sign," Staley said. "Carson's able to handle (600 pass attempts), without a doubt, but you want to be in a position where you can help Carson, and the guys that we have in the backfield can help him.

    "We get back to pounding the ball a little bit and just imposing your will on these defenses and being able to get Blount out there in the secondary, I'm pretty sure those safeties will think twice about hitting him. You want to be able to help Carson and we've got the weapons around him now to help him."

    Staley, now in his seventh season as an Eagles assistant under his third head coach, has a versatile array of running backs, with Blount coming over from New England, Darren Sproles back for his 13th NFL season, Wendell Smallwood back for his second year and rookies Pumphrey and Clement, as well as second-year pro Byron Marshall.

    Mathews is still formally on the roster as well, but he's expected to be released once he recovers from a neck injury he suffered late last season.

    How will it all fit together? Too early for Staley to speculate.

    "You can draw up a lot of things on paper, that's easy," he said. "I can draw all kinds of things on the board. But a lot of that stuff is determined in camp.

    "When you're out there on the gridiron on those hot, sweaty days and you see your offensive line coming off the ball and you can see your running backs hitting the hole … that's when you start to study the team a little more and you come out of that thinking, 'OK, that's who we're going to be.'

    "I'm a big pad guy. When we put the pads on I can tell you more. Run around in shorts, it is what it is. When it's time to line ‘em up and see who's a man, we'll be having this conversation again."