Running-Back-by-Committee Approach Nonexistent in Eagles' Losing Streak
The running-back-by-committee approach Eagles coach Doug Pederson likes to deploy is out of whack.
Without Jordan Howard available for the past three games, and likely to miss a fourth when the New York Giants pay a visit to Lincoln Financial Field on Monday night, Pederson has gone pretty much exclusively with rookie Miles Sanders during the team’s current three-game losing streak.
Sanders had 17 runs against the Dolphins to just two for Jay Ajayi. Boston Scott has been invisible the last two weeks, not earning a single carry.
“I’d love to get Jay a few more touches and get Boston in the mix so we're not obviously wearing Miles down here this last month of the season,” said Pederson on Saturday morning.
Sanders is having a splendid rookie season, but he is just a rookie who will play his 13 straight game on Monday.
“I’m good,” said Sanders on Friday. “Mentally good, physically good. All the vets are talking to me making sure I’m straight mentally because it is a long season in rookie season, but I’m in good spirits.”
Sanders is second in the NFL in all-purpose yards for a rookie behind Oakland’s Josh Jacobs (1,207). He has 520 yards rushing this season, just five off the team-high 525 put up by Howard, and he has added 32 receptions for 359 yards, just four behind receiver Nelson Agholor’s total of 363 compiled on 39 catches.
His 1,193 scrimmage yards has moved Sanders past running backs coach Duce Staley (1,190 in 1997) for fifth-most all-purpose yards in Eagles rookie history and he has gone ahead of tight end Charle Young in 1973 for third-most scrimmage yards in franchise history.
It is that kind of production, coupled with key injuries, that have pushed Pederson to rely so heavily on Sanders.
The Eagles have been without Corey Clement for much of the season and Darren Sproles was lost, for the most part, in early October.
Ajayi was brought back to the roster three weeks ago but has had limited impact. He had six rushes two weeks ago and two carries against the Dolphins.
“It's a process with him, but we understand who he is and the injury that he's coming off of, so we're careful with that, but at the same time, he's a bigger powerful guy that we can use in spots,” said Pederson.
The weather forecast for Monday’s game against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field is calling for rain, so the running game could get more of a workout than it has in three previous games when the Eagles ran just 19 times against the Dolphins, 23 against the Seahawks and 21 against the Patriots. All three games were losses.
In the Eagles’ last win, on Nov. 3 against the Chicago Bears, Pederson dialed up 35 runs.
Scott’s last game with carries came against the Patriots, when he gained 26 yards on seven runs. The only other running back to carry the ball in that game was Sanders.
The flipside of running the ball more is that the Giants’ defense can be difficult to run against. Though they rank 21 in the league in rushing defense, they are big and stout up front with Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence.
“They are great against the run, and that’s something that as we prepare this week, we have to do a good job in,” said Pederson.
Perhaps that will entail getting back to Pederson’s running-back-by-committee approach.