Skip to main content
Publish date:

Inside Week 11: Saints Rushing Attack vs. Eagles Run Defense

Can New Orleans have early rushing success against a rugged Philadelphia defense to maintain balance and avoid the second half deficits they've faced in each of the last two weeks?
Author:

The New Orleans Saints roll north this Sunday to take on the 4-6 Philadelphia Eagles. New Orleans comes in with a 5-4 record and in second place in the NFC South, but losers of two straight. Philadelphia has won two of their last three and are a distant second in the NFC East.

A traditionally prolific New Orleans offense has been anything but that in 2021. The Saints average 321 yards of total offense per game, ranking just 26th in the NFL. Sean Payton's normally prolific passing attack has been the main source of troubles.

The Saints rank a lowly 31st in passing production. Third-string QB Trevor Siemian, in for an injured Jameis Winston, hasn't been the problem. A receiving corps short on talent and an offensive line that’s had baffling breakdowns in protection has, leading to a stacked defense against their running attack.

The Saints now face a physical Eagles defense that ranks 14th in total yardage and points allowed. Philadelphia has surrendered an average of 350 yards and 23 points per contest. They are in the bottom third of the league in turnovers forced, third down percentage, and red-zone defense.

Most teams have had more success against the Eagles through the air. However, the only consistent aspect of this New Orleans offense has been their patience on the ground.

SAINTS RUNNING ATTACK VS. EAGLES RUN DEFENSE

New Orleans Running Game

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs against the Philadelphia Eagles. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs against the Philadelphia Eagles. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints average 119 yards per game on the ground, ranking 12th in the NFL.

Without much respect for their passing game, opposing defenses have stacked the line of scrimmage against the run. New Orleans has remained patient, averaging only four yards per attempt but ranking sixth in rushing attempts.

Versatile RB Alvin Kamara leads the team with 530 yards on the ground and 3 touchdowns. The Saints have had a hard time getting their explosive playmaker in space. Kamara is averaging a career low 3.6/carry.

The dynamic Kamara is a threat from anywhere along the offensive formation and has often single-handedly carried the offense over the last two years. He missed just the fifth game in his career last week with a knee sprain. He'll miss his sixth this Sunday against the Eagles. 

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II (14) runs the ball against the Tennessee Titans. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY 

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II (14) runs the ball against the Tennessee Titans. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY 

The franchise's new all-time leading rusher, RB Mark Ingram, returned to the team three weeks ago in a trade with Houston. In the three games since, Ingram has 29 carries for 117 yards and a score.

At 31, Ingram still has the ability to carry the load with Kamara missing another contest. He isn't as explosive, but is a hard-nosed runner between the tackles and capable in the open field. He’s also a valuable weapon as a receiver out of the backfield, but Kamara's absence would further limit the passing attack.

Versatile offensive weapon Taysom Hill is a rugged runner who has sprinters speed in the open field. Hill has been limited by injuries this year, including a foot injury suffered against Tennessee. He’s rushed 20 times for 104 yards and 3 scores.

RB/WR Ty Montgomery suffered a dislocated finger last week that will sideline him Sunday. Without him, special teams ace RB Dwayne Washington could see some action, especially with Kamara out. Second-year RB Tony Jones Jr. could also be activated from injured reserve (ankle) and pressed into duty.

The depth of the Saints offensive line has been tested this year. Starting LG Andrus Peat is already out for the rest of the year. Dominant LT Terron Armstead will miss his second consecutive game with knee and shoulder injuries. Pro Bowl RT Ryan Ramczyk joined him on the injury report with his own knee injury that will sideline him on Sunday.

Versatile G/T James Hurst and G Calvin Throckmorton have been outstanding injury replacements this season. They manned starting duties on the left side last Sunday. 

Second-year RG Cesar Ruiz continues to be maddeningly inconsistent, but C Erik McCoy has been the team's best lineman in 2021.

Read More

Philadelphia Run Defense

Saints' Alvin Kamara (41) is stuffed by the Philadelphia Eagles defense. © JOE LAMBERTI/USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Saints' Alvin Kamara (41) is stuffed by the Philadelphia Eagles defense. © JOE LAMBERTI/USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

After a rough start to the year, the Eagles have been terrific against the run over the last three weeks. On the year, they've allowed an average of 117.3 yards/game on the ground. Over the first seven games, opponents averaged 133 yards rushing against them. The Eagles have held their last three opponents to under 100 yards on the ground.

Philadelphia has a big but athletic defensive line capable of taking over a game. Led by a pair of mammoth defensive tackles in Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, the Eagles have 40 tackles for loss this year. Perennial Pro Bowler Cox garners most of the headlines, but Hargrave has been the team's most consistently disruptive player.

Ends Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat are better known for their pass rushing skills, but each are powerful run defenders on the edge. Ends Ryan Kerrigan, Tarron Jackson, and tackles Milton Williams and Hassan Ridgeway give the Eagles one of the league's deepest and most talented defensive lines.

Philadelphia's linebackers are overlooked throughout the league and have struggled with their positioning this season. However, this is an athletic group that is active all over the field. Third-year LB Alex Singleton leads the team in tackles by a wide margin and can play any of the linebacking spots.

Linebackers T.J. Edwards, Davion Taylor, and Genard Avery provide second-level support for an improving unit. The Eagles play a lot of off-ball coverage in the secondary, allowing their defensive backs to see running plays develop in front of them.

Safeties Anthony Harris, K'Von Wallace, and Rodney McLeod are a physical trio active in run support. Fourth-year CB Avonte Maddox is the leading tackler among the team's defensive backs. Despite his small stature, he’s an aggressive defender that takes out running backs as they turn the corner.

What to Watch

Jan 13, 2019; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs against the Philadelphia Eagles during a NFC Divisional playoff. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY

Jan 13, 2019; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs against the Philadelphia Eagles during a NFC Divisional playoff. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY

The Saints rushed for 96 yards on 20 carries in a 24-21 loss at Philadelphia last December. New Orleans started Taysom Hill at quarterback in that game in place of an injured Drew Brees. After falling behind 17-0 at halftime, they had to throw the ball more in the second half.

Trevor Siemian has played well at quarterback in the last three contests since replacing Winston, despite shortcomings at receiver. In each of the last two games, the Saints all but abandoned the run because of a big second half deficit.

It's vital for the Saints offensive success not fall behind this Sunday. While the defense plays a critical part for that not to happen, New Orleans must put points on the board early to maintain offensive balance.

The status of Hill bears close watching as game time approaches with Kamara and Montgomery . Kamara's presence adds a huge element to the attack, but winning their battles in the trenches is the most crucial factor to offensive production this week. Ingram is capable of having a big game, if the team's offensive line can control the point of attack. 

Read More Saints News