If you thought Doug Pederson was bad at committing to the run, the Philadelphia Eagles’ new head coach, Nick Sirianni, has taken things to a new level.
Philadelphia has thrown the ball 87 times over the course of the past two weeks and has lost both games by big margins. To be fair, they hung in there with an explosive Kansas City Chiefs team but they couldn’t convert in the red zone.
Coming into this Week 4 matchup, the Kansas City Chiefs defense had allowed an average of 160.3 rushing yards per game, the second-worst mark in the league, but think about this for a second. As Reuben Frank noted last year, 13 of the 26 modern-era running backs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame never had a single run of at least 74 yards in their entire career and Sanders had three in 2020.
Frank also pointed out that no Eagle had one run over 74 yards before Sanders. He can change a game on a dime. Sanders didn’t have much space to work with as he only collected 13 yards on seven carries but it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have found more running room with more opportunities.
So, why do the Philadelphia Eagles continue to ignore one of their best players?
Sirianni committed quite a bit to the screen game today. The screen game is an extension of the run game, and overall it was a more balanced attack than last week. Still, that isn’t saying much considering that they ran it three times between Sanders and Kenny Gainwell in Arlington.
Sanders still only had three receptions on three targets in the passing game. He gained 34 yards on those touches and made multiple tacklers miss in the open field. The drops were an issue in 2020 and in training camp. Miles hasn’t had ball security issues yet this year, nor has he had issues with the screen game in the past.
There is no reason why Sirianni can’t find ways to get him involved especially with blockers in space. At the least, it was nice to see Gainwell utilized.
Sanders can do almost anything that is asked of him. His vision between the tackles is impeccable. His ability in the open field is off the charts. His burst and explosiveness are top-tier. The Birds offensive coaching staff needs to get creative and find ways to get Sanders out on the edge or through the hole in the interior.
The passing game worked well, for the most part, in Week 4, but at some point, the Birds have to make it a priority to get the ball to their most dynamic playmaker especially in the red zone.
It’s a fair point to say that the offensive line was banged up, but Herbig and Driscoll have experience as starters. The pass protection and run blocking weren’t perfect today but the offensive line certainly didn’t cost the Eagles the game. The crowd shouldn’t have to chant “run the ball” for Sirianni to finally give Gainwell a red zone carry that he took for a touchdown.
Even with the lack of touches for Sanders, the Birds had opportunities to win through the air. Due to an overthrow to a wide-open Ertz, dropped touchdowns from Ertz and Ward, and countless penalties, this team couldn’t do any damage when they were inside the 20-yard line.
The defense has struggled mightily against two high-powered offenses in the past two weeks. However, this team still could’ve benefited from more red zone carries and touches in general from their dangerous running back. In general, they need to utilize the run more with Sanders, Gainwell, and Hurts. It would take some pressure off of the offense as a whole. If this continues, it’s going to be a long season.