One of Doug’s biggest flaws this season has been his inability to call a balanced attack on offense. Tough, smash mouth running was one of the many defining aspects of the Birds’ offense last season. With a depleted back field this season, the lack of a down hill rushing attack is to be expected. But nevertheless, keeping the opposing defense off-balance and on their toes with the threat of a run game should be the strategy for the Eagles offense moving forward.
It worked Sunday against the Giants, as the Eagles rushed 29 times for 127 yards. Led by undrafted free agent running back, Josh Adams, Doug dialed up the running game more than he has all season. Even when they fell down 19-3, Doug continued to run the ball and keep the Giants’ defense guessing. After making it a one-possession game before going into the half, the offense was able to pound the rock in the second half and wear out the defense.
This was the first time all season that we’ve seen the Eagles play this brand of smash mouth football. The Giants knew the run was coming, but there was just nothing they could do about it. On the Eagles’ second to last drive where they went up 22-19, they ran the ball five times out of the six total plays on the drive, capping it off with a one-yard plunge from Adams.
Doug pledged to utilize Adams as their lead back moving forward after the Saints game, and Adams didn’t disappoint. He toted the rock 22 times for 88 yards and a touchdown. Those 22 rushing attempts are the most by a single back for the Eagles all season.
Adams wasn’t the only back who was impressive against the Giants either. Corey Clement had his best game of the season too, racking up 45 yards on just five attempts. He also snagged two passes for 31 yards. He’s been banged up all season, so it was great to see him finally have a break out game.
This formula of a balanced attack on offense with creative/aggressive play calling is what made the Eagles so special offensively last season. If they want to make noise down the stretch this season, they’re going to need to use a similar formula.
There’s no excuse to not stay balanced on offense, even when they get down early. Doug has cited this as his reasoning for not running the ball as much this season. Well, he just proved himself wrong this past Sunday. Even when the Eagles got down by more than two touchdowns, the offense remained balanced. This needs to be a point of emphasis for the offense for the remainder of the season.
Everyone, including myself, expected the Giants to attack the Eagles’ injury riddled secondary all game. While there were a few plays here and there where the secondary was clearly out of sorts, the Giants running attack is what really hurt the Eagles in the first half. Saquon Barkley finished the day with 101 rushing yards on 13 attempts and seven catches for an additional 41 yards. Most of those yards came in the first half though, as the Eagles were able to hold him to a measly seven yards on four carries in the second half.
The Birds’ defense was getting their respective asses handed to them in the first half, leading to the Giants having an early 19-3 lead. After the offense was able to make it a one-possession game with just over a minute to go in the half, Malcolm Jenkins was able to pick off Eli and prevent them from getting any last-minute points before halftime.
This interception was a turning point for the defense, and they came out of halftime with a lot of energy. After the game, Jenkins said that during halftime the defensive backs and coaches simplified the coverages and signals, making communication easier for the inexperienced secondary. This seemed to work, as the Eagles were able to hold the Giants to just three points in the second half.
The defensive line, who was invisible in the first half, picked up their game in the second half as well. They were able to create pressure with just their front-4, allowing Jim Schwartz to keep as many players in coverage as possible. It’s no secret that Schwartz doesn’t like to blitz, his defense is predicated on the front-4 being able to create pressure on their own. This philosophy only works when the defensive line shows up, and luckily for the Eagles they came to play in the second half. Chris Long and Michael Bennett were both able to tally a sack, and the team was able to hit the QB a total of five times (three from Fletcher Cox).
Thankfully for the Birds’ defense, this Giants game may have been the last where they’ll have to start practice squad corners in their secondary. Coach Pederson said that Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones and Avonte Maddox are all doing well with their injuries and that there’s a solid chance they play next Monday against the Redskins. This would be huge, that goes without saying really. There’s no shot that the Eagles could realistically go on a postseason run with Cre’Von Leblanc starting in their secondary. So getting Maddox, Mills and Jones back will undoubtedly help the defense.