The Eagles’ 34-27 win over the Packers last week was the kind of game football traditionalists and offensive linemen absolutely love.
Ground and pound. Three yards and a cloud of dust, or, in this case, six, seven, and eight yards.
The Eagles ran the ball on 33 of their 60 snaps for 196 yards, against a Packers defense that had been really, really good against the pass in a 3-0 start, but really, really bad against the run.
The Eagles’ offensive line totally dominated the Packers’ front seven, as running backs Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders combined for 159 yards on 26 carries.
It was the first time the Eagles had more run plays than pass plays in a game since Week 11 of the 2017 season.
For Eagles fans, the Packers game was much more fun to watch than that 24-20 Week 2 loss to the Falcons, in which Carson Wentz and backup Josh McCown threw the ball 48 times, and Wentz endured the kind of 60-minute beating you really don’t want your quarterback taking.
"We’re effective when we’re balanced,’’ center Jason Kelce said, referring to the Packers game. “By the same token, it’s not going to be like that every week. You want to attack a defense wherever they’re giving things up. We had a good game plan going into that game.’’
The Falcons game wasn’t a case of Doug Pederson just getting pass-happy. The Eagles lost their best run-blocking tight end, Dallas Goedert, to a calf injury in pregame warmups, and the Pederson had to improvise.
“Losing Dallas eliminated many of our runs before the game even started,’’ Kelce said. “So, everything you repped that week, you have to kind of go back to some basic stuff.’’
The “basic stuff’’ produced just 49 rushing yards in 21 carries, and yada, yada, yada, Wentz spent the night dropping back and, far too often, getting put on his back.
The Eagles offensive game plan for Sunday’s game at the Linc against the winless Jets likely will be a little different than the one against the Packers.
Despite what their 0-3 record might suggest, the Jets have a very good defense. It’s been particularly good against the run.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ unit is eighth in the league against the run (88.7 yards per game) and sixth in opponent rush average (3.6 yards per carry). They are tied for first in first-down opponent rush average (2.9) with the Eagles.
“They’re not 0-3 because of their defense,’’ tight end Zach Ertz said. “They’ve got a real talented defense. As an offense, it’s going to be a good test for us.’’
The Jets held New England to 2.5 yards per carry two weeks ago. The week before that, they held Nick Chubb and the Browns’ to 3.3 yards per carry. In Week 1, they held the Bills’ Frank Gore to 20 yards on 11 carries.
“Their strength is their front guys,’’ coach Doug Pederson said of a unit that includes Leonard Williams, the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft, and Quinnen Williams, the third overall pick in this year’s draft. Another important part of their run defense, safety Jamal Adams, was the sixth overall pick in the 2017 draft. So, they’ve got both pedigree and talent on defense.
“This is a Gregg Williams defense, where they’re going to give you multiple fronts; they’re going to move the front and stem,’’ Pederson said. “It’s an attack-style defense. Our angles have to be right with our offensive line and tight ends coming off the ball. It’s very similar to Green Bay in a sense, but with a little more movement up front with these guys. More of a penetrating style.
“They’re disruptive. That’s what causes holes to close quickly. Ball carriers need to bounce the ball. And if you do bounce it, there’s a DB waiting for you.’’
In the big scheme of things, Pederson wants a balanced offense. The Eagles didn’t spend a second-round pick on Miles Sanders and trade for Jordan Howard to use them as hood ornaments. They showed last week how potent they can be behind one of the league’s very best offensive lines.
But Pederson is going to focus his game plan on favorable matchups and exploiting a defense’s weakness. If it’s their run defense, as it was with the Packers, then he’ll plan to run a little more. If it’s their pass defense, then he’ll plan to throw a little more.
“They have a good front,’’ Wentz said. “They fill the gaps pretty quickly. They want to give you a lot of Cover 2 looks, but they’ll fill pretty quick with the corners or the nickel and give you different looks.
“It can create some challenges in the run game, so we can take advantage of that in the pass game as well. I trust the coaches and the O-line are really going to get this run game going, really, against anybody going forward.’’
Through four games, the Eagles have a 42.3 run percentage, which is the 12th highest in the league. That’s considerably better than last year, when they finished 26th in run percentage (38.4). They had a 44.2 run-play percentage in 2017, when they won the Super Bowl.
“The run game, when it’s effective, it’s one of our biggest strengths,’’ Kelce said. “That being said, I don’t necessarily think we’re going to go out there and be that team every single week.
“We’re going to get DeSean [Jackson] back at some point. You always want to call the plays that are going to be effective and help you win games.