Following Thursday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni and his staff spent the long weekend reflecting on the team’s performance during the first six weeks of the season.
The 2-4 team has suffered from self-inflicted wounds, questionable play-calling, and mistakes that were somewhat expected from a first-year head coach.
After asking his coaching staff to self-evaluate, what exactly did Sirianni and Co. discover?
For starters, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen acknowledged the offense needs to do a much better job of incorporating running back Miles Sanders into the game plan.
After rushing 28 times in the first two games, Sanders has a combined 29 rushes over the past four weeks. Sanders carried the football just once in the first half versus the Bucs. When he finally took another handoff in the third quarter, the sellout crowd at Lincoln Financial Field strung together one of the loudest applauses of the night.
Back at the team facility on Tuesday afternoon, Steichen said coaches have looked into running the ball more, specifically during less stressful situations on first and second down.
“Miles is a heck of a back,” Steichen said. “We’ve got to get him going.”
Sanders is averaging only 9.5 carries per game, which is noticeably down from his 13.6 rushes per game last season. Besides play-calling, one of the biggest factors in this conundrum is quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has accounted for more than 85% of the team’s total offense.
Sirianni’s offense has been too reliant on run-pass option and zone reads from Hurts, who has often pulled the ball back out of Sanders’ hands.
Said Hurts: “I think this offense is executing well enough. I think I haven’t executed well enough to win, clearly. I take responsibility for that. I always take responsibility for that because the ball is in my hands every play, and I enjoy that. I have to be better.”
Sirianni counts RPOs as run plays, regardless of the actual decision. But by dialing up more traditional run plays and handoffs for Sanders and rookie tailback Kenneth Gainwell, Sirianni and Steichen could potentially alleviate some of the pressure on Hurts’ shoulders.
“There’s a lot of detail that goes into it because when you start running zone read a lot, teams are going to play you different,” Steichen said. “When you’re looking at teams and you’re scheming up certain things and you see what they’re doing defensively, they’re not going to always play the same way because of the quarterback we have.
“I’m not going to get into too much scheme on how teams are doing it, but teams do play it differently when you’re running that type of stuff.”
Could change finally be on the way as the Eagles prepare for their Week 7 opponent? The Las Vegas Raiders rank 25th in the league in rushing defense at 130.7 yards per game.
“We’re looking at our self-scout,” Sirianni said. “We have more time obviously this week to be able to not only go into the run-pass ratio of things, but also into marrying some plays together and [discovering] what your identity is as a team.
“We are growing, we are finding it out more and more each week, and obviously we’re accelerating that as much as we possibly can to put our guys in the best position we possibly can put them in.”