Good morning, folks. I know this is an Eagles newsletter. But I want to start it off today by congratulating my longtime friend and former Daily News colleague, Bernard Fernandez, who has been selected to the Boxing Hall of Fame, along with another deserving Philly Bernard — Hopkins. Bernard was one of the best boxing writers in the country during his career when boxing still was a big deal.
Getting back to the 5-7 Eagles, they’ll be out on the practice field later today getting ready for Monday night’s game against the 2-10 Giants at the Linc. They may or may not have running back Jordan Howard back this week. Since he got hurt last month, the Eagles’ run-play percentage has inexplicably plummeted, even though rookie Miles Sanders has run the ball effectively. Ignoring the run in the second half Sunday probably cost them the game against Miami. More on that below. but first, if you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @pdomo.
— Paul Domowitch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Without Jordan Howard, the Eagles have become pass-happy
So much for that run-based offensive recipe that Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson were touting a few weeks back.
Wentz threw the ball 46 times in Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins. In the last four games, he has put it in the air 170 times.
That’s the most pass attempts by Wentz in a four-game span since his rookie season when he had 187 pass attempts in consecutive losses to Seattle, Green Bay, Cincinnati, and Washington.
The Eagles had a 45.1 run-play percentage in their first nine games, including 52.0 in those impressive back-to-back Week 8-9 wins over Buffalo and Chicago. In the last three games, though, their run-play percentage has been 30.9.
On Sunday, rookie Miles Sanders ran the ball a season-high 17 times for 83 yards. But just seven of those carries came in the second half when it would have benefited the Eagles to have controlled the ball and kept it away from red-hot Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
When that was suggested to Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh on Wednesday, he said, “You guys are asking me that like we made a decision not to run it. The run game was certainly in our thoughts; to continue to utilize it.’’
But they didn’t. Despite the fact that Sanders averaged 5.4 yards per carry in the first half and nearly six yards per carry on first down, the Eagles ran the ball on just seven of their 30 second-half plays.
The Eagles had 16 first-down plays in the first half. Ran it on nine of them and threw it on seven. In the second half, they also had 16 first-down plays. But they ran it just four times and threw it 12 times.
Part of the problem was they didn’t want to overwork Sanders. He’s been getting better every week, and if the Eagles do, in fact, sneak into the playoffs, they don’t want the kid running on fumes. That’s understandable.
They re-signed Jay Ajayi a couple of weeks ago, but he’s basically playing on one leg. He carried the ball just twice Sunday. Tried to get outside on one of them and failed miserably.
But they have a third healthy running back, Boston Scott. I’m not sure why they didn’t see fit to give him a handful of carries.
“I think Miles played really well,’’ Groh said. “I think he continues to improve every week. I think you can really see a lot of that growth in the run game. I thought he ran extremely strong. He saw the holes, picked his holes, was decisive, and was able to break tackles and fall forward. I was pleased with what he did there.’’
And yet, just seven second-half rushing attempts, three of them on the first possession of the third quarter, when the Eagles went up, 28-14.
“There was no conscious effort to do that,’’ Groh said. “Some of it was dictated by the circumstances of the game, and I thought we had good production in both the run and the pass.’’
What you need to know about the Eagles
Les Bowen reports on Jason Kelce and the role of the Eagles’ team leaders in trying to save this season.
A busy Bowen also breaks down Jim Schwartz’s explanation of the second-half collapse of his defense against the Dolphins.
EJ Smith reports on the Giants’ likely quarterback change for Monday night’s critical game at the Linc.
Bob Ford opines that Mack Hollins is just one brick in the sagging wall that is the Eagles’ roster.
Rest easy, Eagles ticket holders. Rob Tornoe reports that the December 22 game against the Cowboys won’t be moving to prime time.
From the mailbag
If this team gets into the playoffs, but presumably falls short of a championship, are they capable of self-evaluation and making changes? — @alex252 via Twitter
Only time will tell, Alex. A more significant question might be, is head coach Doug Pederson going to change his stance and demand some input into that evaluation and player acquisition process? He has repeatedly said that he’d fine just coaching and letting GM Howie Roseman make the personnel decisions. But Howie has made some major mistakes the last couple of years. This is a badly constructed football team right now. If I was Doug, I’d want some say in reshaping it. Because he’s the one who’s going to get canned if they don’t win, not Roseman.