Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Reasons the Eagles Should Use a Running-Back Committee
There were many different reasons the Eagles’ dream season in 2011 became a nightmare. One of the top reasons was the inconsistency of the offense as a whole. Whether it was from blown plays, turnovers, or inconsistent coaching, the Eagles’ offense was never fully to optimize its efficiency and effectiveness.
Andy Reid was recently quoted that he wanted to limit LeSean McCoy’s touches in the upcoming season. I am a huge fan of not giving your starting running back too heavy of a workload and instead using a committee rushing attack.
I know most starting running-backs in the NFL don’t want to share touches, especially one of LeSean McCoy-caliber. However, I truly believe the Philadelphia Eagles have the offensive personnel to achieve this, with Chris Polk being the backup and Dion Lewis coming in for depth.
Not only can the Philadelphia Eagles achieve it, but it would benefit the entire offense. As a disclaimer, this is not one of those "Andy Reid should run more" articles, but a careful analysis of the different possibilities from Andy Reid’s statement.
With that being said, here are five reasons the Eagles should take on a running-back committee approach.
Preserve LeSean McCoy
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The No. 1 reason the Philadelphia Eagles should use a running back committee would be to preserve LeSean McCoy.
McCoy had 25 percent of the Eagles’ total offensive yardage and 58 percent of their total rushing yardage. That is a large chunk of the pie for one person to carry and definitely will fatigue a player by the end of the season.
In using a committee approach there, the Eagles can accomplish Andy Reid’s goal of limiting Shady’s touches. I know McCoy is a young running back, but the Eagles can increase his shelf life by downsizing his workload early. With this in mind, the Eagles wouldn’t run into the durability issues they had with Brian Westbrook later in his career.
Towards the end of the season, McCoy’s yards per carry dropped dramatically, and he also ended up getting injured.
The offense could use this theory in the same fashion Jim Washburn uses it to keep fresh legs attacking the opposing quarterback. Andy Reid will be able to keep fresh legs pounding the opposing defense throughout the season and into the playoffs. This keeps McCoy from being run into the ground but still allows the Eagles’ to have a potent rushing attack.
Limit and Protect Michael Vick
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Michael Vick was a major contributor last season in both the running game and the turnovers that plagued the offense all season.
A running back committee approach would keep Vick from assuming the role of backup running back. Last season, he accounted for a quarter of the total rushing yardage. All those rushing attempts and yards do nothing but give opposing defenses the chance of landing huge hits on Vick.
This method also limits Vick’s total touches in the offense and keeps him off the ground and hopefully out of the inactive list. The running back approach would not only preserve McCoy, but also Vick, keeping him playing strong throughout the season.
Secondly, the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense often sputtered due to the massive amount of turnovers it was committing. If the Eagles were to limit Vick’s touches, they would accomplish their goal of limiting turnovers. This goal is simply based on mathematics and probability: The fewer times the ball is in the air, the fewer chances of it being intercepted.
Also, Vick’s ball-carrying skills aren't much to be desired. While he's elusive and agile, he doesn't know how to fundamentally carry the ball. Vick fumbled the ball seven times last season.
If the Eagles were to use multiple running backs, Vick would carry the ball less, thus limiting his chances to fumble. With this formula, Reid would be able to optimize his offense, which leads us to our third slide.
Optimize the Offense
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A running back committee would optimize the Eagles’ offense and make opposing defenses hard-pressed to stop them. The offense was at its best last year when the game plan didn't rely on Vick as its main contributor, but simply a game manager.
Vick is easily a top-15 quarterback, but he could become an elite version if the Eagles adjusted to this approach and took some of the pressure of winning the game off his shoulders.
There were three games that really showed what the Eagles’ offense could be capable of when Vick wasn't asked to do too much. Also, there are two games that show the bad side of asking Michael Vick to throw the ball 40 times.
In the Week 8 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys and the Week 15 matchup against the New York Jets, Vick was deadly accurate and effective. In both of those games, the Eagles averaged thirty carries and only had Vick attempt no more than thirty passes.
Also in those games, the Eagles outscored their opponents 79 to 26 and turned the ball over only once, going for a combined nine touchdowns to one turnover. The Eagles relied heavily on the running game in those matchups and should have done so throughout the season.
Now, if the Eagles were to use a running-back committee, they would not have to worry about overusing McCoy, since his carries and Vick’s could be downsized and split amongst Chris Polk and Deion Lewis. Also, using this approach, the Eagles would not have to stray away from the offensive game plan that is clearly working.
In those matchups, the Eagles combined for five touchdowns to five interceptions. Vick also combined for 165 rushing yards, which kept the offense alive, but was an unnecessary risk that could have injured him and could be avoided with the rushing offense being spread around more backs.
With the ball being thrown so much, the offense was unbalanced and inefficient throughout the game and ultimately led to the Philadelphia Eagles losing those matchups.
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The final reason the Eagles should use a running-back committee would be that it would benefit the defense in many different ways.
The offense would have more time of possession, getting the opposing offense off the field and letting the defense get rest. Again, in those matchups against the Jets and Cowboys, the Eagles dominated time of possession.
Secondly, this plays right into the Eagles’ defensive strength of rushing the passer. The Eagles are built to defend against the pass, and their weakness is defending against the run.
With the Eagles’ offense taking time off the clock and scoring multiple touchdowns, opposing teams are going to have rely more on their passing offense in order to keep up. With the Eagles’ cover men and ferocious defensive line, teams will have a hard time scoring against them.
If the Eagles use this approach, they not only get peak efficiency from their offense, but also help their defense play extremely well.
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The Philadelphia Eagles’ stable of running backs is diverse and fits the mold perfectly to carry out a committee approach.
With LeSean McCoy being elusive force he is, Chris Polk pounding the ball up the middle and Dion Lewis spelling both of them throughout the game the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense is that much more explosive.
The Eagles have had a very strong offseason to rework and strengthen their roster. With this added approach to the offense, I believe the Eagles might just be the team to beat in 2012.