Expect for that trend to reverse in 2012.
With the onset of the Wide-9 defense last year, opponents tore up the Eagles’ defensive front via the ground game. Philadelphia allowed 100-plus rushing yards to running backs in each of its first five games, in addition to one rushing touchdown in four of the five.
Running backs were credited with 121 attempts for 695 yards and four touchdowns during that stretch. That’s an embarrassing 5.74 yards per carry.
The average production from the running back position against the Eagles was 24.2 rushes for 139 yards. Backs would also gain (or combine for) an average of 5.6 receptions and 72.4 receiving yards in addition to 1.4 total touchdowns per game.
In its final 11 games, Philly allowed the same amount of 100-yard games to running back corps (four) and one more rushing touchdown (five) than in its first five games. Running backs carried the ball 246 times for 987 yards.
That’s a respectable 4.01 yards per carry.
The production from opposing running backs against the Eagles defense from games six through 16 was also respectable. Running backs averaged a similar amount of carries (22.4) for far fewer yards (89.7). The Eagles yielded 4.6 receptions for 37.9 receiving yards and .5 total touchdowns per game to opposing backs.
Will the Eagles' run defense improve or get worse in 2012?
With the additions of first-round defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and former Houston Texans middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, the Eagles should be better equipped personnel-wise to stop the run. The team will also have a second year of experience in defensive coordinator Juan Castillo’s scheme.
And the schedule is a dream scenario for a defense looking to bottle up ball-carriers.
Philadelphia will be tested early against the likes of Cleveland's Trent Richardson and the Ravens Ray Rice. The Eagles have a date with Cam Newton’s Panthers (with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart) in Week 12 as well.
Of course, the health of Michael Vick could also determine whether teams have to throw just to keep up with the high-octane Eagles offense. At peak efficiency, the Eagles put up points in bunches with Vick at the helm.
That would render the addition of Philadelphia’s new defensive talent and experience virtually unnecessary in stopping the run as games wear on.
Opponents would stop themselves.