NFL Roster Cuts: Philadelphia Eagles Offseason Moves Mean More Running

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NFL Roster Cuts: Philadelphia Eagles Offseason Moves Mean More Running
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By signing Ronnie Brown, keeping Clay Harbor and only 5 wide receivers, and cutting Donald Lee, Chad Hall and Sinorice Moss, the Eagles are showing signs that they're willing to run.

At the time, you figured them fillers.

Though singular and detached, the Eagles' offseason moves read like a series of sensible events. First came free agency. Then roster cuts. And along the way, everything that was supposed to happen. For $1 million, the Eagles had to sign Ronnie Brown. For youth, they had to cut Donald Lee to keep Clay Harbor. For lack a reason not to, they had to drop Chad Hall and Sinorice Moss.

But read between the (transaction) lines: The Eagles will run more in 2011.

Brown brings Philadelphia more power than anyone since Ricky Watters, and represents everything LeSean McCoy isn't. Harbor has less mileage than Lee and the same frame (they're both 6'3", 255 pounds), but Harbor is touted as a run blocker, Lee a pass catcher. Hall and Moss were special teamers first, but much-needed receiver depth last and most.

Of the Eagles' five wide receivers—DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Steve Smith—none is a sure thing. Jackson has his mind on his money. Maclin's health teeters. Avant and Riley are promising, but unproven. And Steve Smith's had one too many microfracture surgeries for most palates.

Then there's the Michael Vick mega deal. A hollow sixth year or not, the team's nine-digit investment needs protecting. And to pad Vick's number of 16-game seasons (to date, he's only lasted one league year) you figure Reid, GM Howie Roseman, president Joe Banner—somebody—will pile the carries on Brown and McCoy.

If that doesn't resonate like philosophical change, what does?

We're not talking a mass shift in strategy. Already unlikely under Reid, a run-heavy scheme clashes with league trends and new-hire offensive line coach Howard Mudd's style. The Eagles live in a pass-first world. They hired the sultan of small and speedy O-linemen.

No one's channeling their Big Ten self.

But you can feel the playbook wrinkling. You can feel it bumping the Eagles' three-year average of 25.8 carries per game to 30-something. Leaning a little on Brown and McCoy and Dion Lewis. Setting up play-action boots, where Vick is most cozy. Keeping opposing pass rushing ends and linebackers honest. Shielding the Eagles' $100 million investment.

With moves like those, you wonder if it's already here.

And while there's no corollary—the last three years, an inconclusive 18-of-30 playoff teams finished in the top 10 in rushing attempts—leveling the play selection should be, especially for the Eagles. This side of Andy Reid, they've had the fewest carries in football, tying for 15th in 2010 and ranking 22nd in 2008 and 2009. So there's room to run.

And it'd be pretty easily filled. Ironically, Philadelphia has also the highest per-attempt average over the span. So there's your incentive.

Do you think the Eagles' offseason moves glean a more run-oriented philosophy?

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But you almost wonder whether it's an ultimatum. All things considered, Reid is working with the most stacked team in franchise memory, the most lauded offseason in league history, the most questionable defensive coordinator hire (2010 offensive line coach Juan Castillo) in as long and the same game and clock (mis)management. Anything less than the NFC Championship, and Reid is jobless.

Running more should help him win. But giving in to the fanbase would also quell critique, if only slightly.

Maybe enough to buy Reid slack.

It sounds like a Houston Texans playoff promise, but if there was ever a time to emphasize the run, it's now. And if there were ever a slew of suggestions that it might, these were them.

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