Philadelphia’s 41-21 loss to Dallas on Monday night exposed a number of issues for the Eagles’ offense, and none was greater than its disproportionate reliance on passing.
The Eagles reached the end of the first quarter trailing by only a touchdown, yet they had ran the ball just one time: A two-yard loss for quarterback Jalen Hurts. At the half, they’d run it five times, with only two carries going to young running back Miles Sanders for 27 yards.
He wouldn’t see another carry for the rest of the game. Hurts admitted Wednesday that can’t happen again in the weeks ahead.
“He’s a pivotal part of this offense, one of the top running backs in the league,” Hurts said Wednesday, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He’s got to get his.”
From a pure numbers standpoint, five carries as a team is an alarmingly low number for a half. But it’s important to note the Eagles ran a total of 18 offensive plays in the first two quarters. They lost the time of possession battle significantly in the first half, 20:21-9:39. Simply put, it’s difficult to rack up carries when you don’t have the ball for very long to begin with.
“Does he need more than five touches? Of course,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “The way the game went, he didn’t get that. There’s no doubt we’ve got to get our playmakers the ball. He’s a playmaker. He’s shown that he’s a playmaker, whether it’s in the screen game, whether it’s out of the backfield.”
Sanders caught three of his four targets out of the backfield Monday night, gaining 28 yards. Sanders nearly picked up a long first down just before the half via a third-down screen, but Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons caught him along the sideline, forcing the Eagles to punt.
Five total touches is simply not enough, though, especially within an offense that was dealing with injuries along the offensive line and struggling to give Hurts adequate time to throw. Sanders didn’t publicly object to his lack of opportunity, instead using his words to express disappointment with the team result.
“Whatever the coaches call is what I think is best,” Sanders said. “They come up with the game plan and we go out and execute. It’s all about trust and that’s exactly what’s going on. We don’t question the play calling. Whatever’s called in the huddle is what we do and that’s what I truly believe.
“I could say what I think we should do, but I’m not a coach. My job is to do what I’m asked to do at a high level, and that’s what I’m going to do.
“It is what it is. I’m here to quiet all that down. I’m not over here saying what you really want me to say. I’m here to quiet all this and it’s onto the next game. All I’m focused on. … I’m not going to sit here … and talk about what we should have done. What we should have done is win the game. That’s the only thing I’m upset about.”
The Eagles currently rank fifth in rushing yards per game (129.3), while they’re near the middle of the league in passing (15th at 247 yards per game). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine where their strength lies. But opposing defenses also are aware of this reality, meaning it’s not as simple as handing the ball to Sanders 25 times a game and expecting to win.
Still, it’s wise to get Sanders more involved, especially before a deficit grows and forces Philadelphia to take to the air. They’ll get another opportunity to improve in this department Sunday against the Chiefs, owners of the league’s second-worst run defense through three weeks.
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