Philadelphia Eagles

Doug Pederson, Eagles need to stick with run, find balance for success

Doug Pederson, Eagles need to stick with run, find balance for success

New year. Same ratio.

The Eagles won a football game Sunday without much of a commitment to the running game.

Their final pass-run ratio against the Redskins was 45 pass plays and 20 running plays, but following the first quarter it was 36 pass plays and 13 running plays, and we saw Sunday at FedEx Field what we saw a lot last year.

Doug Pederson wants to establish the run early, then just abandons it, regardless of the score.

The Eagles escaped with a win, thanks mainly to the front seven's domination of the Redskins' offense and Carson Wentz's improvising when things broke down. And any time you can open the season with a road win over a division opponent, it's a great day.

But at some point, if the Eagles are going to be an elite team, a playoff team, three things have to happen.

1. Pederson has to find a way to stick with the run.

2. The offensive line has to open up some holes for the backs.

3. The backs have to produce.

I understand that the NFL of 2017 is a passing league. You win games by chucking the ball up and down the field. I'm OK with that. And the Eagles certainly have the quarterback to do it. But even in this era of super-charged passing attacks, you also need some balance just to keep the opposing defense off your quarterback and to run out the clock when you have a late lead.

In the two middle quarters Sunday, the Eagles ran 33 plays — 27 passes, six runs. And then when Pederson tried to dial up the run with a late lead, there was nothing there.  

The Eagles won Sunday, but let's be honest: The offense showed little rhythm.

Their two touchdown drives went 39 and 56 yards and both were the product of good field position and Wentz's improvisational wizardry. Those are both good things to have, but you sure can't count on them. Not over 16 games.

Take away Wentz's six rushing yards on four carries and the Eagles' backs averaged 2.6 yards per carry Sunday and 1.9 yards per carry in the second half.

The Eagles recorded just one rushing first down Sunday, making this the first time in 17 years they've won a game with just one rushing first down.

Let's look at the running game by quarter:

First quarter: LeGarrette Blount ran five times for 17 yards, including a couple six-yard gains. Decent start.

Second quarter: Blount had a seven-yard gain on a 1st-and-10 with 8:30 to go in the quarter, then didn't touch the ball again until the second half.

Third quarter: Blount went 13½ minutes between carries.

Fourth quarter: With the Eagles clinging to a two-point lead, Pederson finally tried to lean on the ground attack, but seven carries by Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles produced only 12 yards.

I get that if the running game isn't producing, you need to try something else. But Pederson generally doesn't give it a fair chance before abandoning it.

And I also get that this isn't the world's greatest collection of running backs. There's no Westbrook here. No Shady. There's not even a Ryan Mathews.

But at one point from the start of the second quarter until late in the fourth quarter, the Eagles ran 33 pass plays to nine running plays, and you're just not going to win many football games with your ratio that out of whack.

Committing to the run does a lot of things. It allows the offensive linemen to dictate to the defense. It keeps defenses guessing, which gives the O-line the ability to do a better job protecting the quarterback. It generates rhythm. It wears down a defensive front. It runs the clock.

Sunday's win was a great way to start the season, but the opponents are going to get tougher and the defenses are going to be stronger.

Last year, the Eagles averaged 42 pass plays per game, and Sunday they finished with 45.

There's a lot to like about this team. That front seven is a machine. Special teams is always fantastic under Dave Fipp. Wentz is evolving into an elite young quarterback. The secondary looks improved — maybe dramatically improved.

But somehow, some way, Pederson has to balance this thing out just a little.

You can't win consistently playing football like this.

NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

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NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

BOSTON -- Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, his lawyer said on Thursday in announcing a lawsuit against the NFL and the team for hiding the true dangers of the sport.

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said Hernandez had Stage 3 (out of 4) of the disease, which can cause violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive disorders.

"We're told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron's age," attorney Jose Baez said.

Hernandez killed himself in April in the prison cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for murder. Baez said Hernandez had shown signs of memory loss, impulsivity and aggression that could be attributed to CTE (see full story).

Jets: Williams limited with bone bruise in wrist
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams was limited at practice with a wrist injury that he says is a bone bruise.

Williams was originally injured during the preseason, and says Thursday that his wrist is bothering him at times. It doesn't appear that the injury will keep him out of the Jets' home opener Sunday against Miami, but Williams might have to play through it.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson sat out practice for the second straight day with a sore shoulder. He said Wednesday that it wasn't a big deal, and coach Todd Bowles says the Jets will see how it feels as the week goes along.

Starting right guard Brian Winters (abdomen) and tight ends Jordan Leggett (knee) and Eric Tomlinson (elbow) also didn't practice. Fourth-year backup Dakota Dozier would start if Winters is unable to play (see full story).

Packers: Perry latest key player to go down with injury
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The banged-up Green Bay Packers have lost another key player to injury with outside linebacker Nick Perry scheduled to have hand surgery.

Coach Mike McCarthy says he doesn't know how much time Perry will miss. He was off to a good start as the bookend to fellow edge rusher Clay Matthews with 1 sacks.

The Packers' first-round draft pick in 2012, Perry had a breakout 2016 last season with 11 sacks in 14 games.

The loss of Perry places added importance on the return of Ahmad Brooks, who was a full participant in practice on Wednesday after missing the Week 2 loss at Atlanta because of a concussion (see full story).

Broncos: Miller baffled by low hit from Cowboys receiver
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Von Miller says he's baffled by Cowboys wide receiver Noah Brown's low hit on him Sunday.

The Broncos linebacker pushed through Brown's block on the game's second snap and Brown got up and dived at Miller's knees as Denver's star chased down Ezekiel Elliott on a hand-off from Dak Prescott.

Miller shook off the hit to have a monster game in Denver's 42-17 win , but he has dealt with soreness in his left knee this week.

"My stance is as a player I've always tried to take care of my players on my football team and opponents as well, whether it's the quarterbacks, receivers, the running backs. So, when it's the other way around, it's just baffling," Miller said Thursday after returning to practice full-time following a limited practice Wednesday.

"But you can't really spend too much time on it," Miller added. "Everybody's situation in the National Football League is different. Everybody doesn't have the same outlook that I have and some of my comrades in the National Football League (have). Everybody doesn't see it that way. Everybody doesn't play the game like I play the game. You've got to respect that."

Earlier in the week, Broncos coach Vance Joseph declined to criticize the Cowboys wide receiver for his low hit, saying, "I saw it. It wasn't called. I'm OK with it."

Miller shook off the low hit and finished the afternoon with two sacks, five quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup.

Chris Long: Putting 'my money where my mouth is' with donation of game checks

Chris Long: Putting 'my money where my mouth is' with donation of game checks

Whether it was his passionate defense of Colin Kaepernick, his show of support for Malcolm Jenkins' raised fist by draping his arm around his teammate during the national anthem or his strong words about racism and violence in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, Chris Long has been extraordinarily outspoken since he joined the Eagles.

Now he's more than outspoken.

"I had a few people that were like, 'Hey, these gestures are great but why don’t you guys get out there in your communities?'" Long said.

So he is.

Long announced via his Twitter account earlier this week that he plans to donate his first six game checks from this year's salary — more than $350,000 — to create two scholarships for students in Charlottesville.

At his locker on Wednesday, he explained what led to the remarkably generous gesture.

"My wife and I have been investing in scholarships in my hometown for a while," Long said. "I'm interested in education, always have been, and … the best way I can give back to something I love is take it out of my game check, because what I love doing is playing football.

"I could [fund the scholarship] another way, but just taking it out of my game check makes it real easy for me to realize why I’m coming to work every day. It’s been a blessing."

Long, 32, is in his 10th NFL season and first with the Eagles. He's the son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, who graduated from Villanova in 1981.

Chris Long had his first sack as an Eagle Sunday against the Chiefs. He now has 59½ in his career.

"I’ve been lucky," Long said. "I’ve made a lot of money in my career, so it’s not like I’m scrapping check to check. This isn’t a hero thing. It’s nothing like that. It’s honestly just that I want to put my money where my mouth is.

"It’s something we’ve done before, but we’re upping the ante this time."

Long signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Eagles this offseason after winning a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots last year, the first time he's ever played for a team with a winning record.

His 2017 base salary is $1 million, which means each of his 17 game checks equal $58,823. Six game checks equal $352,941.

Long said being able to donate that kind of money makes the game more meaningful for him.

“It for certain does," he said. "It means a lot to go out and play football every Sunday. To be honest, I would play games for free. The thing I wouldn’t do for free is sit in meetings and do practice every day.

"Honestly, it’s a joy no matter what. But just knowing that the game checks are going to that makes it more special for me. You know, 10th year, you don’t know how long you’ll be able to do this, so your platform is really important and meaningful now. You don’t know how meaningful it’ll be in a year or two.”

Long said he's not done yet, either.

His foundation — the Chris Long Foundation — has more charity work in store in the coming weeks.

"My foundation is going to launch another campaign this year that’s going to be similar that’s hopefully going to have some fan involvement," Long said.

"It’s going to be broader reaching than just a couple kids getting scholarships, so I’m excited about that."