Philadelphia Eagles

Duce Staley never asked Ryan Mathews to tone down his physical style

Duce Staley never asked Ryan Mathews to tone down his physical style

Ryan Mathews' two-year run with the Eagles came to an unceremonious end last week when he was finally released after months in limbo. 

Mathews still had a roster spot and a locker for the last few months but most fans probably forgot he was on the team. He was even given special permission to rehab from his neck injury and subsequent surgery away from the team facility. 

Cutting him last Tuesday was merely a formality. The Eagles were simply waiting for him to heal completely and be cleared by doctors. 

It wasn't much of a surprise that Mathews ended his 2016 season on the injured reserve. In fact, that's kind of been a staple of his career. In seven NFL seasons, Mathews has played all 16 games just once. He missed a total of six games in two seasons with the Eagles.

It's possible that Mathews, who turns 30 in October, has already played his final NFL game. If that's the case, it will be a shame. Because when he's on the field, he's a dynamic and tough runner. But it seems like he's never on the field. 

And a lot of that has to do with his hard-nosed running style. Mathews is a punishing runner. It's just that often he's the one who comes out on the wrong side of it. 

While that physical style of running has been Mathews' hallmark, it's also likely been the biggest obstacle in his career. 

Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley emphatically said Saturday he never thought about asking Mathews to tone it down. 

"I would never do that," Staley said. "I think once you start talking about telling a guy to change his running style, I think you're kind of pointing him in the wrong direction. You have to understand this is something that's been done by that individual for a very long time. So to come along and be here for a year or two and all of a sudden try to change the way he runs, nah, not a good idea."

In 26 games with the Eagles, Mathews' yard per attempt average was 4.60. That's the third-highest mark in Eagles history among running backs with at least 250 attempts. LeSean McCoy's average with the Eagles was 4.65 and Ernie Steele's average in the 40s was 5.18. 

Because of his injuries, Mathews won't be remembered extremely fondly in Philly and that's a shame too. He was fun to watch — despite the fumble in Detroit — and played the position the way most fans really appreciate. 

"He's one of those guys that's going to pin his ears back, he's going to go and he's going to try to run you over," Staley said. "He plays with that physical style that old-school style of running back. That's what he plays with. I like it actually. 

"But you have to understand how fast and physical this game is. Things do happen. It's very unfortunate that injury came about. I thought he was having a good year. Once again, this is a violent game we play and things like that happen. You have to adjust and move on."

Doug Pederson still undecided on Eagles' starter at left guard

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USA Today Images/AP Images

Doug Pederson still undecided on Eagles' starter at left guard

As expected, Chance Warmack got the start at left guard for the Eagles on Sunday. The surprising part was Stefen Wisniewski wound up playing the majority of the snaps.

Warmack wound up being on the field for 32 plays against the Giants, compared to 44 for Wisniewski. It’s not as if Warmack exited the game with an injury or was benched for poor play, either. The two of them alternated throughout the contest.

After the game, Eagles coach Doug Pederson acknowledged the plan was to rotate Warmack and Wisnewski all along.

“We wanted to give both of those guys an opportunity [Sunday], and it just so happened that Wis ended up taking the bulk of the reps,” Pederson said. “But we had them both ready.”

Pederson added the rotation was based on in-game performance. The next day, however, he wasn’t ready to settle on a permanent starter at left guard.

“There was some positives with both players,” Pederson said Monday. “Chance had a couple of missed opportunities early in the game, but bounced back and, in the run, game was effective. At the same time, Wis getting an opportunity — Wis is that veteran player you know when you put him in that he's going to execute and do some nice things for you.

“It's something we'll evaluate this week again going forward, and by Sunday, we'll have the best five out there.”

That means Warmack and Wisniewski could continue auditioning for the job in Week 4 when the Eagles travel to Los Angeles to face the Chargers.

“If someone at that position just steps up, we definitely could go into a game with seven guys,” Pederson said.

Despite shuffling different players in and out, the offensive line turned in its best performance of the season so far. Eagles running backs rushed 33 times for 171 yards — a 5.2 average — and two touchdowns, while quarterback Carson Wentz was hit on only 4 of 37 dropbacks.

While continuity is essential to quality offensive line play, Pederson has repeatedly downplayed that notion, likening changes up front to substitutions at other positions.

“These guys are all prepared the same, so we shouldn't miss a beat one way or the other just by rotating at that position,” Pederson said.

“The way our guys practice, and the way (Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland) prepares these guys, it's seamless. It's flawless, and that's the way it should be. As backup role players, you're expected to know what a starter does. Same as a backup quarterback, you should be expected to do the same thing.”

Several of the Eagles’ veteran linemen didn’t disagree.

“Both of those guys — I played beside before, so it’s not a big deal,” said left tackle Jason Peters, adding he did not know beforehand who would be lining up to his right.

“The thing is, they’ve had numerous reps,” said right tackle Lane Johnson. “That’s what are OTAs are for. You get numerous reps, so when you’re number is called, you’re not caught off guard.”

Of course, that’s easy for everybody else to say. Warmack and Wisniewski are almost certainly trying to make the best of a difficult situation.

Warmack was unavailable for comment postgame, but Wisnewski admitted there are some challenges involved with subbing in and out.

“It’s definitely easier for anybody to be in there and feel the flow of the game, whether you’re a running back, an offensive lineman, whoever,” Wisniewski said. “But we made it work today.

“We’re all pros. Mentally, all you can do is be ready when they call your number and try to stay warm on the sideline.”

The situation at left guard came about because second-year pro Isaac Seumalo struggled in his first two starts. Pederson stresses the club hasn’t lost faith in Seumalo, and “he’s still in the mix.” But for the time being, at least, the Eagles appear determined to go in a different direction at that spot.

Thus, the ongoing competition — while unorthodox — probably is not as unique or atypical as it sounds.

“I actually talked to (former Eagles offensive lineman) Allen Barbre last night,” Johnson said. “They’re doing the same thing with him in Denver. It’s not out of the ordinary. They have two guys, want to see what they can do and see who the better man is.”

In this case, the Eagles have two players with vastly different skill sets, so it makes sense to see which meshes better with their teammates.

“Wis is more of a technician,” Peters said. “He’s almost like a center at guard, which he really is. He knows the offense, he’s giving calls, more of a communicator. And Chance is more of an aggressor. He wants to get into the linebackers.”

Wisniewski could not personally remember an occasion where he was rotating in and out of the lineup during a game. Regardless, the Eagles picked up a victory over the NFC East rival Giants, so for one week anyway, it was all good.

“The guys around us, (Eagles center Jason Kelce) and JP did well rolling with it,” Wisniewski said. “It worked out well. Got a win, ran the ball well and protected well as a whole.”

Long-term, it would behoove the Eagles to settle on a permanent starter sooner rather than later.

Doug Pederson on Beckham's celebrations: 'Our players see it, our fans see it'

Doug Pederson on Beckham's celebrations: 'Our players see it, our fans see it'

Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. scored two huge touchdowns in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game at the Linc. 

After the first, he mimicked a dog by getting on all fours before lifting his leg and fake urinating on the field. That drew a flag. On the next touchdown, Beckham raised a fist in the air and stood at attention. 

On Monday, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said he wasn't going to comment on it. Then he commented on it. 

"Our players see it, our fans see it," Pederson said. "It's one of those things I think you just kind of file away in the back of your mind. And you just remember those things and move on. It's unfortunate. I have to control our guys obviously and every other coach has to control their players. It's something that you don't want to see it in the game. It takes away from a great play that he just made."

Beckham was vague about the meaning behind the fist-raising celebration after the game. But Malcolm Jenkins has been raising his fist during the national anthem for about a year. 

When asked if the celebrations could have led to Jenkins' being a little more aggressive on a pass interference penalty later in the game — Jenkins clotheslined Beckham — Pederson said he thought it was "possible." But he also said it was just a play Jenkins made to prevent Beckham from possibly scoring a touchdown. 

Beckham, for his part, didn't see anything dirty on the play. 

"He made a smart play," Beckham said. "I'm running down the field. I'm gonna make a play and so he stops that. It's football. He made a play to stop me from making a play." 

After the game, Beckham didn't apologize for his celebrations. He understood that the penalty after the "urination celebration" led to his team kicking off from the 20. 

"But when I get in the end zone, I'm going to do what I'm going to do," he said. "I'm going to try to spark this team."