October 8 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Les Bowen:
“THE RUNNING game isn’t often a focal point around Andy Reid’s Eagles. Perhaps you’ve noticed.
This week has been an exception, though. Sunday’s 17-12 loss to the Redskins led to an extended emphasis on the offense being able to run productively, to combat the cover-2 scheme Washington used so effectively, and on the defense being able to stop the run, as the Eagles prepare to face the 49ers and two-time Pro Bowl back Frank Gore on Sunday night in San Francisco.
There are huge questions about the Eagles‘ abilities to do either.
Their defense is ranked 27th against the run, and tends to give up huge chunks of yardage early in games. The offense, under Reid, always has run grudgingly, when forced to do so by opponents shutting down the pass. The Eagles rank 11th in NFL rushing through 4 weeks, but their top two rushers, Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy, have rib-related injuries. Vick is extremely unlikely to play, McCoy might or might not. Together, they have 460 of the Eagles’ 527 rushing yards, and 76 of the 95 carries.
Let’s examine the defense first. Coordinator Sean McDermott recalled similar concerns being raised after the Birds got pushed around in Pittsburgh in 2004 (a 27-3 loss in which the Steelers ran the ball 56 times for 252 yards) and against the Giants in 2008 (a 36-31 loss in which New York ground out 219 yards on 45 carries). Maybe McDermott picked those examples because both years, the defense got itself together for an extended playoff run, to the Super Bowl in 2004 and to the NFC Championship Game in 2008.
“It’s not a problem that we haven’t gone through before, and we’re going to get it fixed, No. 1,” McDermott said. “And No. 2 is, in the run game specifically, it comes down to technique and toughness, so we can work on both of those, and we’re working on them this week.
“The toughness part is about attitude, and either you have it inside or you don’t. From a technique standpoint, you can work on technique with or without pads, and that’s what we’re doing this week . . . this is a throwing league, but, at the same time, you can’t have an offense running the ball down your throat.”
Weakside linebacker Ernie Sims was asked yesterday about the probability that the defense will see a lot of Gore, given the Redskins’ 169 rushing yards on 35 carries last week.”
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