The pass-happy Eagles find themselves in an unusual position: They lead the NFL in rushing.
Behind LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick, the Eagles have rushed for 170 yards per game and 5.7 per carry, both highs during the Andy Reid era.
Their quality on the ground, though, will be tested Sunday against the Cowboys’ defense, which ranks first in the league in yards per game (allowing just 69.7 yards per contest) and second in yards per carry (3.3).
“They’re big, strong, physical guys up front. I include the two outside linebackers in that. And then the two inside linebackers, when they’re in their base personnel, run around and make plays,” coach Andy Reid said Friday. “They’re excellent football players. And when their safeties get involved in the box, their safeties are good tacklers and physical.”
But the Eagles have an excellent player themselves in McCoy, whose 569 yards rushing rank seventh in the league.
The bigger test might be Reid’s willingness to stick with the run, especially if McCoy does not get on track early. Against the 49ers, Reid came in with a pass-heavy game plan and McCoy got only nine carries, even though the Eagles led most of the game.
“We’re going to run the football. That’s what we do,” Reid said. “We’re not going to stop running the ball.”
That hasn’t always been the case, but this year the Eagles’ 180 rushing attempts are more than the team has had through six games in any other year in the Reid era.
Last season, sticking with the run worked against the Cowboys. In the first meeting between the teams, in Dallas, McCoy had six runs for just 15 yards in the first half. He got 10 carries in the second half, though, and turned them into 134 yards.
Tight end Clay Harbor was a key part of the second-half blocking effort that night. He noted that this is a different Dallas defense, but one that he believes can be attacked on the ground.
“You’ve got to pick your spots, obviously,” he said. “Watching film, there are some plays where they have been run on. There’s some plays out there for us.”
Other teams, he said, have just failed to stick with the run.
“We have one of the best running backs in the league, and I don’t see why we won’t try to fit him the ball,” said wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
McCoy was coy about the game plan.
“Whatever’s rolling for us, we’ll probably stick with that,” he said.
Running, of course, doesn’t always work. McCoy ran 24 times against the Giants, gaining 128 yards, and the Eagles still lost that game.
And the Eagles have talented wide receivers who also need to be part of the game plan.
DeSean Jackson memorably burned the Cowboys for 210 receiving yards when the teams met in Dallas last year. The Eagles starters rested in the second meeting, the final game of the regular season.
McCoy has had success against Dallas. For his career, he has gained 231 yards against the Cowboys on 35 carries, a gaudy 6.6 yards-per-carry average.
Will he get a substantial chance to pad those numbers Sunday?
“We’ll find out,” was all he would say.
Courtesy: Jonathan Tamari | Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer | The Boys Are Back blog