W2W4: New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles

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When the Eagles Run the Ball:

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia traded running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo this past offseason and signed DeMarco Murray away from their NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. As injury insurance they also snagged running back Ryan Mathews after he fell out of favor in San Diego.

McCoy has been his usual reliable self in Buffalo (thanks a lot, Chip Kelly!) while Murray has been terrible. Mathews has been the surprise in Philadelphia nearly matching Murray’s numbers in almost half the carries. Mathews has 427 yards on the ground and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Murray has just 545 yards and a 3.5 yards per carry average (all stats from Pro-Football-Reference unless otherwise noted).

Fortunately for the Patriots, Mathews is out with a concussion on Sunday. The Eagles also will likely have their All-Pro tackle Jason Peters back to take on New England defensive end Chandler Jones. Installing Peters back at his customary left tackle allows 2013 first round draft pick Lane Johnson back to the right side where he has played so much better. Center Jason Kelce is solid at center, but guards Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin are just average.

New England is banged up in run defense with linebacker Dont’a Hightower doubtful for Sunday. However, linebacker Jamie Collins is probable after missing three straight games with his mysterious illness. The Patriots were clearly missing Hightower last week as when he was on the field, the Patriots held the Broncos to just 2.9 yards per attempt. With Hightower out of the game, the Broncos averaged 8.1 yards per rush and ran all over the New England defense.

Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to Hightower, the Patriots may be without defensive tackle Dominique Easley. Easley is questionable with an ankle injury and has done well this year teaming with rookie Malcom Brown. New England had a breakout performance by defensive tackle Alan Branch who rotated in with Sealver Siliga to anchor the two bigs in the middle for New England.

Without Hightower, the Patriots will have to improve upon their messy performance in Denver as the Broncos piled up 179 yards on the ground. It was the first time the Patriots had allowed 100 or more yards after a run of five consecutive games. Having Jamie Collins on the field should help until Hightower is healthy enough to return.

Jonathan Freeny and Jerod Mayo are solid backups, but the Patriots clearly miss having Hightower and Collins out on the field together. Having to play practice squad linebacker Darius Fleming over 20% of the defensive snaps shows how thin New England was at linebacker last week in Denver.

The Eagles have struggled to run the ball all season with DeMarco Murray. This week should be no different as the Patriots get back to stopping the run again.


Next: When the Eagles Pass the Ball