W2W4: New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles
By Hal Bent
When the Patriots Run the Ball:
Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Patriots are coming off another disappointing performance on the ground as they have failed to top 100 yards rushing for the third consecutive game. In fact, the Patriots have failed to top 100 yards receiving in five of their last six games after topping 100 in three of their first five games.
Beyond LeGarrette Blount and his 596 yards and 4.2 yards per attempt average, the Patriots have Dion Lewis–on injured reserve–with 234 yards on the ground. Behind them, backups Brandon Bolden (16 carries for 37 yards) and James White (13 carries for 35 yards) have failed to pick-up the slack from Lewis and his 4.8 yards per attempt average.
New England is 29th in the NFL in rushing yards with just 959 yards (one of four teams not to have rushed for 1,000 yards yet this season) and are 26th in yards per rushing attempt at just 3.8. Of course, since week one the Patriots have made it clear that running the ball is not a big part of their game plan. Currently they are 30th in the NFL with just 252 rushing attempts which is well below the league average of 290 attempts and far behind the top NFC teams like Carolina (379 rushing attempts), Seattle (334 rushing attempts), and Minnesota (331 rushing attempts). Since Dion Lewis went on injured reserve, the rushing attempts have decreased even further.
Philadelphia is in the bottom of the run stop statistics as they have allowed the fifth most yards on the ground with a whopping 1,393 yards. With teams grinding out 126.6 yards per game on the Eagles. The Eagles are puzzling on defense as they have a number of individuals who have been capable defenders in the past but are struggling in 2015.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
On the defensive line, Fletcher Cox is the most dangerous pass rusher and he leads the team with 5.5 sacks. Nose tackle Bennie Logan is big and strong at the point of attack. Cedric Thornton is the other defensive end and he is just average. Behind him, there is little quality depth.
The linebackers are solid with Kiko Alonso struggling to get on the field due to injuries while DeMeco Ryans continues to struggle in his role in the 3-4 defense. Connor Barwin is solid but is not going to match his 14.5 sacks he had with Trent Cole taking attention from him. Jordan Hicks–the Eagles third round draft pick–showed signs of being a contributor but he is on injured reserve and out for the season.
If the Patriots get out to an early lead and want to work to get their shuffled offensive line in rhythm in the running game, this may be the one. However, if the Eagles can keep the game close, there is little expectation that New England will deviate from their pass-heavy attack anytime soon.
ADVANTAGE: NO ADVANTAGE
Next: When the Patriots Pass the Ball