HEAD Coach Doug Pederson said “We’ve got to get the run game fixed.” That statement came as a shock to me, because I thought the run game had already been neutered. Seriously though, there are a number of things wrong with the run game, but most of it is stuff we can repair in-season. There is no need to start suggesting trades. We can win the division with the roster we already have.
Be warned, this is not a short article. I tried to make it short, but that kept leaving out too many important details. Skimping on details won’t paint an accurate picture. To really understand what’s happening, the coaches need details. If that’s the case, then you can imagine that if we’re really going to understand, us fans also need details. So no shortcuts. Nothing wrong with taking your time, and making sure you do it right.
The first thing we need to do is to drop the cute attitude. Running the ball requires pushing large, aggressive men out of the way, so that another man can produce yardage. It requires brute force. All these wide pitches, Jet Sweeps, all these cute east/west runs…they need to be replaced with more north/south running between the Tackles.
Some of the offensive linemen on this team are mentally soft. Not all of them are eager to impose their will on an opponent, and that’s a problem. An offensive lineman should be a hammer who sees anyone in lined up front of them, as a nail. Any offensive lineman who isn’t eager to mix it up, won’t help much with creating holes up front.
We also need to commit to running the ball early. Early is important, because it wears defenders down as the game goes on. It can be exhausting if the run game gets established early, which is why teams focus on taking it away ASAP. Pass rushing can leave players winded, but it doesn’t physically beat them up like run defense does.
With a pass block, the offensive lineman starts out by shuffling backwards. When he makes contact with a defender, it’s because the defender (with momentum) has run into them. Often while the offensive lineman is still drifting backwards.
With a run block, the offensive lineman surges forward. When he makes contact with a defender, it’s because the (generally bigger and stronger) offensive lineman is dictating where the defender is allowed to be. The defender has to fight through that block, find the RB, and then hopefully participate in the tackle. It’s exhausting.
So we need to adjust our attitude about running, put some hammers out there, and commit to running early. Those are all things we can correct in the next day or so. Those are all internal fixes, and most of them are mental. However there is a physical question that requires an answer: Who are our hammers and who needs to sit down?
Lets start with who needs to sit.
The guy getting most of the blame for this mess is LG Isaac Seumalo. Everywhere you look sportswriters are throwing him under the bus. Even I got in on the act Monday, and that was unfair of me. That was wrong of me. While Seumalo had a horrendous game, he wasn’t alone out there. C Jason Kelce also looked pretty bad. Look at the two of them engaging defenders and sustaining their blocks in these clips. (BTW: I didn’t compile these clips. I saw them a few places on-line and just decided to share them.):
I noticed RG Brandon Brooks is generally doing a very good job out there. So it’s not the system, and we don’t need a whole new interior. Take a look a few more clips.
I soured on Kelce early in his career. I’m on record saying that he benefited from playing next to wily veterans like Evan Mathis and then Allen Barbre/Stefen Wisniewski. I’ve said that for years now. Playing next to Seumalo who lacks the experience to compensate for Kelce, we’re now clearly seeing what I’ve been saying. Kelce may be a decent C for systems that require linemen to play in space, but in a more traditional system, his game has too many drawbacks for him to be anything but a liability.
Both Seumalo and Kelce need to sit, if this team is to get the run game on track. That however, means we need two players to step into their places. Those players are Chance Warmack who should get the nod at LG, and Wisniewski who we absolutely need at C. Instantly we’d get more physical up front, and would stop being a lop-sided offense.
We can worry about rebuilding our depth in the off-season. However, to get the run game on track, we already have all the tools that we need. We simply need the will and desire to use our tools. Head Coach Doug Pederson said “We’ve got to get the run game fixed.” This is how we can do it right, and with no shortcuts.