Now it's time to figure out if he will remain in the lead role, or go back to being a part of DeMarco Murray's supporting cast.
"I have no idea," Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said Monday. "That's not a concern for any of us."
Mathews rushed for 108 yards on 25 carries in the team's win Sunday over the New York Jets, taking over Murray's job while the starting running back was on the sideline due to a hamstring injury.
"We ran the ball a little bit more," Kelly said. "That was what we were trying to do against (the Jets)."
The story went on to say Mathews looks far more decisive with his reads and cuts than Murray has this season. The backup-turned-starter also looked quicker getting to the edge. Which is why based on the stat sheet, and to anyone watching the game, it would be easy to draw the conclusion that Mathews might be a better fit for the Eagles' offense than Murray, the running back they paid $40 million to this offseason. Kelly denied that Murray isn't a good fit but his hamstring issue will be a question heading into Week 4.
Friday, September 25, 2015, 7:02pm
Eagles RB DeMarco Murray (hamstring, questionable) returned to take full practice reps Friday after missing practice Thursday and is questionable for Week 3. Ashley Fox of ESPN reported that Murray is expected to play in Week 3. Murray injured the hamstring in Wednesday's practice. Remember, this was one of the concerns with Murray coming into the season. Running backs don't usually hold up the season following a massive workload, but there was some optimism since he's playing for Chip Kelly, who is known to have a great training staff. If Murray can't play in Week 3, Ryan Mathews is a good bet for 12-15 touches as the Eagles' RB1, but the role of Darren Sproles would expand as well. The Eagles play early on Sunday.
Thursday, September 24, 2015, 6:16pm
Eagles RB DeMarco Murray (hamstring) missed practice Thursday after taking limited reps Wednesday. Murray injured the hamstring in Wednesday's practice. Remember, this was one of the concerns with Murray coming into the season. Running backs don't usually hold up the season following a massive workload, but there was some optimism since he's playing for Chip Kelly, who is known to have a great training staff. If Murray can't play in Week 3, Ryan Mathews is a good bet for 12-15 touches as the Eagles' RB1, but the role of Darren Sproles would expand as well.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015, 6:12pm
Eagles RB DeMarco Murray (hamstring) took limited practice reps Wednesday. Murray injured the hamstring in Wednesday's practice. Remember, this was one of the concerns with Murray coming into the season. Running backs don't usually hold up the season following a massive workload, but there was some optimism since he's playing for Chip Kelly, who is known to have a great training staff. If Murray can't play in Week 3, Ryan Mathews is a good bet for 12-15 touches as the Eagles' RB1, but the role of Darren Sproles would expand as well.
The man responsible for handling the rotation is Duce Staley. In a clear sign of trust, Chip Kelly defers to his running backs coach to decide who is in and for how long during the course of a game. Staley explained his approach to that responsibility.
"I just go in with an open head and make sure I don't get caught up in the last game," he explained. "I try to get a good feeling of what's going on out there and then I go from there. I think there's too much put into it when you start sitting down and writing out a plan. You get in trouble that way."
So it's all by feel?
"I don’t think it’s very difficult," said Kelly. "I think Duce always does a really good job, depending on who is available to him, in terms of rotating those guys in. The biggest thing for us is we just want to keep someone fresh in the game. So if it takes getting you out for a couple of plays, just to get you wind and get you back, it takes a toll on the defense. So you can take Ryan Mathews out and DeMarco Murray comes in; or if DeMarco Murray comes out and Darren Sproles comes in. That’s kind of what we have been trying to build towards here and those three guys obviously give us the opportunity to do that."
One beat writer predicted a 50-30-15 split among Murray, Mathews and Sproles, with the rest of the carries divvied up among the quarterbacks and receivers. The Eagles averaged 487 carries over the last two years, so if Murray sees 50 percent of the carries, he's looking at around 244 carries. We project him to carry the ball 259 times this year, so we feel the backfield will tilt slightly more in his direction. Still, workload is a concern with Murray after he was the bell cow of all bell cows in 2014.
This was supposed to be the summer Ertz wrestled the starting job away from the 30-year-old Celek. He worked hard in the offseason to improve his blocking, talking to offensive line coaches and future Hall of Fame tight ends and training with MMA fighters.
But then he suffered a core-muscle injury early in training camp and has missed the entire preseason. Ertz hopes to be back for the Atlanta game. But even if he is, his snaps likely will be limited to passing downs and two-tight-end sets.
And if the preseason and their 11-on-11 team work in training camp is any indication, the Eagles will be cutting down on their use of two-tight-end sets this season as they make greater use of running back Darren Sproles in the passing game.
Last year, they used two-tight-end formations on 344 of their 1,128 offensive snaps, or 30.1 percent of the time. Celek played 815 snaps; Ertz played 587.
Ertz was the #13 TE in both standard and PPR formats despite only playing half of the Eagles’ snaps in his second year. Most (73%) of his snaps came on passing downs, so if his playing time is going to increase, a majority of the additional snaps are likely to come in run formations. Still, there’s upside with Ertz if he begins to see starter’s snaps. The Eagles lost their leading receiver -- first DeSean Jackson and then Jeremy Maclin -- in back-to-back seasons, so there will be opportunity from a targets standpoint. The groin injury isn't helping, so owners who draft Ertz should be prepared for an unproductive September.
Eagles HC Chip Kelly said that adding depth at the position was a priority in the offseason. When you add DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews – both have been staples on the injury list over their careers – you better have some depth. But assuming Murray, Mathews and Darren Sproles stay healthy, the Eagles might have the deepest running-back group in the NFL. The guess here is that Murray gets 225-250 carries this season. He had 392 last season for the Cowboys. Mathews would be next with 100-125 carries. And Sproles would be sprinkled in for about 50. Sproles’ presence in the passing game is obviously going to be beefed up. The Eagles have made that clear. But Murray and Mathews aren’t slouches in catching passes, either and will get their share of screens and check downs.
We currently project Murray for 259 carries, Mathews for 153 and Sproles for 39, so our numbers are fairly close to McLane's "guesses." Owners counting on Murray to tote the ball 300-plus times will probably be disappointed. They're planning to use Mathews and Sproles extensively, and that will limit Murray's overall upside. We do expect Murray to be highly productive in the touches that he does get, but he's not going to approach his 2014 workload in Dallas.
Eagles RB Darren Sproles had just 40 receptions last season, which was his fewest number of catches since 2008. Coach Chip Kelly said in the offseason that he wants to get Sproles more involved in the passing game this season. “We would like to get him the ball steadily and consistently,’’ OC Pat Shurmur said. “He’s a unique player. He’s as good as any receiver you have. And then you can hand him the football. We just need to make sure we get him the ball, and we have a plan to do that. We’ve got to find that smooth mix between (DeMarco Murray), Darren and (Ryan Mathews). And nothing says we can’t put all three of them in there at the same time, which would be kind of cool.’’
On just 8.0 touches per game, Sproles was the #12 PPR running back through the first six weeks. From Week 9 on, he averaged 5.4 touches and was the #26 RB in PPR formats during that span. The news this offseason has been mixed for Sproles. The team traded away LeSean McCoy, but replaced him with both Murray and Mathews, so Sproles’s carries seem unlikely to increase. There have been reports of Sproles lining up at receiver in minicamp and OTAs, and if that carries into the regular season, he has a chance to reemerge as a viable PPR back in his 10th year.
Darren Sproles made some big plays last season, his first year in Philadelphia. But he also disappeared at times, and had five or fewer offensive touches in most of the games he played.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly says that won’t happen again.
“It’s year two for him, so I think he feels really comfortable in terms of what our running backs are doing,” Kelly said, via Philly.com. “So we are just kind of cross-training him like we do some other guys in terms of how do we get our best players on the field and put them in different situations.”
Sproles said he’ll line up at receiver this season, and not just in the slot.
“We’re just trying to get more stuff for me to do,” Sproles said. “We’re going to get me out wide and stuff like that.”
Kelly is a creative offensive coach, and Sproles has the kind of talent Kelly can use in a variety of positions. The 32-year-old Sproles is at an age when most running backs are slowing down, but don’t be surprised if he has a bigger season in Year 2 with the Eagles.
Kelly said that he’s giving Sproles more practice time with the wide receivers so that Sproles will be ready to play there even if he doesn’t get a lot of snaps at running back, where he’s third on the depth chart behind DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, the story said. There were times last year when Sproles didn't even get a target in a game, so it looks like the Birds realize he needs to touch the ball more. Now the question is are there enough balls to go around with Murray and Mathews at the position. Sproles could find his way on the field more lined up at WR, a position where the Eagles don't have a ton of experience right now anyway.
Even if Ryan Mathews was No. 2 to DeMarco Murray's No. 1, the distribution of carries is unlikely to be as disparate as it was with LeSean McCoy over the previous two seasons. McCoy logged more than 64 percent of the Eagles' carries. The closest a backup got to him was Bryce Brown's 15 percent of rushes in 2013.
Chip Kelly hasn't put a number on how he'll divvy up the touches. Darren Sproles is also part of the equation. But a 50-30-15 split among the top three running backs would be an early guess.
We currently project a 57-27-8 split among Murray, Mathews and Sproles, and it results in a lower-than-average ranking of Murray, at least in PPR formats. If it is indeed a 50-30-15 split, then Murray probably won't provide good return at his current draft position.
Monday, August 3, 2015, 4:19pm
Eagles camp notes from Monday:
- Jordan Matthews gets my “Camper of the Day” award. Practices that limit contact tend to highlight the passing game and those mostly involved, but Matthews had a standout performance by any estimate. He did most of his damage from the slot. I think we’ll see more of Matthews on the outside than we did last year, but why limit his effectiveness when there probably isn’t another option as comparable on the roster? Most of his catches came from Sam Bradford and there were a variety.
- DeMarco Murray was back in action after sitting out team and 7-on-7 drills yesterday. He said it was a coach’s decision to limit his action on the first day of camp. I’m not sure why he would need to rest after a six-week layoff, but he looked fine on Monday. He didn’t seem to go 100 percent when he was involved, but after last season when he logged almost 500 touches, it doesn’t seem necessary for Murray to push himself this early.
- A day after taking all of the first team repetitions at quarterback, Bradford was under center for the majority. He looked a little more comfortable on Day 2.
- Mark Sanchez took his first series of snaps with the first team. I’m not sure that constitutes as a quarterback competition, but it’s a start. His best toss during the series was downfield to Huff on a comeback route. Working with the second team, Sanchez knew who would butter his bread. He kept going to Nelson Agholor on the outside. The rookie wide receiver continued to get the best of rookie corner Eric Rowe. Contact at the line is limited, so I wouldn’t make any assumptions about Rowe just yet, but Agholor has looked more than competent.
- Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow split third team reps again. If Kelly wants a pure quarterback at the third spot, the job is clearly Barkley’s. But if he wants someone that has an “X” factor or can be effective in zone read plays, then Tebow would seem to have the advantage.
Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was a virtual non-participant on Day 1 of training camp Sunday at the NovaCare Complex.
Among the Eagles' prized offseason additions, last season's rushing champion stretched with his teammates and took part in individual drills at the start of Sunday's practice but was limited to the role of a sideline spectator the rest of the day.
Murray did not take a single snap in seven-on-seven drills and was absent from every rep in full-team 11-on-11 drills as well.
"Who knows with him," An Eagles team source who requested anonymity said of Murray's conspicuous absence.
An Eagles team spokesman told NJ Advance Media that he was unaware of any injury to the running back.
Murray did fulfill his lone media obligation of the day -- a one-on-one interview with a national media outlet -- but did not speak to reporters. He is scheduled to talk at the podium after Monday's practice.
Kind of sounds like a strange situation with the comment from the unnamed source. We will continue to monitor the situation.
Brandin Cooks should emerge as the Saints’ No. 1 receiver on deep throws and short stuff like screens and end-arounds, while C.J. Spiller should catch 60-plus passes out of the backfield in the mold of Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush.
We project Spiller to catch 68 passes, so this prediction falls right in line with what we're expecting from Spiller in 2015. Be sure to read Sr. Editor John Paulsen's case for Spiller in New Orleans.
RB DeMarco Murray will not be counted on to carry the full load for the Eagles like he did in Dallas, where he accounted for 77 percent of the team's total carries, outpacing the second-leading rusher, Randle, by 341 carries. The presence of Ryan Mathews, himself a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, and Darren Sproles should mitigate the workload placed on Murray.
Last year, among the three top running backs, the split on carries went 75 percent to McCoy, 14 percent to Sproles and 11 percent to Polk. It's hard not to envision HC Chip Kelly opting to creep those percentages closer to something like 55-60 percent for Murray, 25-30 percent for Mathews and the remaining touches for Sproles.
Conveniently enough, we project Murray for 58.1% of the touches, with Mathews checking in at 27.1% and Sproles getting the remaining 14.8%. The article also notes that among the seven running backs who carried the ball at least 380 times in a season (and also played the following year), only two played more than 12 games, and the overall YPC dropped from 4.60 YPC in the 380-plus carry seasons to 3.60 YPC the following year. Four of the seven running backs played fewer than nine games. It remains to be seen if Kelly's superior sports science program can help Murray buck this trend.
Just like in the game of cards, jokers are amazing weapons in football because they don’t fit into the book easily when it comes to figuring out ways to defend them.
It is often used to describe the difficult to handle tight ends, but I think we can also list the running backs who aren’t actually running backs. Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, maybe even Randall Cobb, and yes, the Cowboys hope, Lance Dunbar is at least a “poor man’s” version of that. He is listed as a running back, but if we judge him as running backs are judged, we will quickly be underwhelmed with his running the ball (especially inside) and his pass protection. Both are just not up to the NFL grade.
This is a very detailed story breaking down Dunbar's strengths and weaknesses. The article goes on to say the Cowboys remain convinced that his role must be expanded as a weapon used in ways that are simply difficult to account for by a defense. The author added Dunbar as a runner has a 2-year track record of A) not getting the ball as a RB and B) not being productive enough to compel the staff to give him the ball more. But, he pointed out a Dunbar-led attack helped to knock off Seattle on the road last year, however he wasn't used much after that. The story also says his pass protection is suspect and the team doesn't appear to want to simply hand him the ball as a RB. He's capable of big plays, but probably not consistent fantasy points. Joseph Randle is ranked 24th on our RB list and is expected to at least split carries with Darren McFadden.
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