Ryan Mathews experienced stiffness in his left ankle early in the Eagles’ 34-3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that was why Mathews played only eight snaps in the game. Coach Doug Pederson said Mathews will remain the team’s top running back as long as he’s healthy.
Mathews snaps did take a hit after carrying 22 times in Week 1. He was out-carried by Darren Sproles in Week 2, despite rushing for two TDs. The story said Mathews had not been on the injury report and practiced fully leading up to the game. With four different options emerging at RB, Mathews - even when healthy - doesn't seem like a lock to lead the team in carries week-to-week right now. The good news is the team has a bye in Week 4 so Mathews should be ready to go for Week 5.
The most promising news under-reported from Sunday’s 34-3 stunner of the Steelers? How about this one: Wendell Smallwood, 17 rushing attempts, 79 yards. Or this one: Kenjon Barner, eight attempts, 42 yards.
With Ryan Mathews limited to two carries because of a bad ankle, their combined effectiveness may have been as important as Carson Wentz’s passing and the four-sack, two-turnover, touchdown-denying Eagles defense.
Related players: Darren Sproles
The Eagles run game approach more resembles the Patriots over the years - varying backs getting the work depending on the opponent. Mathews has 22 carries in Week 1, but it was Sproles who led the way in Week 2. This week, Smallwood. Keep in mind Darren Sproles had a 70-yard TD reception. But, it does seem to indicate something we concluded back in summer: if Mathews isn't 100-percent it's Smallwood who could find himself with a big workload. Until Mathews is back close to 100-percent, this backfield appears to be a full-on committee situation. The Eagles have a bye in Week 4.
In all, Darren Sproles carried 12 times for 40 yards on Monday night, while Ryan Mathews was limited to nine attempts for 32 yards. Mathews also had an attempt erased due to a penalty, but regardless, it was odd seeing the change-of-pace back get more work than the bellcow.
It was even stranger given the circumstances. Chicago's defense is far more stout against the run this season, so it was tough sledding for Eagles rushers. Again, that's where it would seemingly make sense for a bigger back like Mathews to carry the load, because he can fight for the hard yards and wear opponents down.
Mathews is nursing an ankle injury which may have played into the decision. Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood each had two rushes in Week 2 after Barner had an impressive Week 1. The story added the Eagles were trying to spread the Bears out, a strategy that did make some sense. Perhaps the Birds are taking notes from the Patriots use of RBs and we're going to see the snaps for all four backs vary depending on the opponent. Keep in mind Mathews did score two TDs and is still considered the main back of the offense. He had 22 carries in Week 1.
Eagles beat writer Reuben Frank (CSN Philly):
I don’t care if I write this every week, I really like Kenjon Barner. He just looks like a football player to me. Sometimes you see guys put up big numbers in the preseason but you don’t really expect them to ever carry it over into the regular season. Barner hasn’t done anything since he got here in 2014 to make me think he can’t play in this league. He runs hard, slashes through traffic, has a terrific feel for the defenders around him and is tough enough to run through guys (rushing stats: 7 for 35 vs. the Bucs, 6 for 41 Thursday night). He’s explosive in the return game, picks up the blitz, getting better as a receiver. We all know Ryan Mathews’ injury history. We all know Darren Sproles is a gifted player but not equipped for double-digit carries. We haven’t even seen Wendell Smallwood play yet. It’s pretty clear Barner has to be this team’s No. 2 back. Not only that, he needs to have a role on offense as well.
If the Eagles get the Ryan Mathews who gained 1,255 yards for the Chargers in 2013, there won't be any worries, but that is the only one of Mathews' six seasons in which he played a full 16 games. No, the likelihood is that offensive coordinator Frank Reich will be looking around for other answers, and he just might find one in rookie Wendell Smallwood, who is expected to make his preseason debut on Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Smallwood, who missed the first exhibition game because of a slight quadriceps strain, has been back on the practice field this week, hoping to show why the Eagles selected him in the fifth round of the draft.
Smallwood was the Big 12's leading rusher, gaining 1,519 yards with a 6.4 average, and he did very well at the combine, setting the lowest times among running backs in the three-cone drill and 60-yard shuttle run, the story said. Darren Sproles is effective in small doses, but at 33 years old can't be used that much; and that Kenjon Barner is a career special-teams player. That all means if Smallwood can show anything he may end up behind Mathews on the depth chart and be in line for a lot of carries if Mathews gets hurt.
Eagles running back Ryan Mathews was a limited participant in Friday's full contact practice but returned to a full workload during Saturday's 10-10-10 session, much to the delight of offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
Mathews has been consistently working with the second team offense since Darren Sproles first reported to Mandatory minicamp this spring, but that doesn't mean he won't have a significant impact on the offense this season.
"Having Ryan back today, and I know it's only 10-10-10," Reich said following Saturday's practice at the NovaCare Complex. "You guys saw it too, he looks explosive out there. He just looked explosive. He was quick. He was seeing things."
A good sign for Mathews and potential owners. Mathews would be a perfect guy to wait on using the Zero-RB strategy, however his injury history is a real concern. He looks like the back who will get a majority of carries for the Birds as long as he can stay on the field. He's ranked 21st on our list with an ADP of the fifth round. In the 24 games over the past three seasons where Mathews has at least 10 carries, he has averaged 87 total yards and 0.50 TD, or 13.4 PPR points per game. Those are solid RB1 numbers.
Ryan Mathews returned to practice Friday.
Mathews suffered a sprained ankle while working out independently just prior to training camp opening, and was officially removed from the NFI list upon returning.
Now, the question is can a 33-year-old running back who is listed at 5-6, 190 pounds be a team's featured back?
"I just think he's a freakish athlete. Going into it right now, I'm not going to limit him. I want to see how much I can give him and see how much he can handle. Then we'll kind of go from there,'' HC Doug Pederson said.
While the Eagles seem to think he can carry the load, at least publicly, the story went on to produce some numbers that show he probably can't. Over his career, the more carries he got, the lower his YPC average was. He had the most carries in his career in 2009 for the Chargers (93) and averaged just 3.7 YPC. Last season he carried 83 times (third most) and had a 3.8 YPC. In 2014 he carried just 57 times with a YPC of 5.8, second best of his career. Those around the team seem to think rookie Wendell Smallwood would get more carries should Mathews be forced to miss extended time.
Head coach Doug Pederson said Eagles' No. 1 Ryan Mathews back is day to day and expected to return next week, so at least it sounds like this is a minor ding and nothing to get overly worked up about.
Then again, this is always the question with the talented ball-carrier, a former first-round draft pick who's twice rushed for over 1,000 yards, but managed to suit up for all 16 games only once in six NFL seasons. Odds are at some point Mathews will be unavailable, and then what will the Eagles do?
"Right now the running back (position), we've got a lot of talent right there. We've got some young talent," Pederson insisted after Friday's practice, rattling off the depth chart. The reality of the situation is there's not a great deal of NFL experience coming off the bench.
In terms of a proven commodity who could take over as starter, there isn't one. Third-year back Kenjon Barner has 34 rushing attempts in 18 career games, while fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood and undrafted rookies Byron Marshall and Cedric O'Neal round out the unit.
If Mathews were to miss an extended period, Smallwood seems poised to benefit the most from the absence.
This is something we've already talked about here at the site this past week. Sproles and Barner aren't really cut out for carrying the load over a long period of time. Sproles did tote the ball 15 times last year against New England but most likely wouldn't hold up in a longer stretch with that much work. That's why Smallwood makes the most sense as a guy who could get double-digit carries if Mathews is hurt. Given Mathews injury history, it's a real possibility the Birds will have to deal with this at some point in 2016.
Mathews, whose injury wasn’t noticeable as he walked by reporters today when he reported for training camp, is expected to receive the bulk of the carries this season in the Eagles’ new offense.
After Mathews there are a lot of questions in the Eagles backfield. Darren Sproles does the most damage as a punt returner and receiver out of the backfield on offense, and he’s now 33-years-old. Kenjon Barner has only 34 career carries, although Wendell Smallwood has continued to impress Doug Pederson this summer. Smallwood could be a guy to benefit the most with Mathews missing reps.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016, 12:43pm
Darren Sproles missed the voluntary portion of Eagles offseason workouts. The coaching staff genuinely didn't seem to to be too concerned about that. Unlike Ryan Mathews, Sproles is a very good fit for an offense that plans on using its backs heavily in the passing game.
Expect Sproles to used more creatively in Pederson's offense than he was in Chip Kelly's, but likely only for one year, as Sproles is 33 years old and in the final year of his deal.
Sproles is always worth a look in the later rounds of PPR drafts. It sounds as if he'll have a sizable role in the offense.
When Eagles RB Ryan Mathews got playing time last season, he was very good. He carried the ball 106 times for 539 yards (5.1 YPC) and 6 TDs, which made him the most productive runner on the team. We stress that he was a good "runner."
Mathews is not a great fit for Doug Pederson's offense. Pederson has said that he wants to be able to move his backs around to create mismatches for opposing defenses in the passing game. That is not at all a strength of Mathews'.
Mathews has caught 78.3% of his career targets, which is good for 11th among 102 running backs with at least 100 catches since 2006. His hands are fine. Where he may be lacking is gaining yards after the catch. His Y/R (7.57) is mediocre. He's by far he best running back on the team at this point and we like his value in the 5th or 6th round. In the 24 games over the past three seasons where Mathews has at least 10 carries, he has averaged 87 total yards and 0.50 TD, or 13.4 PPR points per game. Those are solid RB1 numbers.
It looks like we’re going to have another running-back-by-committee season in Philadelphia. While Ryan Mathews got the bulk of first-team reps this spring, he also shared them with Kenjon Barner and Darren Sproles. The team also has fifth-rounder Wendell Smallwood.
“Well, you go in thinking that one guy can handle the load,” HC Doug Pederson said. “If that's Ryan, he can handle all the stuff and the pounding. But with the guys we have, with the depth we have at that position, Darren is obviously a big part of that and now with Wendell [RB Wendell Smallwood] coming on, I think it could be a little bit of a running back by committee.”
This doesn't worry us, since Mathews appears to be one of the better values at the running back position even with a conservative projection of touches. He's ranked 17th in standard and 21st in PPR formats, and that's only with 240 touches, which is very reasonable as the lead back in a committee. Mathews' career production (4.5 YPC) and 2015 production (5.0 YPC) allow him to generate yards on fewer touches.
Kenjon Barner has made some noise at OTAs with Mathews sidelined with a hamstring injury. Rookie Wendell Smallwood also looks good, per reports. Mathews returned to workouts, however, and should start for the Eagles. He's coming off of a 5.0 YPC season and in 54 career games with at least 10 carries, Mathews has averaged 14.6 FP in PPR formats. Those are strong RB1 numbers. He's an injury risk, but at the cost of a 5th or 6th round pick, he's worth it.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly has finally begun to realize that DeMarco Murray, his prized free-agent signing, is not a good fit in his offense. But Kelly is still giving Murray more touches than his production warrants.
In Sunday’s win over the Bills, Murray actually got plenty of touches: Murray had 11 carries for 34 yards, plus two catches for three yards.
That continues a trend that has been going on all season: Murray is getting the ball a lot and not doing much of anything with it. Murray has 174 carries for 603 yards this season, an average of 3.5 yards a carry. Murray’s average is by far the worst on the team: Ryan Mathews averages 5.3 yards per carry with 465 yards on 87 carries, Kenjon Barner averages 4.6 yards a carry with 106 yards on 23 carries and Darren Sproles averages 4.0 yards a carry with 275 yards on 69 carries.
There were reports that Murray was going to be inactive or reduced to the team's RB4 in Week 14, but that wasn't the case. Instead, it was worse for fantasy owners as Mathews, Murray and Sproles seemed to split up the workload. This is going to be a tricky situation going forward. Mathews is probably the best fit for a full workload and has often produced with more with less touches than he got this week. But without a full workload, he'll still have some risks going forward.
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