Friday, November 4, 2011
Eagles rush to success on ground
By Jeff Dickerson
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- From a personnel standpoint, the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles offense is very similar to the group the Chicago Bears faced last year at Soldier Field.
From a scheme standpoint, Bears' defenders have noticed a major change in the way Philadelphia conducts its running game.
LeSean McCoy, who is second in the NFL with 754 yards, is averaging 5.6 yards a carry.
The Eagles' run-blocking philosophy shifted when the organization hired veteran offensive line coach Howard Mudd in early February. Mudd, who retired for one season following the 2009 campaign, spent 12 years with the Indianapolis Colts (1998-2009) where he developed the reputation as one of the league's top offensive line coaches.
Mudd brought the same blocking concepts to Philadelphia that he used in Indianapolis, the scheme that helped Edgerrin James win two rushing titles while a member of the Colts.
Before he began his coaching career, Mudd was a three-time Pro Bowl guard who played three seasons in Chicago from 1969-1971.
"They do a lot of zone type running like they used to do with Edgerrin James when he was on the Colts," Bears defensive tackle Anthony Adams said Friday. "They do a lot of boots off it, draws off it, and try to make everything look the same. They've had a lot of success with it lately."
The main benefactor of the Eagles transition to a zone blocking team has been tailback LeSean McCoy, who is second in the NFL with 754 yards on 135 carries. The Eagles come into the game on Monday night with the No. 1 rushing offense (179.9) in the NFL after seven games.
"He's more of like a cut-back runner, he'll make you miss in space," Adams said. "The key with stopping him is to get him before he can get started, before he can make a cut. You need to put a lot of guys around him, almost like a triangle, because he's probably going to make one guy miss. It's a team effort. Everybody needs to get to the football and gang tackle."
McCoy draws comparisons to Matt Forte because of the way both players can catch the ball out of the backfield. The Eagles' third-year back is fifth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (892), roughly 200 yards fewer than league leader Forte (1,091). McCoy, who is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, rushed for season-high 185 yards in Philadelphia's victory over Dallas last Sunday night.
"He's got quick feet and gets to that hole fast," Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. "He gets through the hole fast and gets to that second level. [He] puts his head down ... for a smaller, faster guy he puts his head down."
After surrendering large rushing gains earlier in the year to Atlanta's Michael Turner and Detroit's Jahvid Best, the Bears' run defense has improved since the Monday night loss in Detroit on Oct. 10. That aspect of the defense will no doubt be challenged against the Eagles.
"We just didn't play well [in those earlier games]," Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "The last couple of games we've gotten in our gaps and tackled well. I think we were up in most of those games, too. It's hard to run the ball when you are down. The rushing attempts will naturally go down."