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Can Eagles maintain newfound balance against Broncos?

Running back Jordan Howard (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Running back Jordan Howard (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Balance is the goal for Nick Sirianni and his Eagles' offense, so when he is in self-scout mode on Mondays and looks back at the last two weeks, he sees a lot of good things. He sees domination at the line of scrimmage from an offensive line that's been together for three straight games. He sees discipline from 11 players who have reduced their penalties and played in front of the sticks.

And he sees balance. And that is pleasing.

"What you see is our offensive line really dominating the line of scrimmage. It always starts there," Sirianni said earlier in the week. "Backs going through their reads, Jalen (Hurts) getting us into the right play and what you see when that happens is what happened (against the Chargers), is that our yards per attempt are high. How does that happen? That happens because we're running the football good and the rush slows down and there's more space between the quarterback and the line of scrimmage and the linebackers suck up and they're playing different coverages as a result of you running the football and that opens other things up.

"Balance is really important and we've got to keep building on the momentum that we have going."

Sunday's task is to have balance against a Denver defense that ranks sixth in the NFL against the run, allowing just 98.3 yards per game, and is coming off a win at Dallas in which the Cowboys gained a paltry 78 rushing yards. The Eagles will start the same offensive line for the fourth straight week – Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Jack Driscoll, Lane Johnson, left to right – and the objective will be to have balance. Run the ball. Pass the ball. Be effective. Minimize mistakes. Capitalize on opportunities.

Having balance has always been top of mind for Sirianni, but circumstances haven't always cooperated. The offensive line had four starting combinations in the opening five weeks of the season. Penalties truncated drives and put the offense in passing situations. The early-season offense was challenged to get into a flow at times.

Now, there is balance.

"I think the most important thing is that teams respect that we can run the ball and that will protect everything," Mailata said, "that pass game, the play-action game, the screen game. I think we're doing a great job of knowing our assignments and just trying to dominate the guy opposing us. It helps us a lot with that aspect of the game, just protecting our runs, protecting our game plan."

This offensive line is big and it's physical, so achieving balance has been a landmark for Sirianni in his first season. Mailata and Dickerson (Mailata calls him "big bopper"), a rookie, have been a powerful duo on the left side and the Eagles are taking advantage. Last week, when the offense ran for 176 yards on 39 carries that included some Hurts improvisational runs, the Eagles also incorporated a good bit of 13 personnel – one running back and three tight ends – to give defenses a different look and add more muscle up front.

Dickerson, who didn't play in the preseason or in Training Camp, has come a long way in a short period of time.

"Jordan's great," Dickerson said. "We have a lot of chemistry. The more you play with somebody, we work off of that."

"I think you see him just being able to push guys around a little bit more and more each week," Sirianni said of Dickerson. "That's what we saw of Landon (in the pre-NFL Draft scouting process) – a physical presence in the run game and in the pass game. With Landon, being physical and nasty and tough, pushing guys around, you're seeing that more and more each week with him as he gets comfortable in the NFL. You're seeing the movement you saw at Alabama moving the nose (tackle) and that 3-technique. He's progressing and that's exciting."

To run, or to pass? It's best to have options and the Eagles have been able to achieve that in recent games. They want to keep it going, understanding that teams are going to be aware of the threat of the run game spearheaded by Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, and Kenny Gainwell until Miles Sanders returns to the lineup.

"I love it," Johnson said. "When you do that, you control the game clock, time of possession, it makes play-action (passing) a lot easier, it limits their pass rush. When you're running the ball, it makes the game a whole lot easier."

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