Never in his three-year career at Notre Dame did Eagles running back Josh Adams have back-to-back 20-carry games. So, having 42 over the last two weeks – 22 in the win over New York and 20 on Monday night to help the effort against Washington – has required Adams to spend more time in the ice bath and on the massage table as he recovers and prepares for more work Sunday at Dallas.
Could he have a third straight 20-carry game? Anything is possible as the Eagles look to establish the running game and keep balance against a Dallas defense that is among the best in the league.
“I love when we run the ball and take it to a defense,” offensive tackle Lane Johnson said. “Circumstances don’t always allow you to do that, but offensive linemen, we love it. The more balanced you can be, the more you keep a defense guessing.”
The game plan against Dallas is to be unveiled on Sunday at AT&T Stadium and it remains to be seen just how the Eagles will attack the Cowboys. Starting fast is something the Eagles did not do in the first meeting between the teams – the Eagles had a three-and-out series to open the game and quarterback Carson Wentz threw an interception on the fourth snap – as Dallas held a 13-3 lead after two quarters. Running the football has been an up-and-down proposition for the offense most of this season, but there is reason for optimism: Adams gained 84 yards against New York and 85 against Washington and the Eagles have confidence in him heading to Dallas.
“Josh has done a great job improving and learning the offense and how to play running back in this league,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “He’s coming along very well. He’s ready for whatever we throw at him.”
Just what is the offensive plan for Dallas? The Eagles have worked all season to find their offensive personality and, perhaps, they’ve discovered something to lean on in the two-game winning streak. While the Giants game was uneven offensively – lackluster in the first half and much more dynamic in the second – the Eagles pretty much moved the ball up and down the field against Washington. There were some plays missed and two inside-the-10-yard-line stumbles, but for the most part the Eagles dictated to a good Washington front seven and secondary by mixing up the run and pass, blending in some of the screen game, and taking some shots down the field.
The Eagles gained a season-best 436 total net yards and had possession of the football for 39:19. That’s a recipe for success.
“We did some good things out there. Hopefully that’s something we can build on,” said running back Corey Clement, who contributed 76 yards from scrimmage against the Giants and 74 more against Washington, his most productive consecutive-games output since suffering a quadriceps injury and missing games at Tennessee and against Minnesota. “We have the players and we have a great scheme. It’s just a matter of putting it all together and keeping a defense off balance as much as possible.”
Dallas allows just 91.2 yards rushing per game, fourth best in the NFL. The Cowboys have an active and aggressive front four buffeted by fast sideline-to-sideline linebackers. In the first meeting between the teams, the Eagles were not in sync in the first half, fell behind, and had to throw the football to catch up. As a result, the balance was not there as the Eagles ran 16 times for 71 yards and quarterback Carson Wentz completed 32 of 44 passes for 360 yards.
This time around, the Eagles want to come out fast – it’s a reminder the Eagles are given multiple times each day – and they want to stay ahead of the sticks.
And, yes, they want to feed Adams.
“I’m getting there. Obviously, this is a new experience for me. Other than soreness and being beat up, it’s nothing that’s a big deal,” Adams said. “It’s all about getting ready for the next game. I was sore on Tuesday morning, but I feel good. I’m making sure to do the right things to get back.”
With Adams emerging, Clement healthy, and an offensive line that loves to bear down and beat up defensive fronts, the Eagles have the ability to beat teams by running the football. They want to be multiple and they certainly have weapons in the passing game, but a big difference since then – November 11 when the teams played at Lincoln Financial Field – is that the Eagles have put together some confidence-building running games back to back. They know they can run the ball.
Maybe they will take that approach on Sunday – to come out pounding. It’s an option they didn’t necessarily have a month ago when Dallas came to town.