Philadelphia Eagles News

Quality Not Quantity Remains The Focus

The question was a legitimate one.

Head coach Andy Reid was asked how much better he would like to run the ball in 2009.

Looking at the team's off-season acquisitions, one might wonder whether Reid is going to change his offensive philosophy this year.

On the offensive line, Shawn Andrews was welcomed back, pardon the pun, after a herniated disc cost him almost all of the 2008 season. Shawn's brother, Stacy, was signed on the first weekend of free agency. The Eagles pulled off a blockbuster trade for two-time Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters from Buffalo. And the most dynamic fullback of the Reid era, Leonard Weaver, was signed away from Seattle. In the draft, the Eagles used the highest pick on a tailback in the Reid era, a second-round selection on Pitt's LeSean McCoy.

The answer to the question, however, not only showed off Reid's quick wit, but let everyone know that the Eagles are not going to turn into a smash-mouth team overnight.

"We're striving to lead the league in rushing this year," Reid said in a joking tone.

When it comes to the run game, Reid wants quality not as much as quantity. He's still going to pass to give his team the lead and then allow his run game to run out the clock. Looking back at the end of last season, however, it was obvious that the Eagles' run game was virtually non-existent.

Brian Westbrook battled through injuries most of the season, but still came just yards short of a third-consecutive 1,000-yard campaign with 936 yards. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry for the year. The Eagles as a whole averaged the same total. However, in the playoffs, the Eagles averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. Westbrook? Only 2.4 yards per attempt.

That's a far cry from his, and the team's, numbers in 2007. Westbrook had a career year running for 1,333 yards at a clip of 4.8 yards per carry. The Eagles, believe it or not, ranked eighth in the league in rushing offense. In 2008, the Eagles were 22nd and never any better than 17th at any point in the season.

There are specific areas where the Eagles need to run the ball better. One area is in the red zone where the Eagles scored a touchdown 31 out of 63 times in 2008. Short-yardage and goal line situations are other areas that needed to be addressed. The Eagles scored a touchdown on 68 percent of goal-to-go opportunities in 2008. Opponents enjoyed six points 82 percent of the time in similar scenarios. And while the Eagles were successful 83 percent of the time on third-and-2 situations, including run and pass plays, they were only able to convert half of their third-and-1 chances.

"Those are things we need to do a better job at," Reid said. "That's not the reason why we brought in the personnel that we brought in. We needed to change some things on the offense, maybe in some spots where we were getting a little bit older and we needed to get a little bit younger, and we did that."

The Eagles certainly got younger. If Peters and Shawn Andrews are the starting tackles on opening day against Carolina, they will be a combined 14 years younger than the starting tackles from last season - Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. Weaver is the most experienced fullback the Eagles have had since Jon Ritchie. McCoy certainly isn't going to steal the spotlight from Westbrook, but he will be just 21 years old at the start of the season. And Westbrook should feel a few years younger after a cleanout procedure on his knee in the off-season.

The Eagles have run the ball and done it well in the past. It certainly won't be the focal point of the offense, but the Eagles want to make sure it's an effective one. Repeat after me, quality not quantity.

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