This is the answer, and Nick Sirianni means every word of it. Not a bit of joking around as he is asked, "Why are the Eagles able to run the football so successfully?" Maybe you think it's a dumb question with an obvious answer, but I asked it anyway because I wanted to hear what Sirianni had to say, how he could explain something we have seen for two years now. No matter the defense, the Eagles carve out success on the ground.
It's not always on the level of what they did to the Jaguars on Sunday after Jacksonville entered the game ranked first in the NFL in run defense, allowing 55 yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry. The Eagles crushed those numbers to oblivion, gaining 210 yards on 50 carries.
And so, I asked Sirianni on Tuesday, "Why?"
"Uh, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Isaac (Seumalo), right? Jordan Mailata. Landon Dickerson. The guys that came off the bench – Jack Driscoll, Sua Opeta. The running backs. (Offensive line) Coach (Jeff) Stoutland. Jalen (Hurts, quarterback), creating an extra gap. Everyone (including tight ends and wide receivers) up front," Sirianni said.
Ummm, OK, understood. It's a talent thing, it's a scheme thing, it's a coaching thing. The Eagles have a running game that emerged right around this time a year ago – to be technical, it really showed after the Week 7 loss at Las Vegas – and has just gotten better and better and better. Hey, every team is going to have a hiccup along the way, but with this offensive line and tight ends at the line of scrimmage, with the way the running backs room has four players in whom the Eagles have a ton of confidence, with a quarterback like Hurts who creates such problems for defenses who aren't able to handle him, with great coaching, and with other weapons in the offense, the running game is on point.
The Eagles entered the season hoping to be a balanced, pick-your-poison offense, and, through four games, they've achieved that goal. The passing game is explosive down the field featuring wide receivers A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Quez Watkins, and the short and intermediate game is rocking with tight end Dallas Goedert, wide receiver Zach Pascal, and the running backs.
And then there is the running game, averaging 165.3 yards per game, fifth-most in the NFL.
"We have a ton of confidence in running the football, no matter who is carrying it," said Miles Sanders, who is third in the NFL with 359 ground yards and who has scored three touchdowns. "I've said this many times that it all starts with the guys up front and we feel that's the best offensive line in the NFL. They create the running lanes. We just follow them."
No doubt about that, but there is more to it. Sirianni and the offensive coaches have a great feel for playcalling and setting up the run. They've shown so much trust and confidence in the line to create movement and keep drives alive. The play-action passing game has never been better here. Brown and Smith demand a lot of attention from defensive backfields on every snap. Running Backs Coach/Assistant Head Coach Jemal Singleton is doing an outstanding job keeping his backs fresh and at the same time keeping them sharp. The depth we saw on Sunday when Trey Sermon replaced the injured Boston Scott (rib injury) and gained 19 yards plus a facemask penalty on two carries adds even more to the mix.
The team's ability to make adjustments is obvious and the Eagles enter Week 5 knowing that Hurts is in command of an offense averaging 28.8 points and 435.5 yards per game.
"There's so much trust there with Jalen right now," Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "He's playing really, really, really good football right now, and when you're playing that good football, you have a lot of trust in your players. We have good players surrounded around him – the offensive line, the receivers – and he's seeing it well. When you're seeing it well like he's seeing it well, there's a lot of trust there, and we're going to go out and make plays."
Even with stacked boxes, the Eagles are running the ball. And if a defense crowds the line of scrimmage, the Eagles can also go vertical and score very quickly. An offense that roared into the season with a huge first half has become more consistent, more complete.
We're in Week 5. The coaches had a long Monday night at the NovaCare Complex and they're cranking through Tuesday preparing for an Arizona defense that pressures the quarterback as well as any team with its front seven. The challenge is significant, so the coaching staff is working through its process.
"So that started yesterday," Steichen said. "Last night, we got together for a while. Pass game guys going through their thing, Stout is going through it, and then we come together and we marry everything up, and then that process goes through in the morning. We just finished that stuff up a little bit as we're still going through it, and we're just marrying things up. It's a great process we've got going, one that I truly believe in, and it's been working, and we've got to continue that."
On to the next game and, with it, the unknown in terms of what Arizona will do to try to take away the Eagles' multi-pronged offensive attack. Sirianni and his staff are working on the answers, no matter how off-track some of the questions he might be asked along the way.