Five Big-Picture Takeaways from Eagles Week 3 Win Over Jets

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2.) Handling the Running Back Situation Just Got Tricky

Sep 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Ryan Mathews (24) stiff arms New York Jets strong safety Marcus Gilchrist (21) to gain extra yards at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Ryan-USA TODAY Sports

Considering how the run game had looked up to Sunday’s game against the Jets, one would be hard-pressed to find someone pegging DeMarco Murray’s surprise ‘inactive’ as a death-blow for the Eagles’ chances. Regardless of who was running behind the Philadelphia offensive line, yards were almost impossible to come by. If anything, seeing Murray on the sideline was almost a welcome respite to seeing him being dragged down five yards behind the line of scrimmage. Given the fact that the team allocated resources to signing him, it was exciting to see what Ryan Mathews could do with the Lion’s share of touches.

Mathews’ afternoon was as much a mixed bag as one could imagine. A dropped pass with 20+ yards of daylight in front of him paired with a fourth quarter fumble that, were it not for the Jets turning the ball back over almost immediately, could have spelled doom for the Eagles made up the ‘bad’ for the running back. All that considered, the Eagles offense with Mathews toting the load looked far more formidable than it has with Murray doing so in 2015. Mathews broke the century mark, scored a receiving touchdown, and provided a much-needed positive element to the Eagles offense against a top-notch Jets defense.

Prior to the start of the season, many wondered how Kelly’s offense would operate with its stable of running backs. Even taking into account Sproles’ versatility, there are a lot of proverbial mouths to feed at the running back position. Murray and Mathews, both identified as more physical runners, often benefit from a consistent workload over the course of a contest. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, ball-carriers of that caliber tend to strengthen throughout the game when they can wear on the opposition. Many figured the amount of snaps the Eagles projected to run during a game may alleviate any concerns over this. Philadelphia’s ineffective offense through two games only magnified the issues of the rushing attack.

Though I would not say Mathews’ performance Sunday created any sort of doubt as to who the ‘top dog’ in the Eagles backfield is, the matter is not as cut-and-dry as one may imagine. If the offense is unable to keep progressing and improve as a whole, Kelly won’t be able to run the amount of plays he desires. Because of this, finding ample time for his running backs to operate to their maximum effectiveness may be more difficult than originally thought out. Were it not for Mathews’ miscues in terms of holding onto the ball, this conversation may be considerably more prominent. If nothing else, the offensive line looked much better blocking for Mathews than it has in the two games prior. If the Eagles revert to how they looked with Murray carrying the ball, this conversation may gather some steam.