Sunday, August 28, 2005

Uhhh, what about the running game?

Picking nits: Not to be a spoilsport, and recognizing the Eagles passing offense was beyond impressive in the first half of Friday night's 27-17 preseason victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, but ....

Doesn't a review of the game stats have to reinforce concern over the Eagles' undersized ground attack? Brian Westbrook had 20 yards on six carries (13 on his last five) and Bruce Perry had a mere 18 yards of six of his own (Granted, those six carries likely will eclipse his total for the entire 2005 season).

Of course, optimists will point out that rookie Ryan Moats had 44 yards on eight attempts, looking explosive with his quickness to the corner and burst through the hole.

But look a little closer and you realize that Moats had just one carry, for 2 yards, in the first half and did most of his damage against the Bengals' second-, third- and won't-make-the-team defenses. He also gained 17 yards on the Eagles' first play of the third quarter, so his last six carries netted a more modest 25.

While Cincinnati certainly isn't the laughingstock it's been over most of the last decade or more, the Bengals are still the Bengals, not an elite defensive team. They ranked 26th in the NFL against the run last season, surrendering 128.9 yards a game and a 4.4 yards-per-carry average.

Clearly, Eagles coach Andy Reid's offensive approach never will feature a 240-pound running back going between the tackles 25-30 times a game. Nor should it, based on his unquestioned success over the last five seasons.

But just as clearly, the Eagles still could use a back they can give the ball to on third-and-short and have a reasonable degree of confidence he'll get the first down. Keep watching those waiver wires, or for another Dorsey Levens sighting in Philly.

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