The Play Call - Running Back Dive | Philadelphia Eagles

The most fundamental play call for an offense to utilize, the running back dive. This series will dive into the running backs of their respective teams. First up, the Philadelphia Eagles and Doug Pederson. How does he call his plays, in this case how does he utilize his running backs?

In Doug Pederson's seven seasons of coaching and play calling, he has had three running backs have 70 or more carries in 3/7 (43%) seasons and has had two running backs have 100 or more carries in three separate seasons. That is a total of 6/7 (76%) seasons utilizing multiple running backs strictly for carrying the ball. But did Pederson have a choice? Pederson has been known for his RBBC usage. Out of the seven seasons he has had one running back have more than 200 carries, Jamaal Charles did it twice (2013, 2014) with a total of 110 receptions those two years. The Eagles traded for Jay Ajayi in 2017 in hopes he would be their running back for the foreseeable future but Ajayi struggled with knee injuries and a back fracture. Here is the percentage of the team's RB fantasy points that went to the RB1 for Pederson:

Data courtesy of Football Guys

After Jamal Charles (2013, 2014) we saw a decreasing trend over the next four years until 2019 when the RB1 spikes up to 47%. The running backs that Pederson primarily utilized from 2015-2018 are: Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware,
Ryan Matthews, LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, Jay Ajayi, and Josh Adams. I do not blame Pederson for having to use all those running backs -- the highest scoring running back was Darren Sproles (162.5 PPR) in 2016, benefiting from 52 receptions. What happened in 2019 causing the RB1 to spike?

Philadelphia Eagles: Running Backs (2019)

The Eagles acquired Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears before the 2019 NFL Draft. Howard suffered a shoulder stinger on November 3rd resulting in Howard missing the remainder of the season. Below are the Eagles' running backs and their touches for the season.

Miles Sanders' volume increased without Howard playing and Sanders made the most of it. Sanders received 103/170 carries and 28/50 receptions from Weeks 11-17, averaging 17.22 Fantasy points per game (PPR).

Was Miles Sanders part of the plan for the Eagles to draft in 2019? Was Jordan Howard meant to be a one year rental?

Miles Sanders

Sanders only had 56 total carries in his first two collegiate years before posting 220 carries in his junior year -- Saquon Barkley may have been the reason for Sanders' lack of production.

In Sanders' first NFL season, he played in all 16 games and started 11 of them. Here is how Sanders performed for his rookie season:

Sanders was given the opportunity to perform when Howard went down for the season, averaging 7.82 more touches per game. However, Sanders was already producing.

  • Weeks 1-9, five out of nine games were above 10 PPG
    • In those 4 games below 10 points
      • Averaged 5.95 PPG
      • Averaged 11.50 touches
Even when Sanders did not produce he was still getting the opportunities. Sanders is a dynamic dual threat coming out the backfield. Sanders is currently valued as the RB7 and has an ADP of 23.38 according toThe Undroppables.

Discussion

Doug Pederson has a history of utilizing more than one running back on his team. In fact, he has primarily utilized three running backs a season. The only time he has utilized two running backs was in 2013 and 2014 with Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis -- Charles averaged 287.50 touches per season and Davis averaged 115.50 touches per season. Heading into the 2020 season the Eagles only offseason move was to bring back Corey Clement.

It may appear that Pederson is happy deploying Miles Sanders and Boston Scott as the Eagles one-two punch. It should be warranted to note any additional moves the Eagles make (This article was written on August 3rd, 2020) that could affect Sanders' volume in the 2020 season. Even with an additional running back added, Miles Sanders proved he was capable of producing with the touches he received with Jordan Howard playing. An elite talent like Miles Sanders should not be ignored -- Sanders (120.3, SPARQ-x) is a better athlete than Jammal Charles (115.5).

I am not sold that Doug Pederson is a RBBC type of coach. He has had no choice but to be with the Eagles -- he is a RBBC-TOO, Running Back By Committee - The Only Option. Profit on Doug Pederson's reputation. 

Miles Sanders flashed elite potential, let him be 2013 Jamaal Charles.