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Are Eagles looking for ROI or best rusher?

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PHILADELPHIA — Running back Ryan Mathews had only six carries, but for 97 yards against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Mathews is averaging 6.1 yards per carry — tops in the NFL and 2.5 yards per carry more than DeMarco Murray. But Mathews is averaging only eight carries per game compared to 15 for Murray.

The history on these two makes this even more interesting.

Last season, Murray led the NFL and set a Dallas Cowboys record with 1,845 yards rushing. When Dallas dallied on his contract, the Eagles swooped in and signed him to a five-year contract worth up to $42 million.

By contrast, Mathews spent the previous five years as somewhat of an unfulfilled promise in San Diego, where the former first round pick out of Fresno State was often sidelined with injuries.

Last year he played out is time in San Diego and the Eagles, although already with Murray and Darren Sproles on the roster, signed Mathews to a three-year deal that could earn him $11.5 million.

Against that backdrop, there is a natural curiosity when coach Chip Kelly opts to use Murray over Mathews, even though the latter is obviously more efficient.

Kelly said the reason Mathews didn’t get more carries against the Panthers was because he aggravated a groin injury. Yet he had a 63-yard touchdown run after he supposedly aggravated it.

“He’s been hurt the last two weeks,” Kelly said. “He was questionable going into the Giants game (40 yards on nine carries), and then he got hurt again last night.”

So, let’s see how this continues to, ah, carry on.

–The Eagles went into the Carolina game ranked third in yards allowed per carry (3.5). They hadn’t allowed an individual 100-yard runner in 18 games. But led by 235-pound Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers rushed for 204 yards on 33 carries against the Eagles. Stewart rushed for 125 yards on 24 carries, including a 36-yard run on a counter on Carolina’s second offensive play.

Wide receiver Ted Ginn had a 43-yard run on a reverse in the second quarter. Linebacker Marcus Smith, the team’s 2014 first-round pick, played only three snaps, but gave up the 43-yard run when he failed to hold containment on Ginn’s reverse.

“We have to be where we’re supposed to be,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “We’ve been doing a great job with the discipline in our gaps. That’s where you stop the run. That’s how you get it done. Sometimes you’re out of your gap and it doesn’t cost you. But they had a couple of them that did. (On the reverse) we had a guy out there who had the force. But (Smith) got his eyes in a bad spot and they outflanked us. You can’t get outflanked on a reverse.”

–The Eagles’ lack of offensive line depth showed itself early in the Carolina game when left tackle Jason Peters went down because of back spasms. Right guard Matt Tobin moved over to left tackle and Dennis Kelly came off the bench and played right guard. Neither played particularly well.

“You only have seven guys active on game day, so the only other guy available to us was Josh Andrews,” Kelly said. “Tobin is the backup left tackle if we were to get through a game. And then Dennis comes in at guard. So that’s just how we do things. I thought they competed. Two of the (five) sacks were late in the game and we were throwing and everybody in the stadium knew we were throwing. I didn’t put a whole heck of a lot onto those two, but I thought, by and large, they fought.”

–Left tackle Jason Peters, who left the game Sunday on a cart after suffering severe back spasms, felt a lot better by the time the team got back to Philadelphia and is expected to play against Dallas after the bye week.

–Linebacker Kiko Alonso, who hasn’t played since injuring his knee in Week 2, is expected to return to practice next week after the bye and possibly play against Dallas in Week 9.

–Linebacker Mychal Kendricks’ hamstring held up pretty well against Carolina. He missed three of the previous four games.

–Wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who has a team-high six drops, has been dealing with a ligament injury in his right hand. But it supposedly has healed. He had two more drops Sunday in the loss to Carolina.


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