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Eagles have a running controversy

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The Sports Xchange

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles don’t have a controversy at quarterback, but they do have one at running back.

Ryan Mathews is averaging 6.1 yards per carry, which is the highest rushing average in the league. Yet, he played just 16 snaps in Sunday’s 27-16 loss to Carolina and had only six carries, even though one was a 63-yard touchdown run.

DeMarco Murray, meanwhile, who hasn’t been nearly as effective as Mathews, played 39 snaps against the Panthers and had 18 carries for 65 yards. He is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry.

Both Mathews and Murray were signed by the Eagles during the free-agency signing period in March. But Murray is making considerably more money ($40 million over five years, $18 million guaranteed).

Murray led the league in rushing last season with the Cowboys, but doesn’t seem nearly as good a fit for head coach Chip Kelly’s offense as Mathews.

When asked after the game on Sunday night why Mathews is being so underused despite being more effective than Murray, Kelly said running backs coach Duce Staley is in charge of rotating the backs. He also said that when Mathews was in the game in the second half, the Eagles weren’t running the ball as much.

On Monday, he had a different explanation. He claimed Mathews aggravated his groin on a 22-yard run in the second quarter

“(On the touchdown run), if you watch him, when he pulled by (Panthers linebacker Luke) Kuechly, he said he felt it again and didn’t think he was going to be able to make it to the end zone.

“Duce monitored him after that. So Duce was dealing with that in terms of whether he can go in the game or not. We used him a little bit, but that’s really the whole status of the whole thing.”

Neither Mathews nor Staley were available to the media Monday and won’t be until next week. The Eagles are starting their bye week and are off until next Tuesday.

REPORT CARD VS. PANTHERS

–PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus. Sam Bradford was more effective on third down. He moved better in the pocket. But he still was sacked five times and failed to throw a touchdown pass. His receivers dropped eight of his passes.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus. Ryan Mathews had just six carries, but made the most of them and continues to be the Eagles’ most effective runner. He had a 63-yard touchdown run and another 22-yard run. DeMarco Murray struggled on outside zone runs. He finished with 65 yards on 18 carries.

–PASS DEFENSE: B-minus. The Eagles intercepted Cam Newton three times, but also gave up five pass plays of 20-plus yards, including three that set up a pair of touchdowns. Cam Newton averaged 8.2 yards per attempt against the Eagles.

–RUN DEFENSE: D. This has been the strength of the team this season. They were third in the league in rushing average (3.5) and first in rushing first downs allowed per game (3.8). But they gave up a season-high 204 yards to the Panthers. Jonathan Stewart became the first runner to rush for 100 yards against the Eagles since Week 4 of last season.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B. Caleb Sturgis booted three field goals, including a 53-yarder, but missed a 50-yarder. He also inexplicably booted a kickoff out of bounds, giving the Panthers the ball on the 40-yard line. Donnie Jones had a 45.6-yard net average.

–COACHING: C – Chip Kelly’s underuse of red-hot running back Ryan Mathews was a bit mystifying. He went heavy on swing passes to the running backs to neutralize the Panthers’ pass rush.


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