Divisional Round Evaluations: Running Backs

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Leading up to the Eagles matchup with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Sports Talk Philly and Eagledelphia will compare the personnel of the two teams each day until gameday is here.

In this edition of our week-long comparison, we will look at the running backs that the Saints and Eagles will field on Sunday.

New Orleans RBs | Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram

After being selected to the Pro Bowl, being named the 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year and leading the league in yards per carry in his rookie season, Alvin Kamara has not had the same success this season. His yards per carry are down from 6.1 to 4.6 and his yards per reception have fallen from 10.2 to 8.8. While he is not as great a threat as he was last season, he still managed to total 883 yards rushing and 709 yards receiving adding in 18 touchdowns over the course of the season. His yards per rushing attempt put him 23rd in the league while his total yards put him 18th. In reality, it is not just Kamara that makes the Saints run game so effective, it is how he pairs with Ingram.

Ingram was suspended at the beginning of the season. He missed the first four games because he tested positive for PEDs. Upon his return, he managed to rush for 645 yards and six touchdowns and added an additional 170 yards and one touchdown through the air. With his current statistics, he would have been at 860 rushing yards with eight rushing touchdowns and 227 receiving yards with one touchdown reception had he not been suspended. That means the Saints could very easily have had two 800-yard, eight-touchdown rushers.

Kamara acts more as the speedy and elusive back while Ingram operates as the power back. Looking ahead to the match-up between the Eagles and Saints, the Eagles should not have a problem dealing with Ingram as their defensive line is built to contain and stop power rushing. The more concerning of the two is Kamara, who is a bigger receiving threat and has more ability to get to the outside. Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks will have to step up and get continued run support from Rasul Douglas and Malcolm Jenkins in order to force New Orleans to become one dimensional.

Philadelphia RBs | Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles

The Eagles running back room was devastated by injuries this season, leaving Wendell Smallwood as the only back that has been active with the team all season long. While Smallwood has yet to take on a major role in the offense, he has proven to be a good complimentary back and a good fit for the running back committee setup the Eagles run. He averaged nearly 4.2 yards per carry and earned himself 364 yards and three touchdowns on the ground during the regular season. He struggled in the wild card game, getting 10 touches for only 40 yards. It should also be noted that Smallwood should have had a catch that went down as an interception for Nick Foles. Smallwood has to be better, but the plays he is in on need to fit him – he runs North-South and was asked to run a lot of East-West plays in Chicago.

Josh Adams, an undrafted rookie, signed with the team in the spring, but found himself on the practice squad prior to injuries forcing him to the active roster. Since then, the first-year man has found a home with a running style similar to that of Jay Ajayi but with more speed. In the 11 games he actually played a role in this season, Adams racked up 562 yards on 130 carries (4.3 yards per carry). Adams did struggle to get anything at all going against the Rams and Texans before having just one carry for two yards against the Bears in the Wild Card round, however.

Darren Sproles missed 11 games with a hamstring injury he suffered in week one, but looks to be back to his 2016 form since his return. A dangerous third-down back, Sproles has proved vital with 13 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns since his return as well as 130 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Sproles also provides good blitz pickups and is a major reason that the Eagles have converted all five of the fourth down conversions they have attempted over the final two weeks of the season. Sproles also struggled to get anything going in the wild card game despite getting the majority of work at running back, managing only 35 yards on 15 offensive touches.


Let’s not kid ourselves here. The Saints have what could easily be a pair of backs who have run for more than 800 yards. Even without that, the have two backs that have rushed for more than 600 yards. The Eagles top back is just over 550 rushing yards and managed just two yards in the wild card round. He is backed up by a 350 and 150-yard rusher who managed a combined 41 yards of rushing last weekend. This round yields another clear and obvious edge for the Saints.



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