It’s Time for the Eagles to Bring Back the Three-Headed Monster

photos via USA Today

Wednesday, Nick Sirianni was asked if Miles Sanders would play against New Orleans if he makes it through practice this week.

“I definitely think so, yeah, if he looks healthy,” said the head ball coach. “He’s one of our better players, so he’s definitely going to go if he looks healthy. I just want to see how it looks this week. I’ll have more answers for you on Friday.”

So we wait for Friday, but ponder. What if the Eagles have three healthy running backs to choose from? Who gets the ball? Sanders ran it well in Las Vegas before injuring his ankle. And now Jordan Howard and Boston Scott are tearing it up behind the big boys on the offensive line.

It’s actually an interesting question. You could go the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” route, and keep working with the Howard/Scott tandem, mixing in those designed quarterback runs.

You could give Sanders the Boston Scott snaps, and try to do some “thunder and lightning” type of thing, ala Reggie Bush and LenDale White. One downhill runner to complement a slasher.

Or you could say “fuck it” and just incorporate all three guys, which is what I would do, and I’m not joking. I would bring back the three-headed monster of 2003.

You might not remember that regular season too clearly, since it’s been almost two decades, but the Eagles ran the ball 339 times between Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter, and Duuuuuuce Staley. They racked up individual numbers that looked like this:

  • Buckhalter: 126 carries for 542 yards and eight touchdowns, 10 receptions for 133 yards and a score
  • Westbrook: 117 carries for 613 yards and seven touchdowns, 37 receptions for 332 yards and four touchdowns
  • Staley: 96 carries for 463 yards and five touchdowns, 36 receptions for 382 yards and two touchdowns

It was impressive. Donovan McNabb still did some running back then, and added 355 yards on 71 carries and found the end zone three times. The diverse run and screen game really made up for the fact that the pre-Terrell Owens receiving corps kind of stunk. We’re talking about the Todd Pinkston, James Thrash, and Freddie Mitchell years.

Check this out, the box score from Week 9 against the Panthers:

How’s that for a balanced rushing attack? From Andy Reid!

I’m actually pretty serious about this. It’s time to bring back the three-headed monster. Sanders is Westbrook, Howard is Duuuuuuce, and Scott is Buckhalter. 10 carries for each guy. Ground and pound baby!

The obvious counter argument would focus on whether there’s enough of the rock to go around. The answer is yes. If you go through NFL offensive snap counts, you’re working off a per-game range of 52 to 70. The Eagles ran 63 plays in Denver and ended up with 40 runs and 23 passes. Some of those Hurts runs were actually called pass plays, then you have “optionality” with those zone reads and RPOs. The skew is always going to require more nuance beyond the box score.

Regardless, there was enough time of possession to give Howard 12 carries and Scott 11. Kenneth Gainwell ran it twice, Jalen Reagor once, and Hurts finished with 14. If you trimmed it down appropriately, Sanders, Howard, Scott, and Hurts could each run the ball in the 8-10 carries range very easily. Hurts would throw something like 21-26 passes. It’s doable if Gainwell takes a back seat.

The only wrinkle is that if Hurts is considered something of a runner, then it’s no longer a three-headed monster. Is it a four-headed monster? Would that be considered a hydra? The fabled beast? Gotta get a Greek mythology expert to rule on that.

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