Nick Sirianni Says Eagles Not Immune to Switching Running Backs Within a Series
There was not much to complain about after the Eagles, some fighting the flu and others gastroenteritis, dispatched the Buccaneers by two scores in Tampa on Monday night.
Lingering curiosity, however, with the usage of running backs Kenny Gainwell and D’Andre Swift, who were rotated to the point where they didn’t even touch the ball for several series in a row, resulting in some folks wondering if the Birds were needlessly going away from the hot hand.
Nick Sirianni answered a few questions on that topic to begin his midweek press conference:
Q.I just want to ask you about Monday night’s game. RB D’Andre Swift had the hot hand through three quarters. You switched away to RB Kenny Gainwell in the fourth. What led to that decision? Why’d you do that? (Ed Kracz)
NICK SIRIANNI: We felt like in that scenario right there we were trying to pound it a little bit. We know Kenny’s good at that, being able to do that, protecting the football.
And D’Andre has done a good job of that as well, but in that particular case, we thought it was best for the team and that’s why we went that direction.
Q.Are you maybe preserving RB D’Andre Swift over the course…(Ed Kracz)
NICK SIRIANNI: Everything is in play. Everything is in play. Again, he had played well up to that point and we thought in that scenario we wanted Kenny in for that particular series.
Just went a really long time, right? Nine minutes we were able to bleed off the clock, so great job by the entire group of offense, play calling by Brian, the offensive line, what a tremendous — to have nine minutes run off the clock in a four-minute drill is pretty outstanding.
I believe Howie made me very aware that the last time that nine minutes was run off a clock like that was when I was other on the other sideline in 2017 when it was the Chargers versus the Eagles at the — I think it was a soccer stadium we were playing at.
But it was nice to be on the other side of that for sure. Great job by the O-line, by Kenny, by Jalen, big third down conversion by A.J. and Jalen. Dallas had a couple catches in that.
So, it was being able to run and pass in this scenario. Leaning more on the run, but good job by everybody.
Q.So you’re not immune to switching running backs in a series, right?(Jeff McLane)
NICK SIRIANNI: No.
Q.You just said the length of it played a factor.(Jeff McLane)
NICK SIRIANNI: We are not, no. Definitely we’ll have plays in and out of that where we’ll have — yeah, that third down might switch. A certain play you might switch.
But, again, in that scenario we thought that Kenny was the guy to go with right there and that’s why we decided to do that, and it was a really good drive.
I wrote a column about this on Tuesday, noting that Swift was on 7.3 yards per touch on six total touches when he came out of the game and did not get the ball again until the third quarter. The Birds went back to him to start a 13-play touchdown drive in which he ran the ball five times for 43 yards. He added 49 caries on the next six carries then sat the entirety of the fourth.
So really we’re talking about two different scenarios here. It was one thing to sit him down when the Eagles got the ball in fourth with nine minutes on the clock, up 14 points. The game certainly was not out of reach for Tampa, but the Birds thought they could roll Kenny Gainwell instead to close it out and preserve Swift. That’s fine. The bigger issue, in my mind, was going away from Swift in the second quarter, when it was still a one-score game before the Jalen Carter forced fumble and ensuing field goal, which put the Birds up 13-3 going into the break.
Again, no Boston Scott in this game because of the concussion, but Rashaad Penny was available and unused. They managed the rotation in a way that worked in this game, but it was indeed a bit funky to see them go away from Swift in the second quarter, when he was absolutely cooking.