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NFC East: Division Teams Boast Several Top Rushers In NFL

Posted Oct 1, 2013


Here’s why the stat book is fun: with a couple of exceptions, the NFC East is both struggling to run and running wild – all at once.

The Eagles are currently running away from the rest of the league – literally. Philadelphia leads the NFL in rushing by almost 200 yards, and its yards per carry average of 6.1 is a full yard better than anyone else’s.

Meanwhile, Washington sits in the exact middle of the pack at No. 16 – 424 total yards – with Dallas close behind at No. 18 – 409 total yards. New York brings up the rear in the division, and the league, with a No. 30 ranking and a measly 232 rushing yards as a team.

Look at the stats individually, rather than team totals, and the story looks quite different. Despite middling performances as a whole, the NFC East has three of the top seven ball carriers in the NFL.

LeSean McCoy obviously leads the way as the focal point of Chip Kelly’s ground game. McCoy’s 468 yards is tops in the league, better even than Adrian Peterson, through one month of the season. Better yet: thanks to the small but effective contributions of Michael Vick, McCoy has accomplished that with just 78 touches.

Just below McCoy is DeMarco Murray, who is quietly the league’s No. 3 rusher behind McCoy and Peterson – not bad company to keep. Obviously a lot of that production came in his 175-yard drubbing of St. Louis. But Murray is still averaging four yards per carry and 60 yards per game in his other three outings – which includes a stinker against Kansas City.

Maybe the biggest surprise on this list, even bigger than Murray, is Alfred Morris. In his second year, the Redskins running back has accrued 296 rushing yards on just 56 attempts – an average of 5.3 yards per carry.

What makes it impressive isn’t that Morris is following up on his amazing rookie season, it’s that he’s doing it more or less by himself this time. Robert Griffin III might regain some of his rookie running ability before this season ends, but right now he’s run for 72 yards in four weeks. To compare, he averaged 50 yards per game on the way to 800 rushing yards in 2012.

On top of that, the large deficits the Redskins have faced in many of their games this season have neutralized the abilities of their rushing attack. The Washington passing game is sixth in the league in large part because Griffin has had to throw the Redskins back into ball games. Despite all of that, Morris is still on pace for a 1,000-yard season.

It will be interesting to see how they can hold up going forward, particularly in this era of multi-back rushing attacks. McCoy is aided by Vick and Bryce Brown, who have combined to carry the ball 49 times this season.

Morris has been carrying a larger load, though Griffin and Roy Helu Jr. have combined for 32 carries and 118 yards on the year.

To this point, Murray is shouldering more work than anyone this side of Adrian Peterson. Most teams, even those with middling running games, such as Green Bay, Detroit and Cincinnati have multiple 100-yard rushers – even through a small number of games.

Outside of Murray, the Cowboys’ tailbacks have combined for 11 carries for 39 yards. Tony Romo has added another 17 yards on five attempts, but those are scrambles rather than planned attempts.

We’ll see if Murray can maintain that pace in short order.  

Note: I didn’t forget to add the Giants into this post. It just so happens that running the ball is one of the many things they’re awful at – both individually and as a team. In addition to their No. 32 ranking in team rushing yards, leading rusher David Wilson is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. New York’s No. 2 back, Da’Rel Scott, combined for 10 carries for 49 yards in the Week 1 and Week 4 losses to Dallas and Kansas City. In the Week 2 and Week 3 losses to Denver and Carolina, he ran the ball six total times for seven total yards.

Here are some more notable stats from around the NFC East:

  • Philadelphis is the only team in the division with anything close to a good third down conversion percentage. The Eagles are converting 44.2 percent of their third downs – seventh in the league. Everyone else is in the NFL’s bottom 10: Dallas and Washington are 23rd and 26th, respectively, at 34.8 percent and 32 percent. The Giants are worst in the league at 22.9 percent.
  • Romo has the best quarterback rating in the division by a solid 12 points. His completion percentage of 72.4 percent is 10 points higher than Griffin’s, 16 points higher than Eli Manning’s and 17 points higher than Vicks’.
  • That said, Romo’s yards per game average of 254 is last in the league. Griffin sits at 301, Manning at 287 and Vick at 270.
  • With the Redskins playing a stingy defensive game against the struggling Raiders, and with Denver torching the Eagles, Philadelphia passed Washington to claim the prize as the NFL’s worst defense. Philadelphia is allowing 446 yards per game.
  • The Chargers’ fireworks against Dallas dropped the Cowboys down to 20th overall in team defense.
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