The Eagles are going to run it a little more next year.
Really, they are.
This has been my general take since the end of the season. Sitting there after they lost the NFC Championship Game, trying to divine the future from the still-warm ashes, that just seemed the most logical way for Andy Reid & Co. to proceed. And that is exactly what they are doing.
When you replace both of your starting offensive tackles, which it appears they are going to do -- Tra Thomas is gone, Jon Runyan is unsigned and recovering from knee surgery -- you are making a statement. When you realize that both of the veteran tackles had better years pass blocking than run blocking, you are offering a suggestion. I don't know who the new left tackle is going to be, but he will be a better run blocker than Thomas by default. The right tackle -- presumably the newly-acquired Stacy Andrews -- has a chance to be better than Runyan (repeat, a chance) if he can stay healthier than Runyan.
So, there is that. Then, add in a real fullback -- free agent Leonard Weaver, signed at the end of last week amid the noise of the basketball tournament. This is a nice, solid move and it points to the exact same conclusion -- that the Eagles have decided that they do, in fact, need to be able to rely on their running game in situations, because of injuries or weather or a quarterback slump or simply the way a particular game is playing out. I will say again what I have said for a while now: their failure in crucial running situations is much, much, much more of an issue for this offensive than the acquisition of a wide receiver. Don't get me wrong -- I'd take a star and I'd really like to see them get somebody, anybody, who is 6-foot-4 and with whom the quarterback can made a consistent red-zone connection (more than Hank Baskett).
It is more of an issue than the overall number of running plays, too. People always said they didn't run it enough and couldn't develop a running rhythm because of that and etc. Well, they could have run it a thousand times around the left side and not found that rhythm -- and with Runyan hurt and with running back Brian Westbrook always dinged, well, it was just hard last year. It really is about the personnel, not the play-calling -- and the play-calling wasn't really out of whack very often, besides.
But they are fixing it. They will have more run blocking at tackle. They will have a real fullback. They still need a tight end because there isn't a guy on the roster right now who can block you. And they need to draft a running back and draft one high -- which colleague Paul Domowitch is suggesting now is going to happen.
Then, the makeover of that aspect of their game will be complete.
Effective balance. It might just work.