East Notes: Eagles, Patriots, Bills

The Eagles made a pair of noteworthy free agent signings at running back in the offseason when they added DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. As last season’s NFL rushing champion, Murray signed a far bigger contract than Mathews (five years and $42MM versus three years, $11MM). Their performances this year haven’t reflected their disparate deals, however, as Mathews has easily outplayed Murray. Both backs have a similar number of carries (49 for Murray, 41 for Mathews), but Mathews has averaged an impressive 5.0 yards per attempt against Murray’s paltry 2.7.

To his credit, Murray took the notion of an increase in Mathews’ touches in stride, per Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.

“Hey, whatever they decide,” Murray said. “I can only control what I can control. I can’t control the plays being called or who’s in on different situations.”

In assessing Mathews, Murray stated, “I think he’s running it great. Obviously, he’s a tough running back, tough to defend, tough guy to bring down and I think he’s been doing well.”

How the two have played this year might not matter this week, as Mathews could miss the Eagles’ key game against the NFC East rival Giants with a groin injury. That would give Murray a chance to sink or swim as the unquestioned go-to back. The fifth-year man has fared respectably of late, rushing 28 times for 119 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks. He accrued season highs in carries (20) and yards (83) in the Eagles’ 39-17 win over the Saints last Sunday.

Now the latest regarding a couple of AFC East teams:

  • Bills receiver Sammy Watkins spoke out Thursday about the lack of targets that came his way before he suffered a Week 3 injury. His issues seem to lie with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who could miss Sunday’s game against the Bengals with a knee injury. That would make EJ Manuel the Bills’ starter under center, and Manuel expressed support for Watkins on Friday (via The Buffalo News’ Tyler Dunne). I think as quarterbacks, we like to hear our receiver is hungry and wants to make plays.” Manuel and Watkins seemingly established a rapport during their limited work together in 2014: Manuel targeted Watkins 32 times in four games, per Chris Trapasso of NFL.com (Twitter link). On the other hand, in two-plus games this year, Taylor has targeted Watkins 12 times.
  • With the Patriots weakened at cornerback thanks to Tarell Brown‘s foot injury, they could turn to stalwart safety Devin McCourty for help at the position against the Colts this weekend, writes Phil Perry of CSNNE.com. McCourty came into the league as a corner in 2010 before eventually making the transition to safety. Head coach Bill Belichick used McCourty at corner at times over the summer in the event he’d be needed there this year. That looks as if it could happen this week, as New England is down to Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, undrafted rookie Justin Coleman, and newly added waiver-wire pickup Rashaan Melvin at the positon.
  • In other Patriots news, the team will promote offensive tackle Cameron Fleming from its practice squad to its 53-man roster, tweets ESPN’s Mike Reiss. The former Stanford Cardinal spent all of last season on the Pats’ 53-man roster and played in seven games after they used a fourth-round pick on him.
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