Stealing a page from the common reward of game balls, Pagano said he’s offered up “green balls” to coaches for winning time of possession.
“You guys know what green balls are, don’t you?” he asked Thursday. “It’s cash.”
A room of reporters responded with laughter.
”If you have 40 minutes of time of possession,” Pagano added, “it could be worth a green ball.”
What isn’t a laughing matter is the Eagles’ run game. As if reigning NFL rushing champ LeSean “Shady” McCoy isn’t enough to deal with, there’s Darren Sproles, too. That’s trouble for any defense. McCoy ran for a league-best 1,607 yards last season. Sproles has victimized the Colts while with San Diego and New Orleans.
The Colts tried to bolster their run defense in the offseason by signing defensive tackle Arthur Jones and inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. They allowed 102 yards rushing and one touchdown on 32 carries in a 31-24 opening loss at Denver.
“Syracuse-Pittsburgh, playing back then, talking trash back and forth,” Jones said. “He’s a good guy, he’s a great guy, and an even better football player.”
He referred to running into him again as “fun” and a “good reunion.”
Colts reserve safety Colt Anderson played with McCoy in Philadelphia last season. He compares him to Hall of Famer Barry Sanders.
“He’s the closest thing to a back like Barry Sanders,” Anderson said. “If you’re in the same sentence as that guy, you’re doing something right.”
The Eagles were No. 1 in rushing last season at 159.5 yards per game. An opening 34-17 home win over Jacksonville didn’t do justice to the ground strength, considering Philadelphia fell behind 17-0 and relied more on quarterback Nick Foles throwing the ball.
But the Eagles still had 145 yards rushing on 32 carries. McCoy ran for 74 yards on 21 carries while Sproles had 71 yards on 11 carries with one TD.
Second-year Eagles coach Chip Kelly is known for running an up-tempo offense with Foles typically going no huddle and getting the ball snapped with 25 or so seconds on the playclock. Philadelphia’s 82 offensive plays generated 420 yards in Week 1. The Colts defense allowed 369 yards on 69 plays against the Broncos.
Pagano, who has always preached the key to winning football as running the ball and stopping the run, is impressed by the Eagles’ penchant for running a lot of plays, but even more so with how Philadelphia can grind it out on the ground.
Asked if the best defense could be a good offense, Pagano smiled and said, “That would be nice. Play keep-away.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.