If you were anything like me, you were a bit thrown off initially this off-season when the Eagles tendered an offer sheet to then-restricted free agent Mike Bell. But the more I thought it about it, the more sense it made; Eldra Buckley didn’t have a good enough 2009 campaign to be a 2nd string RB, and although LeSean McCoy had Brian Westbrook to mentor him last season, he only just turned 22 years old. Having a guy with a few seasons under his belt, who so may consider a veteran at 27 (in running back terms), will help Shady develop. That Super Bowl ring doesn’t hurt his stock too much either. The more I thought it about, the more I became less confused and more excited about this addition.
Bell went undrafted in 2006 but was later picked up by the Broncos. He had a solid few years in Denver before heading to Houston for a few months in the 2008 off-season. He got a fresh start in New Orleans where he, along with fellow backs Peirre Thomas and Reggie Bush, formed a 3 headed monster of sorts that helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLVI. He led the team in carries and had 5 touchdowns that season.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like LeSean McCoy. Quite a bit. But Mike Bell is more MY kind of running back. He’s tough, intense, and dedicated to winning. He’s the type of back that will run the ball down your throat rather than run east-west on the field. He’s not that elusive, but powerful. And with a offense that was absolutely horrible in the red zone, a powerful 3rd down back is precisely what we needed.
Bell and Shady will make a great combo in the back field. Their styles are perfect complements of each other: LeSean is more finesse and speedy, whereas Bell will have more of a smash-mouth style of play. Defensive backs and linebackers will always have to account for both of these guys, no matter which one is on the field. And on a pass-first type of team with a new QB, having a linebacker key up on a RB will open up more short passes over the middle which will be key in Kevin Kolb‘s success this season.
Bell was only signed to a 1 year contract, so he’s going to have to work hard and show the organization that he’s worth keeping around. This approach worked great for us with Leonard Weaver last season. Weaver had signed a one year deal in preseason 2009 and went on to have a monster season, earning him a selection to his first Pro-Bowl. The Eagles gave him a 3 year extension and made him the highest paid fullback in NFL history.
I love running back tandems. Except in fantasy football, when my RB gets to the one yard line but his partner steals the touchdown. But other than that, they’re awesome. They can turn a good offense into a great one.
Teams that are successful in the NFL have great backs that compliment each others playing styles and always keep the defense guessing. You don’t have to look far back to see it (See 3 Headed Monster reference above). Bell ran it hard down the middle, Thomas was a great receiver out of the backfield, and Bush is an all-around back. With Shady getting in much better shape and the addition of Mike Bell, I predict great things will come from the Eagles back field. And if they can do anything to take some of the pressure off Kevin Kolb, this will help us out greatly in a highly competitive NFC East.