At first glance the Philadelphia Eagles seem to be very deep in the backfield. But understanding their offensive scheme, along with the volatility of the position, adding extra depth will be necessary heading into the 2014 season. Protecting their greatest asset in running back LeSean McCoy will help keep up the same offensive pace as last year’s playoff campaign.
At the start of training camp, the Philadelphia Eagles have six running backs on their 90 man roster. Three ball carriers already have a spot solidified in McCoy, Darren Sproles and Chris Polk; yet that may not be enough for a team that utilizes its ground attack at such a staggering rate. Last season, McCoy led the NFL in rushing yards (1,607), but also in attempts with 314. With the amount of wear and tear that is included with the position, Philadelphia Eagles head coach must look to lessen his workload.
Initial thoughts are that the acquisition of Sproles from the New Orleans Saints could alleviate some of those concerns. But he only has 437 carries over his entire eight year career. He is best utilized as a change of pace back and a receiver, but not a player to limit the amount of carries for the Eagles All-Pro starter. Sproles will find a key role in Kelly’s creative offense; it just won’t be as the main replacement for the 2013 rushing title champion.
Chris Polk looks like the one player that would have the most to gain in case of a McCoy injury (every Philadelphia simultaneously knocks on wood). Heading into his third season, he not only fits the zone-blocking scheme, but has the frame to handle a heavy workload. At the University of Washington, he amassed 779 carries for 4016 yards during a three year stretch. But in case of an injury, will Kelly really rely on player with only eleven career rushing attempts in the NFL?
That is why the Philadelphia Eagles need to (and will likely) carry four running backs on their 53 man roster. They could choose from the likes of camp bodies Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey and David Fluellen. All of which were undrafted free agents over the past two seasons, with zero NFL experience. One of that unit could surprise everyone and earn a roster spot, but it seems unlikely at this point. Or Kelly and Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman will likely wait for back-heavy teams to make their cuts in the coming weeks.
Ideally, they would have waited in hopes of adding San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James either through trade or roster cut; especially with his fit to the offense and his familiarity with Chip Kelly at University of Oregon. But with his arm injury in the first days of camp, those inquiries would be tabled until he can return to health possibly a month from now. Yet, the Washington Redskins may be inclined to release running back Evan Royster from their crowded backfield. The same goes for the New York Jets and running back Alex Green or the St.Louis Rams and running back Isaiah Pead. All of which ideal fits in the Eagles zone-blocking offense.