“You can’t handle the truth.” Colonel Nathan R. Jessup to Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men.
We all know that the Philadelphia Eagles led the NFL in team rushing yardage during 2013. With the best offensive line in football (according to Pro Football Focus), this really shouldn’t come as a surprise to any NFL fan. It also doesn’t hurt to have the supremely talented running back, LeSean McCoy, as your featured backfield star. Now widely considered one of the top three running backs in the NFL (along with Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson) McCoy led all NFL ball carriers in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage in 2013. He also led the NFL in one other important category – total touches, which are represented by total carries plus pass receptions. McCoy had an incredible 366 total touches in 2013. Unfortunately however, history tells us that running backs with that level of utilization invariably end up breaking down at some point in their career.
So while LeSean McCoy is only 26 years old and on the precipice of eclipsing the Philadelphia Eagles all-time career rushing mark set by Wilbert Montgomery, he is also flirting with the intractable laws of probability. What if the unthinkable happens? After years of consistent pounding, McCoy breaks down. What then? No one wants to imagine the unthinkable. But we have to consider the obvious question. How do the Eagles respond to a season ending injury to LeSean McCoy?
How Coach Kelly Responds
If you’re an Eagles fan, one thing you have taken away from the first year of the Chip Kelly regime in Philadelphia is that the man has a plan. What’s interesting is that the Eagles traded one of the best young running back talents in the NFL in Bryce Brown to the Buffalo Bills on draft day. Some have pointed out that Brown simply was not a fit for Kelly’s system. Perhaps there were other reasons related to chemistry or program buy-in. Nonetheless, Brown and his talent were let go by Chip Kelly this spring, as part of a larger plan for 2014.
With Chris Polk and Darren Sproles serving as the two remaining veteran Eagles running backs, you may be questioning what that plan is. While Polk and Sproles are very good NFL running backs, neither would be considered a feature back candidate by most observers. Each appears fit to play a designed role in the Eagles’ offensive scheme, but not to carry the load as a three down factor back.
This brings us to undrafted free agent rookie running back Henry Josey of Missouri. Take a look at the following table:
LeSean McCoy/5’-11”/208 lbs.
Henry Josey/5’-8”/194 lbs.
Darren Sproles/5’-6”/190 lbs.
The Eagles Plan B
As you can see, Henry Josey’s dimensions fit solidly in between those of LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Let’s call Henry Josey “Plan B”. Because that is what I believe he is. He is Coach Kelly’s Plan B. We just haven’t been shown it yet. This plan will reveal itself all through the month of August in training camp as we begin to see the talent and skill set of this rookie running back from Missouri.
When you watch Henry Josey’s YouTube videos, you are tremendously impressed by his natural ability. Recovering during 2013 from his own devastating injury in 2011 at Missouri, Josey has shown excellent speed, elusiveness, and a nose for the end zone with 16 rushing TD’s. He could be groomed by Kelly to play the Eagles three down back role in the event of a catastrophic McCoy injury. A major stretch on my part, you say? I don’t think so. Remember, Chip Kelly always has a plan. Considering the size or speed limitations of either Sproles or Polk, respectively, there has to be another solution for a longer stretch of missed time by McCoy. I’ll leave you with one last thought to consider as you look forward to watching Henry Josey display his talents over the next few weeks. Josey’s physical dimensions are practically identical to another running back we have come to know and admire. His name – Brian Westbrook.