Jul 26, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Matthew Tucker (39) and running back Chris Polk (32) walk off the field after practice at training camp at the Novacare Complex in Philadelphia PA. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles Tucker Could Challenge For Spot

If there is a roster spot for the taking by a fourth running back, Philadelphia Eagles’ second-year pro Matthew Tucker took a significant lead in that race Friday night.

Perhaps the better question is if he’s putting himself in position to challenge running back Chris Polk for the No. 3 spot, but more on that later.

For now, the depth chart in the backfield clearly seems to be No. 1, LeSean McCoy; No. 2, Darren Sproles; No. 3, Chris Polk; and Tucker at No. 4. He solidified his spot ahead of the pack of running backs that includes Henry Josey (rookie, Mizzou) and David Fluellen (rookie, Toledo).

I listed Fluellen last, but he’s certainly not least in the eyes of head coach Chip Kelly. No, if there is anyone on the list who could be an early cut, it appears to be Josey. I had high hopes for this Missouri Tiger with lightning speed and some surprising pop, but he barely saw the field in the Eagles’ preseason opener Friday, a 34-28 loss to the Bears. Josey didn’t have a carry out of the backfield, didn’t return any kicks, and ended the night with one catch for four yards.

I thought a player like Josey could help the Eagles in their kick return game, but it seems players like rookie Josh Huff out of Oregon have an edge in that department.

Meanwhile, Fluellen saw ample time after Tucker’s night concluded, carrying six times for 25 yards and catching one screen pass that ended in a 14-yard touchdown play. He likely earned himself another look.

But the star of this group was Tucker, who carried eight times for 40 yards and scored two touchdowns, showing both quickness and power. He also proved resilient after a second-half fumble. Kelly ran him right back out on the next series and Tucker responded well. The fact the coach cared enough to see how the undrafted free agent from TCU responded speaks volumes in itself. Coaches don’t waste time on guys they don’t feel have a future with the team.

What is Tucker’s future? It could go a lot of ways at this point. Chris Polk, who many assume to be a lock for the third – and likely final – roster spot for a running back, couldn’t play Friday night due to a hamstring injury. And Polk is a guy who doesn’t exactly have the greatest health record of all time to begin with.

It seems unlikely the Eagles would keep four running backs unless that fourth player proved invaluable on special teams. It doesn’t seem like Tucker is that kind of player, which would seem to indicate he must challenge Polk. Friday night he gave himself a good head start in that race.

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