Oct 19, 2013; Oxford, MS, USA; LSU Tigers running back Jeremy Hill (33) advances the ball and is tackled by Mississippi Rebels linebacker Mike Marry (38) during the game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
Thursday morning, a gift fell from heaven right into the lap of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly when Saints running Darren Sproles was put on the trading block. They ended up giving the Saints a 5th-round pick for a running back that can add yet another dimension to the offense, not to mention they extended him for two years through 2016.
Even though the Eagles did just acquire the speedy running back in Sproles, they still should draft a running back come May. For one thing, you can never have too many running backs, and two, the Eagles are still missing that running back that can push the pile.
Sure, Darren Sproles is another speedy weapon that outrun defenders and make defenders miss, but the 5’6, 190-lbs running back is not going to push the pile on 3rd and 4th and short, one area the Eagles struggled in last season.
And it’s really not so much that they struggled in that area, as running back LeSean McCoy was the 6th best running back in 3rd and less than three situations, as much as they struggled when it mattered in the third and fourth quarter trying to put the game away. Being able to pick up that first down in the fourth quarter that can put the game away can be the difference of winning or losing.
One example of this is last season when the New Orleans Saints played the New England Patriots. The Saints were in perfect position to win the game, but because they couldn’t run the ball and pick up the first down, the Patriots won on a last second touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins.
And even though the Eagles didn’t lose the game, last season against the Washington Redskins, in the second meeting in Philadelphia. The Eagles were up 24-0, and almost gave up the game in the 4th quarter when they were unable to control the clock.
That’s when having a straight forward, downhill runner is the most beneficial, and is something that the Eagles are lacking. Look at the Seahawks and 49ers and they both have that type of runner in Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore.
In an up-tempo offense like the one in Philadelphia, you can never have enough fresh legs on the offensive side of the ball, even though the Eagles don’t need to take a running back in the first round like a Carlos Hyde, they should still take on in middle to late rounds.
One option for them would be Arizona State’s Marion Grice, a player who shows the power to run between the tackles but has the burst to make plays on the outside. He lacks patience, but he has the potential to be a good third down back. Grice is projected to go in the 6th or 7th round.
Another option could be West Virginia’s Charles Sims. He has the ability to run between the tackles and push the pile, exactly what the Eagles need, he can also be a threat in the receiving game out of the backfield which is a good thing in a Chip Kelly offense. Sims in projected to go in the third round.
Finally, LSU’s Jeremy Hill at 6’1 235 pounds would be an option for the Eagles. For a bigger guy, he actually has good agility and can make a defender miss who meets him in the hole, but he also has the ability to make the defender regret they ever met him in the hole by running over them. Hill is projected to go in the 2nd or third round.
The Eagles have a lot of needs on the defensive side of the ball, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the offense. The Eagles struggled on third down when it mattered and having that change of pace back that can run over defenders, something that the Eagles haven’t had in quite some time, could be what ends up getting them over the hump.