The Eagles’ current backfield is inadequate and needs an overhaul.
As you may have heard, Ryan Mathews is expected to be released. Darren Sproles is likely to retire when his contract expires in 2018. Wendell Smallwood is a fifth-round draft pick who didn’t see much of the field in 2016. Kenjon Barner and Byron Marshall are decent when utilized in certain packages, but they aren’t effective as three-down running backs.
It is very possible that everyone excluding Sproles and Smallwood are gone come the start of the 2017 season. The Eagles should and, more than likely, will look to enrich their backfield with talent.
A long shot but a very intriguing possibility:
Free agency is one option where the Eagles can strike gold. Two of the big-name acquisitions this offseason are Le’Veon Bell (that one is probably 99.9% unlikely) and Eddie Lacy. Let’s look at Lacy for a second. It’s been public knowledge that he’s had some weight issues and a few injuries. His stock is down now as a result, so he may be an interesting buy. We’ve recently seen what he’s capable of becoming.
For his career, he’s totaled 3,435 rushing yards, an average of 4.4 yards per carry and he has 23 rushing touchdowns. Per Pro Football Focus, Lacy forced 73 missed tackles on 287 total touches in 2014 (one every 3.9 touches). Since the start of the 2015 season, he’s forced 51 missed tackles on 282 touches (one every 5.5 touches). In a limited role, Lacy can be effective.
The NFL Draft is where the Eagles can get another key component to add to their backfield. Those options include Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Samaje Perine, D’Onta Foreman and Brian Hill.
Let’s pretend the Eagles used their first-round pick on a running back (an unlikely scenario). One fan favorite would be Cook, so we’ll look at him. In 2016, he had 288 touches, 1,765 rushing yards (an average of 6.1 yards per carry) and 19 rushing touchdowns. For his collegiate career, he had 687 touches, 4,464 rushing yards (an average of 6.5 yards per carry) and 46 rushing touchdowns.
Another unlikely but very intriguing scenario:
If the Eagles opted to not use their first-round pick on a running back, McCaffrey would be a great option. McCaffrey was once projected to go in the first round. Now, the theory is he may go later.
The Eagles figure to go with a cornerback and wide receiver with their first two picks, but if they went with a running back with their second selection and McCaffrey was available, the Eagles would be in perfect position to nab him.
In 2016, McCaffrey touched the ball 253 times. He wound up with 1,603 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. For his entire collegiate career, McCaffrey gained 3,922 rushing yards, an average of 6.2 yards per carry, and reached the end zone 21 times.
Along with being a great runner, McCaffrey can also be a receiving threat out of the backfield. His collegiate career ended with him snagging 99 receptions and scoring 10 touchdowns.
Under former head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles tried mixing speed with power and didn’t get the result they wanted. They signed DeMarco Murray, and Ryan Mathews. Their lack of success was probably primarily due to the fact that neither really fit Kelly’s scheme. Hopefully, this hasn’t scarred the organization too much. The Eagles should revisit utilizing a two-back approach and give it another go.