The Eagles have a great RB in LeSean McCoy. He’s the kind of special talent you can build an offense around. Luckily Chip Kelly got here while McCoy was still in his prime and is feeding him the ball quite a bit. Last year McCoy won the NFL rushing title. You can think of him as the best RB in the league, which McCoy himself does. I still think Adrian Peterson is a better player, but McCoy would be #2. Even his harshest critics aren’t going to have him much below that.
After McCoy is where things open up quite a bit.
Last year Bryce Brown was the clear backup, but the Eagles dealt him during the NFL draft. We can’t really talk about the RB situation without talking about Brown and that deal. Why would the Eagles trade a player with Brown’s talent?
We don’t have a definitive answer, but there are a few guesses. First up, you wonder how Brown fit Kelly’s football culture. This isn’t to say Brown was a bad guy at all. He never got in trouble and I didn’t hear a word about him, but his background suggests there may have been some issues with fitting in a football program. Kelly wants players that buy in to his Total Football concept. Maybe Brown didn’t do that.
Then there is his on-field performance. Brown showed great potential in 2012, but struggled last year. His fumbling issue went away, but he never looked all that comfortable in the offense. Brown tried to run outside a lot, with poor results. In his defense, it seemed like the Eagles ran him outside a lot as well. Either way, we only saw glimpses of the player from 2012.
One of the things that drives Kelly the craziest is inconsistent players. He would rather have a good player that is consistent than a special talent who only plays great once a month. You can’t count on that guy. Maybe Kelly saw Brown as someone in that category.
We also have to talk about the other players. You don’t move your backup RB (and not replace him) unless you are comfortable with some players already on the roster. Maybe this move was as much about Chris Polk as it was Brown. Polk only ran 11 times in 2013, but did show good potential. Kelly played him more and more as the season went along. Polk is a N-S runner with good strength and is an excellent fit for Kelly’s system.
Beyond that, he is a great complement to McCoy. Shady loves to make dynamic cuts and that keeps the defense on their heels. Polk is an attacking RB. He runs behind his pads and gets upfield. Think of Shady as the pitcher with the devastating breaking ball and Polk as the guy who throws fastballs. That presents the defense with contrasting styles to deal with in the same game.
We also have to think about Darren Sproles. I wrote about him the other day. Sproles will technically be the backup RB, but I do wonder if he or Polk will have more carries. Sproles career high is 93 carries, which would be just under 6 a game. Polk is more of a workhorse based on what he did in college. He is a guy you can feed the ball to. If the Eagles get a lead, Polk might be the RB who gets used to spell McCoy late in the game. His running style also fits that situation.
The Eagles have a terrific set of RBs if McCoy stays healthy. If he gets hurt, things get interesting.
My guess is that Kelly would make Polk the starter and would keep Sproles as the role player. Kelly saw Polk in college and knows he can be a workhorse if needed. My first memory of Chris Polk came in a game vs Notre Dame. He was dragging multiple tacklers up the field on every play. I love tough runners who don’t go down easily. Polk took a beating in college, but is now completely healthy and I’m sure he’s dying to get touches.
Beyond the Big 3, you have Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey and David Fluellen. Tucker showed some potential last summer and has an advantage because he knows the scheme and at least has some idea what the NFL is like. The other 2 RBs are both UDFAs. I think Josey is the player to watch. He has the kind of running style that Kelly loves and has enough speed to create big plays if he gets free at the second level. Josey had serious injuries in college so he’s got to show he can stay healthy and take an NFL pounding. I’m just not sure Fluellen has quite enough quickness or speed for the NFL.
I really do hope we get to see Polk used more this year. I loved him in college and it would be good to see him emerge as a key role player for this team. I am curious to see if McCoy’s touches go down. Kelly talked about wanting to use him less, but McCoy always pleads for every touch possible. With Sproles in the mix and Polk on the rise, Kelly might use more of a group approach. Still expect McCoy to get his 250 ro 275 carries. He had 314 last year. And who knows…McCoy might get another 300 this year. Kelly is going to run the ball.
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Mark Saltveit wrote a good piece on the Eagles STs for FishDuck. He covers all the units and their issues.
As he says, STs were a major disappointment in 2013. Kelly spent time and resources to improve them, but didn’t get the results last year. Kelly is again trying to fix the problem. We need to see better results.
Kelly and Dave Fipp know who did and didn’t play well last year. This involves more than just tackles. Did the players take good angles to the ball? Did they run around blocks instead of fighting through them? Did the players block well on returns? There is a lot of subtlety to STs that is lost on the casual viewer.
I think the STs will be upgraded this year.
Chris Maragos vs Colt Anderson
Bryan Braman vs Casey Matthews
Nolan Carroll vs Roc Carmichael
Marcus Smith replaces…Brandon Graham maybe?
Fipp will also have a full offseason with Najee Goode, who could be a key STer this year. Zach Ertz will be in Year 2. Some of the backup DL can help. I also think Brad Smith has good value, as a STer and as a leader for the STs.
There are plenty of reasons to be encouraged, but the proof will be in the pudding (and you know I love pudding). The players must perform better.