Previously, I've written on the Eagles quarterback and safety situations. I figured "Why stop there?" Does anyone feel comfortable standing pat with our current backfield going into next season? I don't. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone here that a shake-up may be in order.
Our Current Backfield
In 2002, Andy Reid took a risk drafting some guy named Brian Westbrook out of Division I-AA Villanova. That turned out OK. But now, Westbrook is pretty much an '89 Accord with 195,000 miles on it. Still runs, but we're going to have to do something soon. With the $7.25 million he's due this year, it's not realistic to expect him back. I hope I'm wrong.
Beyond him, our most proven back is LeSean McCoy. McCoy showed some promise as a rookie this year, but to utilize him correctly, the Eagles probably shouldn't hand off the ball to him more than 225 carries a year or so. The Eagles are going to need someone else to share the load.
Is that guy already on the team? Leonard Weaver offered some electric highlights, demonstrating a nose for the ball that even the surliest of Eagles fans can appreciate. Fact is, though, he's still a fullback and if the Eagles use him more than they used him last year, his effectiveness will likely drop. Part of the reason he proved potent in limited usage was, just like the Spanish Inquisition, nooobody expects it. Eldra Buckley is another guy I like, but as a special teamer and back up RB. He's not someone I want the Eagles have to rely on as a permanent solution.
Ever since Bye, Dawk :( brought Chester Taylor's status as a UFA to my attention, he's been a guy I've expressed my desire for the Eagles to sign. I realize he's the same age as Westbrook, but he doesn't have near the wear and tear or injury history. He's an above-average blocker, a viable running option, and one of the best receiving backs
He's got low mileage for his age, and I can't imagine him commanding an extraordinarily expensive contract. On the other hand, we ARE heading into an uncapped year, and the free agent pool is sure to be thin. He's not a sure thing to test the free agent market, but I just can't see the Vikings slapping him with the franchise tag. He wouldn't re-sign with the Vikings before at least dipping his toes in the free agent pool, would he?
Regarding the upcoming draft, the so-called experts are claiming this is a weak year for running backs. I'm not disagreeing with them, I just think pre-draft speculation is pointless to an extent. I say that simply because draft journalists are like the weathermen of sports writing as far as accountability goes. There's usually not a lot worth reading regarding the draft.
However, one site I like as a source of info this time of year is DraftCountdown.com. While browsing their list of RB prospects, I happened upon Joique Bell. Fortunately, something made me click his name to check him out. It may have been his impressive size (6'1", 223 lbs). Regardless, this is what I saw.
During his four years in college, Joique Bell has produced the following eye-popping statistics:
1,181 rushes for 6,728 yards rushing (5.7 YPC) and 88 rushing TDs.
79 receptions for 918 yards and 8 TDs.
So why haven't I heard of this guy before? Well, it's probably because 1) I don't follow college ball and 2) I really don't follow D2 ball. Joique Bell hails from Division II Wayne State. Don't be fooled, ladies and gentlemen. Wayne is NOT an actual state (I checked Wikipedia). Wayne State is in Detroit.
Alright, so that explains how he's flown under my radar. This new info had me feeling like I just stumbled upon a hidden treasure. A quick Googling lead me to this article on Yahoo, which was coincidentally posted only 24 hours ago. This highlight video they include makes him look like a grown man playing against middle schoolers.
The difference in talent between him and his competition is absurd. That's exactly what you'd expect an NFL prospect to do in Division II, but it's still hard to project a guy like that. He's got an invite to the combine, so he's sure to make a rumble. As more information about him becomes available, we'll get a clearer picture of what to expect come draft time. I wanted to raise awareness about him because this is exactly the type of player Andy Reid is known for taking a chance on.
The Final Word
I'd be excited if the Eagles were to sign Chester Taylor. I love Brian Westbrook, but at this point in his career, Chester Taylor might be a better option. I'll also be following the Joique Bell story closely. If initial reports end up being true, he could be dynamite. So here we are with a few questions at running back. What do you think the Eagles are going to do?