Who Will Win Backup Running Back Job?

May 22, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Chris Polk (32) carries the ball during organized team activities at the Philadelphia Eagles NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE


The Eagles solidified the running back position for years to come in the offseason when they gave LeSean McCoy a long term deal.

But order to get their moneys worth out of McCoy, they will need a backup to give him an occasional rest and be able to carry the ball 5-6 times a game. The Eagles have not really had a good back up running back since Correll Buckhalter left in 2008, but have 3 running backs competing for 2 jobs in camp this year that could hopefully fill that void.

Dion Lewis, Chris Polk, and Bryce Brown will spend 3 weeks up at Lehigh battling for the job of primary ball carrier behind McCoy. The job is very much up in the air with no clear favorite going into camp.

Lewis will come into camp penciled in as the backup after carrying the ball 23 times for 102 yards last season. Lewis had over half of those carries in the final game of the season, and was pretty much a non-factor the rest of the year. Lewis was the primary kick returner, but he was a non-factor in that role as well, and will almost certainly not return kicks this year.

Despite his height, Lewis fits the role as a good back up for McCoy, as he posses a lot of the same skills and inserting him into the offense would not require a dramatic change in the game plan.

The Eagles spent a 5th round pick on Lewis last year, and he will have to perform poorly at camp to risk not making the team. It is not a lock, however, that if he makes the roster the carries will be his. He will have to earn them.

The 2 players trying to take them from him will be Polk and Brown.

Brown comes into camp as the lone running back drafted by the Eagles this year, as they used their 7th round pick on the former Kansas State player. Brown fell so far in the draft not because of talent, but because of his sketchy college career. Brown spent a year at Tennessee, where he was considered one of the best backs in the nation. During his freshman year at Tennessee, he carried the ball 101 times for 406 yards and 3 touchdowns. His college career started to go south however when he left Tennessee, had to sit out a year due to NCAA rules, and then carried the ball only 3 times at Kansas State. Brown was drafted by the Eagles as a low risk, high reward player.

The Eagles are hoping he can be the player he was during his freshman year, where he was a a big back with good speed. One disadvantage he faces is he does not have much experience catching the ball out of the backfield. Brown had only 11 catches in his entire college career. It is crucial for any back playing in an Andy Reid/Marty Mornhinweg style offense to be able to catch the ball. Brown may be talented, but his lack of playing time in college will mean he really has to show in camp what he can do.

Production and playing time are not things Polk lacked in college. The former wide receiver rushed for over 1400 yards his final 2 seasons at Washington, and scored 16 touchdowns last season alone. As a former wide receiver, Polk has great hands and caught over 20 passes in each of the last 3 seasons at Washington. In his senior year, Polk caught 31 passes for 332 yards and 4 touchdowns. Polk ran a slightly slower 40 time then Brown, and has the disadvantage of coming in as an undrafted free agent rookie.

Right now Brown is likely the odd man out, but the talent is there to change things in by the time camp ends. It even possible that both Brown and Polk could take the final 2 running back spots, leaving Lewis out of a job.

Either way, the battle for the back up running back job is one that fans will have to keep their eyes on.

Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks

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