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Evaluating the Eagles: Part 2, Running Backs

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Can LeSean McCoy continue to play at an elite level? Is Bryce Brown consistent enough to be a reliable second option? Does Chris Polk deserve more snaps? Let's take a look.

This is part 2 of an 11 part series, this part will focus specifically on the running backs on the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles and how the team can improve heading into the 2014 season. Each part will focus on a specific positional group with 11 in all (QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, ILB, OLB, CB, S and ST [K, P, KR and PR]). Now let's talk Eagles' running backs.

2013 Eagles' Running Backs: LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk and Matthew Tucker

How'd they do?

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LeSean McCoy: 335 rushing attempts for 1,684 rushing yards, 10 rushing touchdowns and 1 fumble (1 lost).

56 receptions for 554 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. (including playoffs)

After failing to reach over 1,000 rushing yards and missing 4 games due to a concussion in 2012, many forgot about LeSean McCoy. But with a new system in place under head coach Chip Kelly, things were looking brighter heading into 2013 for a revitalized and healthy McCoy.

The man everyone refers to as Shady was out to prove he was one of the top running backs in the league and he didn't wait to make a statement. Week 1 of the season on Monday Night Football, McCoy took over and ran all over the Washington Redskins for 184 rushing yards and a touchdown in an Eagles' win.

Everyone was quick to jump back on the Shady bandwagon and rightfully so as McCoy continued his brilliant play the following week against the San Diego Chargers. Although, this time he killed the opposition through the air with 114 receiving yards on top of 53 rushing yards. The Eagles lost the game but it was clear that Shady was back.

McCoy continued his dominance throughout the season showing that he fit perfectly in Chip Kelly's uptempo rushing attack. Shady captured the rushing title as well as leading the league in all-purpose yards as well.

Shady was rightfully named to the All-Pro first team as well as his second career Pro Bowl. LeSean McCoy returned to form in 2013 and looked every part of a franchise running back and arguably the best in the league. I'm sure he'll return to dominance in 2014.

Overall Grade: A+. McCoy was an absolute beast under Kelly's offense and was the Eagles' go-to playmaker and never let them down.

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Bryce Brown: 75 rushing attempts for 314 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns.

8 receptions for 84 receiving yards.

After an impressive rookie campaign in 2012, Bryce Brown was supposed to be the rotational back-up that could step in and give LeSean McCoy a breather. But Brown's play in 2013 was very erratic.

McCoy was the main workhorse of the running back group so Brown didn't receive many rushing opportunities, but when he did, he didn't do a great job of showing he deserved them. Brown didn't take what was given and would often look to bounce every run to the outside, when that isn't the runner he's meant to be.

Brown is at his best when he is moving forward and trusting his blockers, not sideline to sideline. He has the straight-line speed to beat anyone in a footrace but is not the shifty runner that McCoy is.

Although many thought Brown would produce a lot more than he did, he only had one standout game for the entire season and that was against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football in week 16. Brown exploded for 115 rushing yards on just 9 carries including a 65-yard touchdown run.

But that was pretty much the highlight of Brown's disappointing season. I do believe Brown can still very well be a contributing player on this team, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get less reps in 2014.

Overall Grade: C-. Brown was supposed to be an explosive play-maker that would take some of the load off of LeSean McCoy. But he just wasn't consistent enough and has to learn to trust what's given to him and not always go for the home run play.

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Chris Polk: 11 rushing attempts for 98 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns.

4 receptions for 61 receiving yards.

When the Eagles first signed Chris Polk as an undrafted free agent in 2012, I was incredibly excited. I knew the type of hard-nosed runner he was at Washington in college and believed he could eventually contribute on the team.

Although he didn't see the field at all in 2012, Polk made the final roster in 2013 and got some snaps as the third running back. Polk was primarily a solid special teams player to start the season and didn't register a single carry until week 4 against the Denver Broncos.

Polk was finally given a chance to carry the ball in the second quarter, with the Eagles trailing by 8 and actually ran in a 4-yard touchdown to put the Eagles within 1. The Eagles eventually lost the game but Polk showed that he could contribute on offense when given an oppurtunity. He finished the game with 3 rushes for 33 rushing yards and a touchdown as well as 2 catches for 19 receiving yards.

He continued to see a slight increase in snaps throughout the season although he was used primarily as a blocker and receiving option in the backfield. Polk was also battling a shoulder injury throughout the season which sidelined him for a few games and forced him to have surgery once the season ended.

All in all, Polk showed a lot of promise and I think he could see his role increase significantly heading into 2014.

Overall Grade: C+. Not many people really expected much out of him but Polk stepped up when given time and showed he could contribute well on both offense and special teams.

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Matthew Tucker: no stats available.

Matthew Tucker is a big bruising running back (6'1' / 227) with surprising quickness for his size. Tucker was undrafted rookie free agent out of TCU and was waived as one of the Eagles' final cuts. He was eventually signed to their practice squad but was actually called up to the active roster as the third running back for two games when Chris Polk was injured.

Although Tucker didn't see any carries on the field during the regular season he did show some promise in the preseason and could very well be battling for a roster spot in Philadelphia in 2014.

Overall Grade: N/A. Tucker only suited up for 2 games and didn't even see the field, therefore I cannot give him an actual grade.

What's next?

It seems as though the Eagles are in a very good spot at running back for the next couple of years but Chip Kelly and the front office are always looking for competition at every spot. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Eagles bring in some competition to push Brown and Polk as the primary back-ups for McCoy.

Free Agency:

It could be a possibility but I highly doubt there are any running backs on the free agency market that interest the Eagles. None of the names really stand out to me but they could potentially swing a trade for a running back. One name that comes to mind is San Francisco 49ers' running back and former Oregon Duck LaMichael James.

The 49ers are pretty stacked at running back and they are hardly using James at all. I don't think they'd mind getting a draft pick in return for some talent that is going to waste on their roster. James is familiar with Chip Kelly's offense and could also fill a need as a kick returner.

2014 NFL Draft:

This is where things get interested in terms of possible players the Eagles can target to battle for that back-up running back job. There are specifically two players that I think would be legitimate big time play-makers in Chip Kelly's offense.

De'Anthony Thomas, also known as the Black Mamba is an electrifying player. He played under Chip Kelly at Oregon and flourished in the uptempo system. Thomas can do it all as a running back, receiver and return man. He's always a threat for a big play and has already said he'd love to play for Kelly again.

It also helps that he's DeSean Jackson's cousin and they have a very close relationship. Thomas was even invited to the Eagles' playoff game against the New Orleans Saints and stayed in Jackson's personal suite. I'm sure Jackson will be pushing to get his cousin in Philadelphia.

Kent State's Dri Archer may come from a small school but he has huge potential. I knew about him way before the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine but many have just now taken notice of him because of his impressive showing at the event this past week. Archer finished with an official 4.28-second 40-yard dash, which was the best time of the week.

Archer put up great numbers at the combine but you can tell he's a great player by just turning on the tape. He's very similar to Thomas in that he's a threat for a big play whenever he touched the ball and can do it all including rushing, receiving and returning.

Sadly, Archer did battle some injuries this past season so that could be a concern at the next level. Either way, both of these players are electrifying and the Eagles should definitely give them a look in May. They each could be lethal weapons in the NFL with an offensive genius like Chip Kelly running the show.

That's all for Evaluating the Eagles: Part 2, Running Backs. Be sure to check out the rest of the series in the following days leading up to free agency!

If you'd like, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @Anthony_DiBona. Thanks for reading!

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