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Third String Running Back Will Be Key This Year

Patrick McDermott

In Andy Reid's offense, it hardly mattered who the starting running back was, let alone the backup.

But every indication from Chip Kelly since he has come to Philadelphia is that he plans to run the ball. This sentiment was echoed by Pat Shurmur this week when talking about the importance of a back up running back.

"I've always believed there's a place in the game to play two RB's," Shurmur said. "You have your starter, but the other guy or two needs to play so that they can all get through the season together. You have to use more than one RB. It's a long season, and a guy can run out of gas quickly."

As Shurmur said, there is no question that Brown will be the back up running back this year. Brown showed last year that if he can cut down on the fumbles he could probably start in the NFL. So with LeSean McCoy and Brown looking to get more carries this year, and the Eagles offensive minds seeming to be interested in running the ball quite a bit, another roster spot is going to be very important going into next season.

The third-string running back.

If the Eagles truly do intend to run an offense that requires the use of two backs, the running back who backs them up is going to be key if they plan on not missing a beat if one of them goes down. Last season the Eagles carried four running backs for the entire season despite not letting Dion Lewis or Chris Polk see the light of day, one of the more curious roster decisions of the Andy Reid era. When Kelly makes his final cuts before the season begins, it will be interesting to see which player he goes with, or if he moves on from both.

Polk was a disappointment last season and it wasn't even his fault. It's almost silly to think he battled with Brown for a roster spot out of training camp, as Brown looked like a legit NFL starter and Polk couldn't get on the field. Polk didn't have a single carry last season and only saw limited action on special teams. Towards the end of the season, when Polk could have played, his was sidelined with a toe injury. Polk showed in college that he is capable of catching the ball out of the backfield, but at this point he is still a big unknown.

Lewis is a player that immediately popped into my head when Chip Kelly was hired. Lewis has just 36 career rushing attempts, but averages close to five yards per carry in his career. Anyone who took the trip to Lehigh last year saw the damage Lewis can do when he gets into open space. Under Kelly, Lewis could really excel. The 3rd year running back has just three catches in the NFL, but that is more a product of not getting any playing time than it is an indication he can't be effective in the passing game.

The battle for running back spots is always a fun one to watch at training camp, but this year, it is also going to be one of the more important ones.

Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks

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