Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2014 is fast approaching. Coaches and players report as soon as Friday, July 25th. The entire Eagles training camp schedule, including information on practices open to the public, can be found by clicking here.
As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. Today we look at the running back position. [QB]
LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey, David Fluellen
The Eagles obviously have talent at this position. It's just interesting how it's spread out.
What's there left to say about LeSean McCoy? He led the NFL in rush yards and scrimmage yards at the end of the 2013 season. He's the best running back in the NFL. He's poised to have another big year in Chip Kelly's run-heavy offense.
Darren Sproles is the new face here. The Eagles acquired Sproles from the Saints in exchange for a draft pick during the offseason. Sproles, who is now 31 years old, still appears to have plenty left in the tank. Despite the Eagles insistence he's a running back, it's easy to see Sproles catching a lot of passes in this offense. He makes the Eagles way better in the short-to-intermediate passing games. Check out this stat from KC Joyner: "Philadelphia had only eight targets to running backs that traveled 5 or more yards downfield, a total that tied for 24th in the league. Sproles had 22 targets of this variety last season." It's be interesting to see the new wrinkles Sproles adds to an already dangerous Eagles offense.
I previewed Eagles third string running back Chris Polk last month. Polk, now in his third year, is returning from major offseason surgery on his shoulder. During the Eagles spring practices he admitted he's still trying to cut down his weight. Polk was largely stuck behind former Eagles rusher Bryce Brown in 2013 but started to earn a role later on in the season. Over 70% of his total offensive snaps came in the last four weeks. I was quite impressed by Polk's performance during last year's training camp so I wouldn't be surprised to see him flash ability again.
Matthew Tucker spent the first half of the year on the practice squad before being called up to the active roster to fill on special teams for an injured Polk. The Eagles cut seventh round rookie draft Jordan Poyer, who is now with the Browns, to make room for Tucker. The undrafted free agent RB spent the rest of the 2013 season on the active roster but didn't dress on game day.
Henry Josey is an undrafted rookie free agent running back with a great story. He compares to Chip Kelly's former Oreogn Ducks running back LaMichael James in some respects. James is 5-8, 194lbs, ran a 4.45 40, and recorded a 35" vertical. Henry Josey is 5-8, 194lbs, ran a 4.43 40, and recorded a 34.5" vertical. Josey appears to be a long shot at this point but he'll be interesting to watch.
The other undrafted rookie free agent running back on the Eagles roster is David Fluellen. I wasn't really impressed with Fluellen in the team's spring practices. He'll have more of a chance to stand out during the preseason.
How will it play out?
LeSean McCoy will obviously start and play a lot of snaps. Darren Sproles could possibly join McCoy for some two running back sets, which is something the Eagles didn't use often in 2013. Sproles might also spell McCoy for a few touches here and there. The same could be said for Chris Polk, who will probably be relied on for special teams yet again. If McCoy goes down to injury (knock on wood), the Eagles would likely split touches between Sproles and Polk in a running back by committee approach. It would seem Polk would be the one to assume the bulk of the carries.
Matthew Tucker could push to make the roster if the Eagles keep four running backs but that's not a given. Tucker could also end up on the practice squad again. Josey and Fluellen are long shots that could be battling against Tucker for a spot on the practice squad.
Who could be a surprise cut?
If the Eagles are really impressed with Matthew Tucker, Chris Polk might be the odd man out. I don't see that as likely though because the Eagles seem to like Polk. As I already mentioned he had an increased role by the end of the 2013 season. He was also singled out by Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp as one of the team's better contributors.