The Eagles made a move on Tuesday night to add more depth at running back as the team heads down the home stretch of the preseason. The team dealt a conditional seventh round pick to the Panthers for former Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, who was not going to make the Carolina squad. Still just 25, Barner comes to Philadelphia with a clean slate, but is very aware of what his new (old) head coach wants to see from him.
A Riverside, California native, Barner was recruited to Oregon by current Eagles head coach Chip Kelly as a running back in 2008. Barner redshirted his first year on campus, but played in 13 games in 2009. During his redshirt freshman year, Barner recorded 61 carries for 366 rushing yards (6.0 YPC) and four catches for 30 yards while scoring three times on the ground and once off of a kick return. As a sophomore, Barner appeared in 11 games and carried the ball 91 times for 551 rushing yards (6.1 YPC) and six touchdowns. He added 13 receptions for 121 receiving yards and two touchdowns, as well as a score off of a punt return.
In his third playing season, Barner saw his role expand in 12 games. He collected 939 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 152 carries (6.2 YPC). He also caught 17 passes for 184 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns.
In 2012, Barner exploded with production. In his and Kelly's last year with the Ducks, Barner generated 1,767 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns on 278 carries (6.4 YPC) in 13 games. He added another 256 yards and two touchdowns on 20 receptions. He finished his college career with 3,623 rushing yards, 591 receiving yards and 50 total touchdowns (41 rushing, seven receiving and two on special teams).
The 5-foot-9, 196-pound back was invited to the NFL Combine in 2013. He finished first at his position in the 60-yard shuttle (11.33 seconds) and Top 5 in the vertical jump (35.5 inches) and 3 Cone drill (6.87 seconds). Barner registered a 4.52 forty time and did 20 reps on the bench press. He also participated in the 2013 Reese's Senior Bowl.
Despite his fantastic senior season, Barner lasted until the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The Carolina Panthers selected the running back with the 182nd overall pick. As a rookie, Barner was limited to eight games of special teams work and suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for part of the season. He finished the year with six carries for seven yards (1.7 YPC) and two catches for seven yards (3.5 YPR).
Barner has excellent acceleration and bursts through holes with speed that exceeds his forty time. He is surprisingly able to bounce off of tackles at his size and is hard to bring down at times. He clears space quickly while bouncing outside and has enough vision to elude tacklers. He is tough and can take a hit and bounce back. Barner carried the ball quite a bit in his last two years at Oregon and can handle a lot of work. He has experience as a returner with both kickoffs and punts. He also has the ability to catch out of the backfield.
Barner has a habit of bouncing outside far too often. He can get stuffed in the backfield going for a home run play, which happened frequently in college. He isn't the best at following his blocks and does not run north-to-south very often (give his size, that makes a ton of sense). He didn't catch a lot of passes at Oregon, so it will be interesting to see how his hands help him at the next level.
How He Fits With the Eagles
The Eagles brought Barner to Philadelphia to see if he could make an impact during the remaining two preseason games. Barner is familiar with Kelly and his offense, so he should be able to contribute right away. He will compete with Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey, Chris Polk and David Fluellen for one of the two (likely) remaining spots at running back behind LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Barner's ability to return kicks in the wake of Josh Huff's shoulder injury could be the former Panthers' ticket to making the team. He will likely fill a role as a gunner and returner if he is able to make the squad.
[Update: One less fish in the pond. The Eagles released running back David Fluellen on Wednesday morning.]