The 2015 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Chip Kelly and his staff will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2014 roster. While the team was able to achieve 10-6 record, they fell short of making the playoff, and there are still many ways the Eagles roster could be improved upon. By the time NFL free agency starts on March 10, the Eagles will have a good idea of which players they'll want to bring back for the 2014 season. Today we'll continue this offseason review series by looking at the running back position.
Numbers: 791 snaps, 312 attempts, 1319 yards, 4.2 Y/A, 82.4 Y/G, 5 TD, 53 Long, 28 rec, 155 yards, 5.5 Y/R, 0 rec TD, 1474 yards from scrimmage, 5 total TD, 4 fumbles
Review: The volume numbers are impressive. McCoy finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yards. He broke the all-time Eagles rushing record previously held by Wilbert Montgomery late in the season. The problem is that the volume numbers don't tell the whole story. McCoy wasn't nearly as efficient in 2014 as he was in 2013. His 4.1 yards per carry ranked tied for 24, among the likes of Alfred Morris, Boobie Dixon, Shane Vereen, and Giovani Bernard.
While it's true that McCoy was negatively impacted by the injuries to the Eagles' offensive line, he also failed to make defenders miss. McCoy averaged 2.09 yards after first contact this season. That's a career low for him. The previous low was 2.10 in his rookie season. He wasn't nearly as elusive as he's been in the past. McCoy finished 15th out of 18 running backs that have played at least 50% snaps in Pro Football Focus's "Elusive Rating", which boils down a runner's success beyond the point of being helped by his blockers. McCoy finished much higher in this rating in past years: sixth in 2013, sixth in 2012, seventh in 2011. PFF graded McCoy 55th out of 57 running backs that played a minimum of 25% offensive snaps in 2014.
McCoy's touchdowns took a dip due to the increased presence of Chris Polk as a goal-line back. McCoy's production as a receiver also took a major hit due to the addition of Darren Sproles. Speaking of...
Numbers: 343 snaps, 57 attempts, 329 yards, 5.8 Y/A, 21.9 Y/G, 6 TD, 49 Long, 40 rec, 387 yards, 9.7 Y/R, 0 rec TD, 716 yards from scrimmage, 6 total TD, 4 fumbles
Review: It'll never be easy to believe that the Eagles acquired a talented weapon like Darren Sproles for the cost of a mere fifth round pick. The 31-year-old veteran was a revelation during his first season wearing midnight green. He broke personal career records in: longest run (49), receiving yards in a a game (152), and longest punt return (82). Sproles was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice and NFC Offensive Player of the Week once. He also earned his first career Pro Bowl berth.
Numbers: 97 snaps, 46 attempts, 172 yards, 3.7 Y/A, 12.3 Y/G, 22 Long, 2 rec, 16 yards, 8.0 Y/R, 0 rec TD, 188 yards from scrimmage, 4 total TD, 1 fumble
Review: All Chris Polk does is score touchdowns. I'm tempted to just leave it at that, but the story of Polk is a little more complex. His injury concerns were obviously problematic at times; he missed virtually the entire 2014 training camp with a hamstring issue. Some of those injury issues lingered into the regular season. Despite this, Polk made the most of his limited opportunities. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown, which certainly no one saw coming, and by the end of the season the Eagles were relying on him for goal-line situations as opposed to McCoy.
Review: Matthew Tucker ended his rookie season stashed away on the Eagles' 53-man roster in 2013 before spending the entire 2014 season on Philadelphia's practice squad. Tucker ran well in the 2014 preseason: he finished with 125 yards on 24 carries (5.2 average) and scored four touchdowns. He may push for a roster spot in the summer.
Review: The Eagles acquired Kenjon Barner in the summer due to their scarce running back depth. The former Oregon Duck didn't really stand out before suffering an injury late in the preseason. The Eagles waived Barner before brining him back on the practice squad halfway through the season.
Who Could Leave
McCoy's cap number rises to $11,950,000 in 2015, which is the second highest number for any running back. The Eagles absolutely have the cap space to keep him, but it's at least worth noting he could be released for a savings of $7,550,000.
Polk is scheduled to be a restricted free agent. This means that the Eagles will have to offer him a tender. If Polk doesn't sign his tender right away, he can wait for one of 31 other teams to sign him to an offer sheet. If that's the case, the Eagles would have the chance to match the offer in order to keep him.
Tucker and Barner were signed to futures contracts so they'll have to fight an uphill battle in order to earn a roster spot.
Who Could Sign
It's hard to see the Eagles exploring free agent options since they already have a number of players under contract. Former Buffalo Bills first round pick C.J. Spiller is a player that the Eagles were reportedly targeting in a trade last offseason.
The 2015 NFL Draft class is loaded with running back talent. Melvin Gordon, Duke Johnson, Todd Gurley, Ameer Abdullah, Tevin Coleman, and T.J. Yeldon are just a few names to consider. The Eagles don't necessarily need a running back but it could be time to start planning for life after McCoy. Also note that Sproles will turn 32 in June. The run game is very crucial to the Eagles success. A trio of McCoy, Sproles, and a talented rookie could form a lethal three-headed monster.