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Eagles Mailbag: Making sense of Philadelphia's depth chart at running back

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Eagles Q&A.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the latest edition of the BGN Mailbag. Each weekend I'll be taking some of your questions and answering them here in this post. As always, thanks to everyone on Twitter who sent in a question. Let's talk some Philadelphia Eagles football. To the Q&A ...

@ABigCatL92 asks: How do you think RB snaps will be split up this year?

Good question. The short answer is: I don't know. Wasn't that helpful?

The Eagles usually have a clear lead back but that isn't necessarily the case this year. The injury-prone Ryan Mathews is projected to be the No. 1 guy, though it's hard to imagine being healthy for the whole season. It seems like the Eagles are bound to use a committee at running back. I'd expect them to split touches among Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood ... and a fourth running back who is probably either Kenjon Barner or Byron Marshall.

For reference, let's take a look at how carries were split up during Doug Pederson's time as offensive coordinator in Kansas City over the past three seasons.

2015

Charcandrick West - 49.6%
Jamaal Charles - 26.3%
Spencer Ware - 15.9%
Knile Davis - 7.9%

2014

Jamaal Charles - 64.5%
Knile Davis - 30.2%
De’Anthony Thomas - 18.7%
Cyrus Gray - 2.9%
Joe McKnight - 1.5%
Charcandrick West - 0.4%

2013

Jamaal Charles - 78.2%
Knile Davis - 15.7%
Cyrus Gray - 5.5%

The Eagles obviously don't have a player of Charles' talent, so this isn't a perfect comparison. Still, that 2015 model, which only came about because Charles suffered a season-ending injury in October, looks like the closest one that the Eagles will emulate this year. Let's say ...

Ryan Mathews - 45%
Darren Sproles - 25%
Wendell Smallwood - 25%
Kenjon Barner or Byron Marshall - 10%

Keep in mind this total probably won't equal 100% because the Eagles will use some two back sets. For now, it's my best guess. And I'm obviously assuming Sproles isn't going to get traded.

@INDOE_RO asks: Byron Marshall. In or out?

As I just mentioned, I think the Eagles keep four running backs and the last spot comes down to Marshall versus Barner. Barner has the advantage of having NFL experience. Plus he's a good punt returner. Marshall might be more versatile on offense since he can serve as wide receiver depth as well. I have Marshall making the final cut on my latest 53-man roster prediction but I'm going to change that now. I forgot that Marshall is going to miss all of OTAs due to the NCAA's graduation rule. Missing practice time puts him at a disadvantage. I'll say Barner makes it over Marshall for now. That could change if Marshall clearly outperforms the veteran this summer.

@wilmes_m asks: Do you think Kenjon Barner is going to get any meaningful playing time?

Not really, unless he looks awesome this summer and/or at least one of the running backs in front of him gets hurt.

With that said, Barner has drawn some praise this offseason. For what it's worth, our pal Dave Spadaro wrote this about Barner earlier this offseason.

This is not a great draft for running backs, but there are some prospects in the late rounds. Are any of them better than Kenjon Barner, who has worked so hard on his body in this offseason. I chatted with him briefly on Tuesday morning and he said he’s reduced his body fat and has added muscle. His arms are huge now and he’s bulked up his legs, too. Barner had a terrific preseason in 2015 and could be a player who has a more prominent role in the offense in 2016.

Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich also reportedly had this to say.

Kenjon Barner has caught the coaches' eyes and we are excited about him.

So maybe Barner is due for a bigger role than expected?

@deazy86 asks: Who's 1 free agent still on the market the Eagles should bring in for a look?

I plan to write a post about the best available NFL free agents in the near future. For now, I'll be very unoriginal and mention a player who has already been suggested: Chris Polk. The former Eagles running back is still a free agent after spending 2015 with the Texans. Philadelphia is thin at running back and Polk could compete for a roster spot. The 26-year-old veteran has special teams experience and he's an underrated pass catcher (used to be a receiver in high school). Why not give him another look?

@tombads23 asks: What position do you think will have the biggest improvement?

Finally, a question that doesn't have to do with the running back position.

On offense, I have to say guard. Brandon Brooks should be an upgrade over the likes of Andrew Gardner/Matt Tobin at right guard. Allen Barbre might still end up being the starter at left guard but there's a competition at that position. Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, and Malcolm Bunche will push Barbre to play his best or else he could be benched.

For the defense ... the pass rush should be improved under Jim Schwartz. The Eagles didn't really change any personnel at this spot but the scheme change should help. Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry should especially excel at getting after the quarterback in a 4-3 wide nine defense.

@tommymccormick_ asks: Thoughts at wide receiver? Does Rueben Randle make a play for WR2 or will Nelson Agholor solidify himself on the outside?

Based on what I've seen from one day of Eagles OTA practice, the starting wide receivers are: Jordan Matthews (slot), Nelson Agholor, and Josh Huff. Matthews is the most proven player of that bunch. I think Philadelphia will be patient with Agholor, who was the team's first round pick in 2015. Huff is the one in danger of losing playing time to Randle. There's a lot of pressure on Huff to play well this summer.