Eagles Practice Observations: Polk at fullback?

Philadelphia Eagles running back Chris Polk.It’s rare that a running back does something without the football in his hands that makes the crowd go crazy.

But let me introduce you to Chris Polk.

During this afternoon’s session, the undrafted free agent out of Washington sent cornerback Brandon Hughes flying on a blitz pickup that drew perhaps the loudest ovation of the day.

“I actually messed up on that play because I went to the wrong side,” Polk said. “But I knew he was coming so I just had to get back there quick. I don’t want the quarterback getting hit on my behalf, so that’s something I try to hang my hat on.”

Earlier in practice, during one-on-one blitz pickup drills, Polk (5-11, 215) stoned free safety Phillip Thomas, eventually pinning him to the ground.

Given Polk’s skill set and the Eagles’ current roster makeup, let’s think outside the box for a moment: Could he be this team’s answer at fullback?

Last week, I wrote about the team’s fullback battle, which currently has Stanley Havili (6-0, 227) in the lead. Last year, per Pro Football Focus, fullback Owen Schmitt played about 15.8 percent of the snaps. He went out into pass routes 42 percent of the time, was a run blocker 41 percent of the time, a pass blocker 14 percent of the time and a runner 2 percent of the time.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, Polk very well could have Havili beat in three of those four categories: the receiving game, blitz pickup and running the football.

So that leaves us with the whole lead blocking thing, which of course is important. I asked Polk if he’s ever done that before.

“In college, yeah, when we had Jake Locker, we did a lot of QB draws, so I was the lead blocker,” he said. “I’m real familiar with it. I like it. Whatever coaches need me to do, I’m going to do it.”

Blocking for a QB draw and blocking for LeSean McCoy are two different things, but it doesn’t sound that crazy to me. And let’s be honest: We don’t have much of an idea at all about whether Havili is actually a good lead blocker. That’s actually something to keep an eye on Thursday night against the Steelers.

As for Polk, he’s battling Bryce Brown for a spot behind McCoy and likely Dion Lewis. But if the Eagles want to keep Brown and Polk, perhaps Polk should mention my idea to Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid.


More practice observations:

* If you’re wondering about the mood of practice, I’ll be perfectly honest. It seemed like the players and coaches did a terrific job of making this feel like many of the other practices that have taken place at Lehigh. I’m sure players are dealing with the Garrett Reid tragedy differently, and I know it’s not something anyone will truly get over, but for a couple hours this afternoon, it was business as usual for the Eagles (minus Andy Reid’s absence, of course).

* I mentioned Havili earlier. During one-on-one blitz pickup drills, he went head-to-head with Thomas. After the play was over, they exchanged shoves back and forth. Havili then actually threw a wild haymaker in Thomas’ direction. It came nowhere close to landing. I never got the whole punch a guy in the helmet thing either.

* I notice Oshiomogho Atogwe spending a lot of time next to secondary/safeties coach Michael Zordich. It’s almost like he’s a rookie. Atogwe is clearly trying to gain a better understanding of the defense after missing all of the spring.

* On a similar note, based only on what I see on the sidelines, Nnamdi Asomugha and secondary coach Todd Bowles seem to have formed a nice rapport. Asomugha had very nice things to say about Bowles earlier this offseason.

* McCoy has talked about wanting to become a better blocker, but it’s not just talk. He is taking the one-on-one blitz pickup drills seriously. Today, he had a good battle with Kurt Coleman and did a good job of holding off the safety.

* Speaking of Coleman, it’s a good thing the Eagles weren’t hitting today or we might be talking about a DeSean Jackson injury. Michael Vick hit Jackson on a short slant, but Coleman was in perfect position to pop the Eagles’ wide receiver. He held up, the two guys slapped hands, and Eagles fans everywhere exhaled.

* Coleman also had a diving interception on Vick. The Eagles’ first-team offense came up empty on both drives that were intended to simulate two-minute drills. On one, Vick was picked off. And on the other, time, which started at 1:40, ran off the clock.

* McCoy dropped a pass while running across the middle towards the sideline during the two-minute drill and batted the ball into the stands in frustration.

* Mike Kafka had back-to-back beautiful throws, and both were downfield. I’m sure McManus was loving it. One was down the left sideline to Marvin McNutt. Kafka lofted it beautifully for about a 25-yard gain. He then threw a strike to Mardy Gilyard in the end zone (20+ yards in the air), but the Eagles wide receiver dropped it.

* Brian Rolle blitzed 41 times last year, per PFF, second-most among Eagles linebackers behind only Jamar Chaney, who played more overall snaps. Rolle might be the most difficult linebacker to block in the blitz pickup drill.

* Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans talked about setting the tone at practice with Andy Reid not present. It might be nothing, or it might be something, but I noticed those two and Evan Mathis ahead of their teammates, pretty much sprinting from one field to the next when the Eagles were beginning 11-on-11s.

* I learned a couple nicknames today. Darryl Tapp called Fletcher Cox Mentos because he had fresh legs (Cox missed the last two days of practice for personal reasons). Tapp and others also called Cedric Thornton Swamp. I’ll have to get to the bottom of that one. Oh, and Vinny Curry is V-Dot. But Tapp might be the only one who calls him that.

* Cox pretty much picked up Mike Gibson and drove him back during the one-on-one drills. Cedric Thornton drove Gibson back with relative ease, but the Eagles’ offensive lineman wanted to go again. This time, Thornton clubbed him with his right hand and made a quick inside move. The other defensive linemen loved it. Gibson, meanwhile, had a rough day.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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  • PaoliBulldog

    Converting a college RB to NFL FB is an intriguing notion…..

  • Skeptic_Eagle

    Some may accuse you of throwing stuff at the wall, but I think it is a cool idea. Another former Husky, Marcel Reece made the move from College WR to NFL FB. Leonard Weaver was listed at 250, but I’m not sure he was actually that big. Mighta been more like 235, 240–still bigger than Polk, I guess. I think Polk was a high school WR, so he’d be familiar with transitioning to a new pos. Weaver’s skills definitely added a nice dimension to the Eagles O–I still remember that 60 yard catch and run from McNabb. Polk can definitely catch, can apparently block, and is probably a longshot to make the 53 man as a HB, so I say, why not give it a shot? They tried it with Tony Hunt…

    • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Kal

      I think it’s assuming a lot to believe Polk is a long-shot to make a NFL 53 man roster. Polk only issue in Philly, is Shady and Dion are before him. Every team doesn’t have a Dion backing up their starting tail-back.

  • Jeff

    I was actually going to ask someone on Twitter about whether or not he had the size to play FB. He offers something different than Dion Lewis and is a better all around player than Brown at the moment. If Havili’s a significant upgrade over Polk at that position, don’t do it. But if they’re pretty close, why not try it? They don’t keep Polk and another team’s gonna take him.

  • Dragon_Eagle

    2 words: Tony Hunt.

  • Nathan

    I think Tommy over at IgglesBlitz talked about Polk playing FB and he brought up a good point about Polk’s shoulder. Even though the FB isn’t used nearly as much as it used to be I would be worried about the beating that shoulder would take over the course of the year. I think you would have to carry one on the practice squad just in case.

    • ian_no_2

      Shoulder smoulder. Polk for FB.Tommy’s being the contrarian. I’d say they’re both good receivers with a potential to be special, but Polk is a more advanced, better blocker than (PS eligible) Havili, and a much better runner.

      As a FB, Polk could be used as a runner the way Weaver was before the injury. Even though Lewis and Brown are turning heads and are better suited to Andy’s tastes, Polk is a guy who can eat up the clock with the team ahead by 9 points or more, when you want to bubble wrap Shady as much as possible, running over tired defenders and breaking tackles. Last year, Polk had 292 touches without a fumble. Dion Lewis has major fumbling problems. Brown is a question mark in the fumbling department, and I’d expect him to have some problems with that. Polk throughout college made ball control a priority. That’s the guy you want to keep the clock running when you have a lead.

      • ian_no_2

        meant to say Polk had 292 touches with one fumble last year (on the last game of the season)

    • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Kal

      These guys, neither of them are clearing waivers to make it to the practice squad. Polk is gashing our first team defense in drills and holds his own in one on one blocking drills bum shoulder and all.

  • http://twitter.com/ToastJenkins ToastJenkins

    With the limited role for the FB anyway, wouldnt it make more sense to just go without a formal FB and keep both Polk and Brown? You can run practically the entire playbook from the the 3WR/TE/1RB set as long as the RB and TE can be counted on to pickup blitz.

    • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Kal

      This is a viable solution. There is going to be some difficult cuts made. I don’t see the Eagles cutting Brown or Polk. These are football players with plenty of tread left on each of them. Keeping both reduces the count somewhere else on the roster. I also don’t see the Eagles dumping McNutt no matter what anyone says so far, if he preforms in these pre season games as he has in this camp, no way he’s cut. Keeping Brown and Polk, and McNutt is going to cause a concern through the entire roster. It’s going to be difficult cutting Chad Hall, strictly if were are evaluating players by what’s happening in camp. There is a lot of talent in the Eagles camp. I would have never thought they were capable of getting this many quality players in camp.

  • PhillySanMan

    This may turn into a 3 person battle for the final FB spot. Havili’s the best true FB. Igwenagu could play H-back role (FB/TE) and Polk could be RB/FB. Whoever plays best in preseason games should get that last spot. I’m not big on measurables. I’d prefer Polk, then Igwenagu. Of course, we need to see some games first!

  • Luke

    I approve this message, Polk for FB!

  • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Kal

    Both, Brown and Polk are showing themselves to be fairly talented football players but compared to Dion Lewis in this camp, neither will take his position. Both are certain keepers but how is the question. Players have to clear waivers to make it to the Eagles practice team, and once there any team can claim them for a position on the active roster. There is no way either of them if waived makes it through to be shelved for the Eagles. They are not clearing waivers.