Eagles Depth Chart Outlook: Running Back

This is the sixth in a series. Click here for the earlier posts on the defensive positions.

Chip Kelly’s Oregon team averaged more than 52 rushing attempts per game in 2012, sixth-most in the nation.

Part of that was because they ran so many plays overall. Part of that was because they often held big leads. And part of that was, well, because it’s what Kelly liked to do.

Going into the 2013 offseason, the one area where the Eagles did not need much of a makeover was at running back. LeSean McCoy didn’t match his 2011 performance, but at 24, is still a key component of the team’s future. Seventh-round pick Bryce Brown had fumbling issues, but still captured the imagination of fans with back-to-back 178- and 169-yard performances in Weeks 11 and 12.

The Eagles dealt Dion Lewis to the Browns in the offseason and signed veteran Felix Jones. They also added TCU’s Matthew Tucker as an undrafted free agent and still have second-year player Chris Polk.

Here’s a look at all the running backs:

Bryce Brown6-0223221/4
Felix Jones5-10215265/23
LeSean McCoy5-11208244/44
Chris Polk5-11222231/0
Matthew Tucker6-1227210/0

Pencil ’em in: McCoy, Brown.

McCoy has had a couple off-the-field transgressions this offseason, but on the field, he should be as excited as anyone about the hiring of Kelly.

“There’s definitely a difference,” McCoy said, when I asked him to compare the new scheme to the old one. “Just being in shotgun all the time, for one.

“And two, being able to run the ball a lot more. I mean, look at his track record. A lot of his backs touched the ball quite a bit, so that’s the other different point that you’ve got to look at. And just the ability to get the guys in the open field. Our defensive guys can get so mixed up from trying to follow their keys, and there’s so much misdirection, going here, going there, the bootlegs, going deep, then running it. There’s so much you have to look at where sometimes a big hole might just happen from guys being out of place. The backs we have here, you don’t even need that much room to get going.”

McCoy’s numbers were down across the board last year (4.2 YPC, two rushing touchdowns), but he was playing behind a depleted offensive line that offered very little help. According to Football Outsiders, he broke at least one tackle on 44 plays, a league-high. McCoy should have the opportunity for plenty of big plays in Kelly’s offense.

And Brown too. The second-year back averaged 4.9 yards per carry as a rookie, totaling 564 yards on the ground. Brown’s issue was holding onto the football. He fumbled four times, or once every 28.75 attempts, way too high of a rate. If he can get that problem fixed, he should see plenty of touches in 2013.

Fighting for spots: Polk, Jones, Tucker.

The Eagles will likely keep one or two players from this group.

Polk was active for seven games, but did not play an offensive snap and was a non-factor on special teams. For what it’s worth, in college, he didn’t have much success against Oregon, running for 280 yards on 73 attempts (3.8 YPC) in four games.

Jones has a skill set that appeals to Kelly and is only 26, but when a free agent who’s not asking for a lot of money can’t find a team until May, there’s usually a reason. Jones will have to show he’s healthy and can be productive to stick.

Tucker was a rotational player in college and will have to beat out one (or both) of the players listed above.

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  • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

    Hey, finally a position group we don’t have major concerns at. This is refreshing.

    • JofreyRice

      haha! Fully agreed! watch these guys average like 3.1 YPC or something, and the defense being lockdown.

      • Anebriated

        our ST unit suddenly becomes top 5 in the league…

        • Fink

          As long as we pile up the W’s, that’s all fine with me.

  • cliff henny

    cant wait till Kelly calls 5 straight run plays-in about 60 secs-picks up 40 yards and 3 1st downs. we’ll all be in shock

  • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

    Simply because Peters is back most any back running behind this guy is destined to be a star.

    Anxiously waiting to see Bryce Brown behind Peters going around the left end. Peters is spectacular to watch you can miss a lot when the ball isn’t carried to the left sitting focused on watching Peters work his man over.

    It may be a mistake to separate Mathis from Peters.

    • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

      Watching Jason get to the second level is a thing of beauty.

      I’m not getting the part you said about separating Mathis from Peters? I assumed the LG spot was his once he got healthy again.

      • Warhound

        Many people think that Mathis will get moved over to the right-side.

      • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

        Herreman played LG next to Peters in 2009 an 10 before having to move to Tackle. Before that Herreman played beside Tra Thomas, that’s basically where Herreman cut his teeth once he replaced Hicks in 2005

        Herreman is a serviceable Tackle, but his best position is next to a stable Tackle on the interior, problem is Mathis is too good playing next to Peters to chance separating that combination. Especially now they have chemistry in a zone blocking scheme.

        I would sign Peters for life, and have him work with Johnson. In two years, what you see on the left from Peters you’re probably going to be seeing in Johnson. Johnson already has the tools, and athleticism. I’m giddy because of the early reports on Dennis Kelly, if he grows into an interior position and builds a chemistry the skys the limit. The Eagles stand a chance to win a ton of trench wars.

  • rick

    Brown is a huge liability! Until he PROVES he won’t fumble he is just another back and if he continues to fumble he is a NEGATIVE!

  • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

    Does anyone else find it amusing that the Eagles QB averaged 5.4 yards a carry last year?

  • Matt Broad

    If Fumblin’ Bo can hold onto the ball this looks like a helluva depth chart.

  • ClydeSide

    One thing I noticed fromthe little bit of video from OTAs–all receivers and
    running backs are carrying the ball high and tight using the claw hold (se below). Kelly has obviously ahs made ball security a top priority–hence his discussion with Vick. I am sure he’s discussed this with Bryce Brown too.

    Here’s an excellent ball security video by a Georgia high school coach, Barry Hoover (he has a nice football blog: http://coachhoover.blogspot.com).

    In the video he uses Tiki Barber as an example–lots of photos and video. It is state of the art and well worth a look: