This week, we’ll offer offseason outlooks for the Eagles, position-by-position. Each day, we’ll answer a pressing question and rank the position on the priority scale. First up was quarterback. Now onto the running backs.
PRESSING QUESTION: Are Brown and Polk good enough backups?
McManus: Good enough, yes, though the Eagles could use a little more production out of their No. 2.
Bryce Brown was a bit of a disappointment. After a couple dazzling performances his rookie year, the hope was that the former seventh-round pick would develop into a real nice weapon for Chip Kelly in 2013. That never quite happened. You can chalk some of that up to circumstance. LeSean McCoy stayed healthy and, given how productive he was, didn’t come off the field a whole lot. When Brown went off against Carolina and Dallas last season for 178 and 169 yards, respectively, he received 19 carries in one game and 24 the other. He had no more than nine carries in a single game this season.
The other side of that coin is that Brown never forced the coaches to keep him in the game. He bounced to the outside way too much early on and besides the Chicago game, where he raced for a 65-yard touchdown and had 115 yards overall, he didn’t flash much. Brown didn’t fumble, though, and averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
Chris Polk was effective in a limited role, totaling 98 yards on 11 carries (8.9 average). Three of those 11 rushes resulted in touchdowns.
Kelly was very high on this group at the beginning of the year, and said he’d put his stable of backs up against any in the league. It turned into more of a one-man show, but you could do worse than Brown and Polk as your second and third options.
Kapadia: Going into 2014 with the same exact group of running backs would be fine, but the guess here is that Kelly will be looking to upgrade.
McCoy played 890 snaps, second-most in the NFL, and he led the league in rushing attempts (314). It was tough for Duce Staley to take the NFL’s leading rusher off the field, but the truth is Brown didn’t produce for most of the season. Take away the one big run against Chicago, and he averaged under 3.4 YPC on his other 74 attempts. On top of that, Brown was stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage 15 times, or once every five attempts per STATS, Inc.
Maybe Brown just needs more time in the system, but in a run-heavy offense, the Eagles need more production from their No. 2 guy. As for Polk, I thought he showed some real flashes. If I’m handicapping the race right now, I’d say Polk has a better shot than Brown at being the No. 2 RB going into next season.
PRIORITY SCALE: FROM 1 TO 5
* 1 indicates there is no need at all to address the position in free agency or the draft. 5 means it’s of the highest priority that the Eagles focus on the position in the coming months.
McManus: I’m at about a 2. There are obviously more pressing needs, and I recognize that the reserves didn’t have much of a chance to get into a rhythm this season with McCoy dominating.
There will likely be some competition brought in this offseason. Assuming Brown and Polk hold onto their roster spots, it will be interesting to see who wins the battle for the No. 2 spot behind McCoy.
Kapadia: In terms of need, we agree on this one. I’ll go with a 2 as well. But my prediction is that the Eagles find a new running back to legitimately compete for a roster spot – either in the draft or after the draft.
Remember, Kelly is a run-game guru. Even though the Eagles had the best rushing attack in the NFL in 2013, this isn’t a situation where he’s going to rest on his laurels. Brown and Polk were guys already on the roster when Kelly was hired. He may eye a running back who better matches the skill set he’s looking for.
There’s no doubt that the run game is the strength of this team, but don’t be surprised if the Eagles tweak the personnel a bit this offseason.