Wake-Up Call: The Backfield Minus Bryce

Bryce Brown
LeSean McCoy
got the Buffalo backfield stirring a bit by suggesting Bryce Brown would be the Bills starter come opening day.

As the Buffalo backs fight it out this summer, the new-look Eagles grouping has some sorting out of its own to do — at least as far as sharing the load is concerned.

McCoy led the league in rushing (1,607 yards) in 2013. He also was tops in the NFL in carries (314) and overall touches (366). Brown was second on the team with 75 rushes for 314 yards (4.2 avg.). Chris Polk ended with 11 carries for 98 yards. The disparity can mainly be attributed to McCoy’s prowess but, as the Pitt product enters his sixth NFL season, all parties appear open to lightening McCoy’s burden.

Brown was shipped north for a conditional pick on Saturday. The Eagles will either receive a third or a fourth-round pick in return (depending, oddly enough, on the output of receiver Stevie Johnson.) That appears to be solid value for a former seventh-round selection who showed flashes as a rookie but did little to distinguish himself last season in Chip Kelly‘s offense.

“It’s just we kind of had a log jam so to speak at running back,” said Kelly.

Darren Sproles is expected to be the primary reserve. The former Saint, though, is viewed mostly as a pass-catching back. The nine-year vet carried the ball just 53 times last season but had 71 receptions for New Orleans.

Chris Polk averaged close to nine yards per carry and scored three times in his limited action. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum but is expected to be ready for training camp.

Matthew Tucker — a second-year back out of TCU —  is also in the mix, and appears to have some fans in the Eagles’ front office.

 “We really like  Tucker,” said Kelly. “I think he’s another guy as we continue to develop was on the practice squad. Got him to the active. Came to camp. He’s probably in the best shape of any of the backs right now and is really pushing for it. So we felt like if that can get us something as we go forward, we felt it was a positive move.”

The tidbit about Tucker being in great shape is noteworthy, particularly given that he failed a conditioning test prior to the start of training camp last July.

Relief for McCoy may very well come on passing downs. Sproles had over 600 receiving yards this past season, including a pair of touchdowns. Polk, in contrast, had just four catches out of the backfield last season but averaged almost  nine yards per tote. Look for Sproles to gobble up a bunch of snaps on passing downs, while Polk (assuming health) can be a nice change-of-pace back.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to track the rest of Brown’s career to see what comes of it.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil with a high-quality no-22 look at why the Eagles drafted Josh Huff.

After exiting the draft without offensive line help, the Eagles are reportedly considering veteran Daryn Colledge. 

A round-up of Eagles draft grades courtesy of Mr. Kapadia.

Kelly on the benefit of having seen many of these prospects up close on the collegiate level.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Eagles come in ninth in ESPN’s post-draft power rankings. 

The offense is looking pretty good, but is drafting fourth-rounder Jaylen Watkins enough to improve the pass defense? Philly allowed a league-worst 289.8 pass yards per game last year.

As for the rest of the division, they have the Giants ranked 19th, the Cowboys 22nd and Washington 28th.

Rich Hoffman wonders how the personnel changes this offseason might influence how the Eagles operate.

The Eagles used [the three-receiver, one tight-end] formation 71 percent of the time last year on first-and-10. A quick look did not reveal anybody in the league close to that number, other than Denver at 66 percent…

But now DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant are gone, and Jeremy Maclin and Matthews are in – different players, skills and levels of experience. We all wonder how it’s going to work without Jackson’s super-speed element in the offense, but Matthews’ size offers some red-zone possibilities that did not exist before. Then there is the fact that Matthews’ college specialty is also a local favorite: Chip’s beloved bubble screen, which is the rubber baby buggy bumper for a new Eagles era. Still, we don’t know until we see it. Which makes you wonder: Will three wideouts still be the signature?

COMING UP

Much more from over the weekend to get to.

 

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