Twitter Mailbag: How Many Backs Will Stick?

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

For a chance to have your question published on Birds 24/7, send it to @Tim_McManus.

 Josey has a great story, too. (Sheil wrote about it here.) Easy guy to root for. Running back spots will be hard to come by, though. Last year the Eagles went with three backs — LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk — as they whittled their roster down to 53. They brought up Matthew Tucker from the practice squad during the season as a result of a Polk injury. Right now, it looks like McCoy, Darren Sproles and Polk will be the trio in 2014. There’s a chance they carry a fourth, but one of the backs will have to give them good reason to do so.  Josey needs to have a really nice summer to capture a spot. Same goes for David Fluellen and Tucker. The more realistic scenario may be that the Eagles keep a running back on the practice squad who can be brought up as needed. 

As for receiver, the Eagles originally went with five wideouts but carried six for a good portion of the season. Four of the spots will most likely be occupied by Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. The coaching staff seems to like Brad Smith. I think he makes the team. Then there is a group that includes Arrelious Benn, Ifeanyi Momah, Jeff Maehl, Damaris Johnson, B.J. Cunningham, Quron Pratt, Will Murphy and Kadron Boone that will be competing for a slot that may or may not be available. The best chance of making this team as a reserve is if you can 1) make an impact on special teams and/or 2) bring a unique skill set to the table. Because of the second part of that equation, I’m not writing the 6-7 Momah off quite yet. Maehl had six special teams tackles last year. The staff is intrigued by what Benn can bring to the table if healthy.

I’m not expecting  many curveballs this year. (Which, of course, means there will be several.) There’s a chance outside linebacker Travis Long makes the team, which could signal the end of Brandon Graham‘s time in Philly. But I don’t know: do you really want to put the backup spots in the hands of two players in Long and Marcus Smith who have yet to play an NFL snap?

Perhaps one of the young offensive linemen can claim a spot  given the depth issues and the possible Lane Johnson suspension. But I’m not expecting anything too shocking.

Chip Kelly says that Spear was brought in to compete for the job, but it feels like his presence on the roster is more to push Alex Henery. Whatever the case, I’m definitely not sold on Spear being the answer. And while Henery may have worked in the offseason to increase his strength, I’m skeptical that we’ll see a vastly different kicker than the one that took the field last year.

The free agent market isn’t exactly filled with amazing options. The 36-year-old Rob Bironas seems like the best of the bunch. He was 25-of-29 in field goal attempts for the Titans last year and was 2-of-3 from 50-plus yards. Rotoworld has Rian Lindell and David Akers as the next best options. I think it’s Henery’s job for now. If he struggles this summer, that’s when you could see another kicker brought in.

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  • PaoliBulldog

    I don’t understand the love for Brad Smith. Keep one of the young wideouts instead.

    • aub32

      He’s an okay backup WR, plays STs, and most importantly is probably a better QB option than either Sanchez or Barkley.

      • Tikkit

        Good answer. Can we release Barkley/Sanchez now?

        • Eagles1018


    • Scott J

      I’m not sure how Kelly will use Smith, but with our experiences with Vick and Brown, I’m not a fan of gimmicky wildcat plays. They seem to take an offense out of rhythm.

    • travis papa

      All joking aside Smith maehl or Johnson bring nothing special or irreplaceable to the team. Benn and momah should make the team. Momah could bring some ST play and a handful of RZ catches

      • Richard Colton

        No he can’t. Mohmah is the new Plexico. We’re going to keep talking about him every year until he retires or accidentally shoots himself in the leg.

        • Andy124

          Momah is better than Calvin Johnson. He’ll make opposing DBs quit like Roberto Duran. We’ll call him No Mas Momah.

          • Richard Colton

            Why not? Seriously though Andy, Mohmah is a scrub. Not even working every day with Jordan Matthews will help him.

          • Tikkit

            Put it this way, I give equal odds to a baby giraffe making the team.

          • Richard Colton

            Imagine a baby giraffe in this offense? We would be unstoppable in the red zone.

          • Warhound

            JM had to rush to the zoo last night to help deliver a baby giraffe. He’s so humble he turned a zoo offer to name the little guy.

          • Andy124

            I’m told that Nick Foles is a baby giraffe, and so the odds are 100%.

          • Andy124

            When we see him play this preseason, eyes will be opened and and the masses will want to see no more of him. We’ll call him No Mas Momah.

          • Andy124

            On a more serious note, he’d have to improve a whole helluva lot to be an NFL player. But the odds of that happening are better than the odds of winning the lottery, and people still play the lottery every day. Hoping for Momah costs far less than playing the lottery.

            But do count me among those who do not expect anything from Momah. Still fun to imagine it though.

          • NickS1

            How do we know JMatt didn’t sneak Momah into that WR school with him?

          • Charliefoxtrot

            Like Richard said I’ve been agreeing much blog. After seeing my ex wife making $8000 a month using JMatt spells, I’ve sent the Momah good wishes for happy games.

        • Tikkit

          Even if he tried to shoot himself in the leg, J Matt would go all Neo on him and stop the bullet from penetrating his leg.

    • Kev_H

      I agree. I wouldn’t be surprised if our bloggers aren’t misreading the situation. I don’t know if Momah is NFL caliber, but if Benn is healthy, why would you keep Smith for WR, when he is 4 years older and has never been a better receiver? The only reason you would is for QB-type gimmick plays.

  • myeaglescantwin

    the only disappointment of this off season is the fact that Henry is still on this team.
    Especially with the increased emphasis on special teams.
    This dude is single handedly responsible for our struggles in field position.

    With the amount of scoring we do, i don’t see a bigger weakness on this team other than ol’ Noodle-leg-Henry.

    you mean to tell there’s no X-futbol player that can boot the ball out of the endzone??

    • aub32

      Many were singing the praises of Henery in late 2012. I say give him one more year. I’d rather him than some retread kicker that was worse than Henerey two years ago but had a good 2013.

      • myeaglescantwin

        really?? were they? i don’t recall him having great success at any stretch of his career. . (all seriousness)

        I’m just wondering where all the big legged, soccer players end up when their careers wash out.

        i’d say it might take about 1-3 months to learn the basics of football kicking, another year or two to get strong and accurate.

        • Andy124

          10 of 11 between 40-49 (2012) is very succesful. Never been a big boomer of kickoffs, but if he hit 10 out of every 11 fieldgoals from that range for the next 999 years, he’d be pretty excellent.

          • MediaMike

            not being a big boomer on kickoffs with this environment of easy to kick touchbacks is a joke. He needs to go.

        • Kev_H

          There are only two players in NFL history with more than 100 FG attempts and higher percentage made than Henery (who has only 86 attempts).

          • myeaglescantwin

            ok, still.

            we line up for a 43 yd attempt, on a gauge of 1-10, what is your confidence level.
            I’m at about a 4.

    • Token

      Yea its a joke

    • macadood

      hopefully he has been on maximum dose smoothies all off season and has noticeably gotten his leg strength up.

      Would be pretty funny if we brought Akers back

      • tommy_the_k

        Chip has got protein enemas concocted for Henery this season. All our kicking problems will be behind us.

    • BleedGreenJames

      welp, at least Roberto Aguayo can declare for next year’s draft

    • MediaMike

      Amen. Henery’s non-touchback at the start of the Saints drive that lost us the playoff game was disgraceful.

  • Thunderlips

    “Do you really want to put the backup spots in the hands of two players in Long and Marcus Smith who have yet to play an NFL snap?”

    That would be almost as bad as making a 4th round pick your starting MLB from day one.

    • myeaglescantwin

      that’s a good chuckle right there.

    • JosephR2225

      Kind of an odd question though, right? I have a hunch with no real evidence whatsoever that Smith would be the next man up whether Barwin OR Cole got hurt, so the only real concern would be if BOTH guys got hurt, in which case I wouldn’t be especially comfortable with Marcus Smith and Brandon Graham either.

      And is there any other team asking themselves if having their first round pick as a backup LB makes them uncomfortable? Aren’t first round picks supposed to be presumptive starters?

      • myeaglescantwin

        but what position outside of SS would our #1 selection have come in and start from day 1?

        WR? I’d say Matthews has as much of a chance as Cooks to be a day one starter. No DT, no LB, no OLB or CB would have come in and started right away.

        • JosephR2225

          I don’t mean to say it doesn’t make sense that Smith is a backup… I just mean that if having him as a back up makes the team nervous, they probably shouldn’t have picked him.

          • Andy124

            Which is to say, having him as a back up does not make the team nervous, unless you count giddy as a type of nervous.

          • JosephR2225

            That’s exactly what I mean. So my perspective is if they think Long can be a better player than Graham, take Long. The prospect of Long and Smith as backups doesn’t make me feel any better or worse than the prospect of Graham and Smith as backups, if they think Long is a better player. I think it’s an exciting prospect more than a nerve wracking prospect.

        • southy

          Lane started from day 1 last year

  • Token

    They are basically trotting the same team as last year onto the field. Maybe one with even more question marks then last year.

    Who the #3 RB is gonna be isnt high on my list of concerns. If McCoy goes down its all over anyway. I am surprised they are ok with Polk as basically the #2 back. Sproles isnt much for a running back anymore. Hes not gonna give you a ton on the ground.

    • Adam G

      Their secondary is much different, when you include backups. Also Carroll might be the starter. Mostly the changes have come on the depth side.

      • Max Lightfoot

        I agree about the improvement in depth, which was paper-thin last season. Injuries, as with all teams, really, are the key factor this season, with the other issue for the Eagles being that rookies Smith, Matthews and Huff – and a defensive rookie – hopefully making the team.

        But then again only a few teams are deep at all positions, and draft choices, no matter how high, are still a gamble. Go Eags!

      • Token

        Depth may be helped a bit. But who is to say? Are you including guys like Bramen or that Seattle discarded ST ace? I dont get to jacked up over ST guys. Its such a insignificant part of football anymore. Its sort of worrisome Chip puts so much resources into it honestly.

        But aside from that, theres no real evidence that these ST ace depth guys can even play a NFL position. So I dont really think they are much better off then last season depth wise.

        Jenkins is the guy everyone brings up as a huge change to the secondary. Look, I really hope he turns his career around here and is great. But the guy has made a living out of being marginal. A better DC couldnt do very much with him last season, Not expecting a huge improvement this year.

        Offensively it has the potential to be better, but with more questions. Can Maclin play 16 games and do well? Is Cooper really a quality WR? Can Sproles give them 1 or 2 more years? Is Foles the real deal? The line is older and still has no depth. And now is without a starter the 1st 4 games.

        This season is really gonna show how good Chip is. He will have to be amazing for them to meet expectations IMO. Its still a team that lacks talent at a whole bunch of spots.

        • NickS1

          You’re questioning of the team is valid. However, ST is a huge part of the game, if only for the field position battle. That alone makes upgrading it worthwhile. Are individual ST “aces” worth getting worked up over? As a fan, of course not, unless a guy makes crushing hits w/o helmets. Wait a minute…. But in terms of depth, are we asking guys to fill in for 10 games or a 2 quarters. Really depends on how you’re looking at it. Few teams have guys that can come in a play for 10 games with no dropoff. And I’m not huge Jenkins fan, but I’ve said it before (I think to you), Jenkins>TrashCan>Chung. He doesn’t need to turn his career around, just don’t tackle our own players. Offensively, no disagreements. Although I think injuries (lack of) is the biggest key, especially on the line.

          • Token

            Just dont see ST as a big deal. Kicker is honestly all that really matters. Having a good return man helps for sure but ive given up hope of that.

            But does even a ST returned TD usually make the difference in the game? Just doesnt seem like it does very often. Hell, it rarely happens at all. We have been through this ST ace collection drive last year and it made no difference. Guys that cant effectively play a real NFL position have no business on a 53 man roster IMO.

          • NickS1

            Points matter, so a TD on ST always matters. That said, having a kicker is big, a return man too, obv. But we all witnessed first hand during the NO game what breaking contain in special teams does. It’s why Cary Williams made the horse-collar tackle, because Colt Anderson broke contain to make a play. So yeah, it matters. It’s just the 3rd wheel of the game.

        • Kev_H

          Lack of special teams coverage played an enormous role in the Redskins horrendous season in 2013 and contributed greatly to the Eagles last two losses as well.

    • NickS1

      I’m not a big Polk guy, despite what he did in 10 carries last year. I’d like to see him traded to see what Tucker, Fluellen, and Josey can do. Tend to think Josey will be learning quite a bit from Sproles.

      • aub32

        Would you have preferred we traded Polk and kept Brown?

        • NickS1

          Is that rhetorical?

          • OldDocRoss

            Polk’s one of my favourite guys on the team but don’t see anyone giving up a draft pick for him because of durability concerns and the fact most teams believe you can pick up viable RBs late in the draft or in FA.

            Best we could hope for would be one of Howie’s swaps of players where the respective teams are unusually deep at different positions but I’d rather we just keep a hold of him.

          • NickS1

            Your second paragraph is what I was thinking, anyway. Although, I’d take a 6th for Polk in a heartbeat.

        • anon

          yes. Talent-wise, but Polk is what we need he’s a better blocker, better between the tackles runner, better work ethic. #RIPBB.

          • NickS1

            I can definitely get on board with this.

    • Richard Colton

      To be fair to Sproles, he never was much of a running back. Offensive playmaker? yes. Bellcow? never.

    • Fly High

      It seems that saying, “They are basically trotting the same team as last year onto the field. Maybe one with even more question marks then last year.” You are inferring that we are not any better and may be worse. That is an inaccurate assumption, because it assumes that having new players is the only or primary way teams get better.

      Teams get better because

      1) they get a new player who is better than an old player (sometimes an adjustment year is needed, during which they get worse first)
      2) Individual players get better because they work on their skills and get more used to the NFL, biggest jump in 2nd or 3rd year, usually
      3) Players get more effective because they get used to a scheme and to each other
      4) A new scheme better uses a player’s talents more (often there is an adjustment year or two, especially on D
      and specifically for the Eagles 5) Sports science helps a player be in better shape and produce more.

      Only 1 of these 5 requires different players. If a team has the right players, especially if a number of them are young, they can get better without adding anybody.
      The Eagles have a number of 2nd and 3rd year players, they are still adjusting to a new scheme on D. And they have specifically chosen coaches who love to teach, and players who love to learn. Throw in recovery and Sports Science, and I see a lot of reason that the Eagles will be better this year, maybe considerably better.
      I am predicting 12-4, and make it to the Conference Championship game.

      • Token

        This is the problem I think people are having. Year 1 broke the right way. Schedule was great to end the year. Things fell their way. Extremely healthy.

        The bar has been raised too high. Your expectations are just crazy to me. Its like we watched different teams. This is the same below average D that couldnt really stop good teams last year. They looked downright awful at times.

        This is the same offense, that while good, had quite a few games where they looked inept. Too many 3 and outs. Too many ruts. If Shady McCoy wasnt on this team last year many people I think would see this team in a really different light. He literally carried the team on his back at times.

        Peope that believe the team will get even better this year simply believe the coaching is the difference maker. And maybe that will turn out to be correct. I just dont think they have the horses. And I dont think the coaching can overcome the lack of talent. Bill Davis is not a great DC. In fact, I believe he puts this D in a position to not succeed with the scheme they play. Of course that many be Chip forcing his hand.

        Chip, I like the guy. I think what he does with the offense at its core. But theres still issues there. I need to see how he comes into 2014 with a year of tape to go through. This offense has to really be elite for this team to have a chance. And even then, is it enough? Will they be Denver from last year? I cant see that.

        Their clearly superior side of the football has a lot of questions going into this year. It could end up being a great unit again, but in no way is it a slam dunk if you are looking at it objectively.

        • Fly High

          I actually agree with you in some ways about last year. Token. I think we were somewhat lucky to make the playoffs and could have easily been 8-8. However, that does not dampen my enthusiasm for this year. We were clearly better the second half of the year, and even if we just played like that, probably a 10-6 team. this year.
          I think sports science is for real, I see what difference “recovery” makes in my performance, that is just one piece. I think last year will be about the baseline for the number of injuries we can expect. And notice we were not injury free, as I remember we lost the 4th least starter days to injuries, not even #1, and that is not even counting losing Maclin for the season, We lost our #1QB and played with our 3rd string guy in a couple of games.
          And is terms of gelling as a team, settling into the schemes, and seeing the real effects of Kelly’s training techniques, I think this is the year we see more progress. The Eagles were a little but of a fluke last year, this year I don’t think they will be.
          Yes, I guess I have drunk the kool-aid, I am an Oregon fan, and I believe in Kelly. I may be wrong, but I am laying it out there. 12-4

        • John E. Zang

          Saying this team wouldn’t be the same without Shady is like saying this team wouldn’t be the same without Nick Foles or Jason Peters or any other of the 22 starters. This is a team sport and not the NBA where one player can dominate and win games alone. And theres much to be positive about after this defenses first year in a new scheme with new players. They played tough with some mistakes at times but showed steady improvement. You have to watch them and get your head out of the stat sheets They should get better as a unit in year two.

      • Richard Colton

        you had me until sports science.

        We were very lucky last year with in-season injuries and schedule. Can’t expect that to go our way forever. If the 2012/2013/2014 pics pan out the way we hope, the team could be better than the 2013 product and still go 8-8 or 9-7.

      • DoctorRick

        Fly High, I think you and Token have been hanging out in my marijuana legal state, Washington, only you are Flyin’ High thinking 12-4 and he has been Tokin’ some bad sh*t and is Mr. Negative. I hope you are right at 12-4 but it might be wishful thinking, and Token provides a good foil, being always glass half empty, but he is consistent.
        Go Birdz!

    • Kev_H

      Sheesh! I’m glad you aren’t running the show. In 2012 and 2013 combined, Eagles running backs who aren’t LeSean McCoy rushed for 1,045 total yards, 4.9 yards per carry and 10 TDs. McCoy is a unique threat and is especially valuable for his ball protection and durability, but if McCoy (or any non-QB) goes down, the Eagles’ offense will still hum. You’d think memories of the last two Eagles’ playoff losses would clarify the role of the “feature” running back in the modern NFL. It’s kind of like the closer in baseball.

      • Token

        This was closer to a 6-10 team if McCoy wasnt on the field last year IMO. Amazing that the guy still doesnt get his due. McCoy allowed Foles to have the year he did.

    • MediaMike

      I’ve seen Darnell Autry (off of the street), Dorsey Levens, and Brian Mitchell all run for 100 yard days are Eagles with a worse run blocking group and this; we can always scare up multiple running backs off of the street if we need to be without Shady for a period of time.

  • Tikkit

    Look if Lane Johnson is indeed suspended that means he got his hands on PEDs. If he did indeed get said PEDs and didn’t share them with Henery, then he should be released.
    Note: The reason that Johnson’s suspension hasn’t been made official has to do with the fact that J Matt is such a great lawyer and is holding up the process with timely rebuttals and Jonny Cochrane style rhyming defenses.

    • jabostick

      Thats totally unrealistic.

      Matthews probably went to Goodell and said “This is not the PED user you are looking for”
      *hand wave*
      and now Goodell is busy explaining to his staff that their results are incorrect.

      • Richard Colton

        Of course he’s a Jedi. Now it makes sense.

        • Tikkit

          Now I feel stupid. Sorry Obi Matt.

    • Amar

      Don Cheadle, ‘My clients don’t go to jail’

      JMatt, “My teammates don’t get suspended, Mr.Goodell”

    • rosariopwetzler

      just before I looked at the receipt ov $8130 , I
      didn’t believe that my sister woz like actualy bringing in money part-time from
      there pretty old laptop. . there aunts neighbour has been doing this 4 only
      about 22 months and at present repayed the mortgage on their appartment and
      bought themselves a Chrysler . see here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • Pennguino

    Look at who is the most likely to make the team and then the key positional battles and then lump the rest together.
    Bracket 1: Starters / second team
    3 QB: Nick, Mark, Matt
    3 RB: Shady, Darren, Chris
    4 WR: Mac, Coop, Jedi, Huff
    3 TE: Celek, Ertz, Casey
    6 OL: Peters, Evan, Kelce, Todd, Lane, Barbre
    19 Offense

    3 DE: Cox, Ced, Curry
    1 DT: Logan
    4 OLB: Barwin, Trent, Smith, Braman
    3 ILB: Meco, Mychal, Phillips
    3 S: Wolff, Maragos, LeeRoooooooooy MMMMJenkinsssssss
    4 CB: Carey, Boykin, Nolan, Fletch
    18 Defense
    2 ST: Donnie, Alex

    39 total out of 53 man roster leaving 14
    Key battles Offense (4 Make it)
    OL is the thinnest right now. Kelly and fan favorite Bamiro probably both make the team. At least fr the first 4 games if Lane is suspended. Kelly as 10 starts under his belt (3 RG, 7 RT). He will be first off the bench if Barbre is starting at RT. Vandy is the edge at center but is not locked in as the #2 guy. The 5th WR will be fighting as a ST/WR guy thus fighting 5 other guys for a slot. Is there ever going to be a play where either Shady, Sproles, Ertz or Celek not going to be on the field?

    Defense (3 Make it)
    Key back up to nose tackle and middle linebacker is what stands out the most. At DT I would assume Beau Allen makes it. He is only a 7th rounder so it is not a lock. It’s between him and Square. A good chance they don’t carry a third NT. What a muddled position we have at LB. The real battle everyone is watching is Graham and Travis Long. I honestly believe they will not release Brandon if he doesn’t get traded. Is Long ready to step up now that he is healed? One of them will make the roster. As far as ILB. It’s a toss up. There is no one ILB that has stood out. Does Jake Knott make it while facing his 4 game suspension? I still think Nate Allen makes it as a starter and improves with Jenkins’ help and mentoring.

    That leaves 7 positions open. Will need another DE and at least another DB. Who will emerge as the return specialist. Can someone unseat Sproles and claim a spot on the roster. So out of the 90 man roster there really is only about 5 spots that are open regardless of position.