Staley: ‘We Won’t Have Any Problems’
The members of the original three-headed monster had to swallow their pride. Playing for a pass-happy coach like Andy Reid, carries were hard to come by anyway. Now they were being asked to divide those limited touches three ways. Correll Buckhalter led the team with 126 rushing attempts (only 7.8 carries per game) in 2003. Brian Westbrook got 117 carries. Duce Staley toted the ball just 96 times.
More than a decade later, Chip Kelly has assembled his own talented three-man group. The question is worth asking: are there enough carries to go around?
“[T]hese guys have been playing 75, 80 percent of the time, so it’s a little bit different if they get that knocked down to 50 percent of the time,” Westbrook explained. “So it’s going to be a learning process for them, but it’s hard to stay involved in the game when you’re on the sideline during the plays when you think you should be out there, so it becomes frustrating just a bit. But I think over time, they will figure it out and they’ll run enough plays here to make sure everybody gets their opportunity.”
It was easier for the original group to humble themselves and split time. Buckhalter missed all of 2002 with a torn ACL. Westbrook was a second-year player with just 193 career rushing yards to his name and Staley was coming off a pair of seasons that saw him average under four yards per carry.
But DeMarco Murray is the 2014 rushing champ. Ryan Mathews has totaled over 5100 yards from scrimmage in his five-year career and Darren Sproles was named to his first Pro Bowl a year ago.
As a veteran, Staley knows what it is like to take a cut in carries.
“There wasn’t any challenges, I just accepted my role, whatever it was,” Staley said after the Eagles practice Saturday. “I was in with different personnel, my number was called and I accepted my role so as a running back, you have that competitive edge about you, you want the ball on every play just like a receiver or anybody else does, but you have to understand what is going on when you have other backs involved and I did.”
Westbrook also admitted that it was much easier for him to accept a role on a committee because he played so little his rookie season.
“It is tough, especially with these guys,” Westbrook said. “Ryan Mathews, he was a starter out there in San Diego, DeMarco was starting, so they’re used to being on the field most of the game. For me it was a little different, because I was coming from not playing very much to playing a little bit, which felt pretty good, and [I] wasn’t as hungry to play as much because I was working in the system.”
Staley is the connection between both groups and as the current running backs coach, he will be tasked with divvying up the carries over the course of the season. He maintains his belief in riding the hot hand, but wants to make sure each guy is healthy and ready to go at the end of game and the end of the season.
But will anyone get upset about being taken out? Will someone have an issue with taking less playing time?
“No, we won’t have any problem,” Staley stated. “None.”