Taking stock of the Eagles running back depth.
The hardest position on the Philadelphia Eagles roster to figure out as final cuts draw near is easy to identify: running back. The only two locks are the obvious contributors: 2013 NFL leading rusher LeSean McCoy and offensive weapon Darren Sproles. Beyond that, it's a mystery as to whom the Eagles will keep. With that said, let's take stock of the backup running backs.
Chris Polk: N/A
Henry Josey: 34 attempts, 225 yards, 6.6 y/a, long 27
Matthew Tucker: 24 attempts, 125 yards, 5.4 y/a, long 24, 4 TD, 1 fumble
Kenjon Barner: 12 attempts, 53 yards, 4.4 y/a, long 16
All of these numbers don't look too bad. Josey clearly stands out at the top.
Henry Josey has remained healthy throughout the entire summer. Chris Polk missed all but two or three days of training camp practice (so he's not PUP eligible) with a slight hamstring tear. Matthew Tucker left the Jets game with a left shoulder injury and Kenjon Barner left the Jets game with an ankle injury. Both were not able to return.
Chip Kelly always stresses the importance of special teams when it comes to depth players. It only makes sense because those depth players, if they're even active, are likely only able to contribute on special teams when they're buried behind more-talented starters. Kelly knows Barner can play special teams, even though he really hasn't impressed as a returner. Tucker is a player that special teams coordinator Dave Fipp has mentioned as a solid ST contributor, and the same goes for Polk. But how does Josey factor in there? It remains to be seen.
Awesome offensive line play
Looking at the stats from above it's clear the blocking has been great for all of the running backs. The second string Eagles offensive line has managed to open big gaps for their rushers.
Keep summer play in context
I'm not trying to take away anything from Henry Josey's very impressive summer, but it's always important to keep things in perspective. Eagles linebackers Chris McCoy and Emmanuel Acho looked flat out dominant at times last summer. Neither would go on to last on the team's regular season roster and both have yet to make a meaningful contribution in an NFL game. Again, that's not to say the same will be true for Josey if he if released. It's just something to consider.
What should happen
I think the Eagles should keep at least four running backs. McCoy and Sproles are obvious. Beyond that, Josey is easily the most deserving due to a great summer performance. He's also the only running back that's been able to stay healthy. I don't think the Eagles should give up on Chris Polk either. He's proven capable on special teams and he impressed at the end of the 2013 season. The injuries are definitely a concern. Matthew Tucker has also dealt with some injury issues, although to a lesser extent. The Eagles best bet might just be to keep these five and put Kenjon Barner, who has been OK but hasn't made a strong impression, on the practice squad.
What will happen
As seen in my final 53-man roster projection, I have the Eagles keeping five ball carriers with Josey on the outside looking in. There's no doubt cutting Josey would be disappointing but I can't shake the feeling Chip Kelly wants to keep Barner. Keep in mind the Eagles only have to convey the conditional 7th round pick to Carolina if Barner if on the active game roster for 4 or more games. I know it's not the most popular decision, and I'd be happy to be wrong.
Any way this shakes out, I'm going to look at it as a positive for the Eagles. Assuming the injuries don't linger for too long, Philadelphia could easily have a worse running back situation on their hands. The fact that there's a high level of competition going on here means the Eagles have some talented options to choose from. The decisions might not be easy, but that's potentially a good thing. So maybe that's something to keep in mind before getting too worked up about who the Eagles decide to cut/keep.
More from sbnation.com:
- How to watch Eagles vs. Jets
- Sports Illustrated Cover features Nick Foles and Tony Romo
- Five Uniforms Alex Henery Would Look Better In Than An Eagles Uniform
- Chip Kelly's cut process
- Eagles vs. Jets score updates
- Joe Banner, former Eagles president, calls Chip Kelly a Top 5 head coach
- Chip Rules Everything Around Me
- Buy the Eagles Almanac now!