Eagles Offseason Preview: Running Backs

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NFL free agency opens up on March 15 and with it, the 2016 NFL season begins.

From now until then, I'll take a look at what to expect at each position. I've already covered the offensive line, tight ends and wide receivers.

Up today: running backs. 

Who's Here

Active Roster: Kenjon Barner, Ryan Mathews, DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles

Practice Squad: Kevin Monangai, Ross Scheuerman

Who Stays

Murray was a complete disappointment in 2015, rushing for just 702 yards and a career-low 3.6 yards per carry. Many fans wouldn't mind seeing the Eagles hand him his walking papers, but his salary will hinder any sort of trade and Jeffrey Lurie won't want to eat all of his salary. So Doug Pederson better find a way to fit Murray into his offense because he's here for 2016.

Sproles also has value as a top-tier punt returner and could go back to a role like the one he had in New Orleans in Pederson's west coast offense. His limited number of snaps over his career makes his age a bit deceiving, but with his skill set, Sproles' decline will be a sharp one. The Eagles need to tread carefully with him moving forward. 

Barner is young and versatile. It'll be interesting to see if he can succeed without Chip Kelly on the sideline.

Who Goes

Mathews was the Eagles most effective runner last year, but suffered a concussion late in the year and struggled upon his return. He's a very talented back, but has struggled with injuries throughout his career, which led to the Eagles being able to sign him at a discount last offseason. The team has a lot of money tied up at running back and could look to move Mathews for a late-round pick in order to save some cap space.

Monongai and Scheuerman finished the year on the practice squad. Neither one is an improvement over the guys on the active roster and may not even survive training camp.

Who's Available

Free Agency: There are a lot of big names available this offseason with Reggie Bush, Doug Martin and Matt Forte headlining the class. Like I said earlier, the Eagles already have too much money invested in the position and will be looking to save money, not spend more of it. 

Expect them to skip running backs in free agency. 

NFL Draft: If the Eagles do decide to part ways with Mathews, that could leave a roster spot open for a rookie who could develop behind Murray and Sproles. Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliot is the top back available, but the Eagles won't be looking at guys until at least the middle rounds.

Someone such as Notre Dame's C.J. Prosise could be a decent pick in the middle rounds. He played running back for just one year and could use some seasoning. 

No matter what, the Eagles need to get younger at the running back position soon.

Did You Know?

2015 was the first season the Eagles averaged under four yards per carry since 2005. That year, Brian Westbrook led the team with 617 yards and Ryan Moats added 278 of his own. Despite Andy Reid's insistence on throwing the ball early and often, his offense's were often able to run the ball effectively when they needed to.

It will be interesting to see how Pederson handles the run game. Will he adopt Big Red's style of a pass-happy offense or will he rely on Murray and Sproles to take the pressure off Sam Bradford or whatever young quarterback is brought in? Either way, the Eagles need the run game to become competent again if they want to stay competitive in 2016.

Tucker Bagley is a columnist for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @tbagley515.

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