Eagles Positional Battles: Running Back

By Tom Long, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

All things considered, the Philadelphia Eagles had a valuable draft. Throughout the draft, the team was able to get players who can make an immediate impact.

Now, the Eagles will find themselves with several positional battles once camp starts. Today, we'll take a look at the potential battle at the running back position.

Last year, the Eagles lacked a balance in the offensive play calling, relying on Carson Wentz's passing game far too heavily. The combined effort from Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and Ryan Mathews resulted in many inconsistencies, a topic which feels like beating a dead horse at this point.

Mathews' return to Philadelphia is in question due to injuries, or quite possibly due to his age and the direction the Eagles are heading. I would consider him a non-factor at this point, due to the number of other potential options the team has. 

The Eagles drafted San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey, who is ironically similar in size and run style to Sproles and Smallwood. Pumphrey should have quite a battle against Smallwood. Both are young, quick backs who will work most efficiently in a rushing attack by committee. 

Sproles could definitely lose playing time to Pumphrey this year, filling a more veteran-type role. However, this works nicely for Sproles, proving throughout his career that he can be an effective change-of-pace back.

The big question remaining for the Eagles is if they choose to add a feature back through free agency or trade, which has been heavily rumored. The list of potential targets includes Mark Ingram, LeGarrette Blount and Jeremy Hill. Ingram, at this point, is probably the most likely to be acquired, if the Eagles go this route.

Ingram is 27 years old, coming off a season averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Blount, in comparison, is a veteran who had some solid success with the Patriots. He posted an incredible 18 touchdowns last season, as the 30-year-old back shows he has some gas left in the tank so to speak. Finally, Hill is reaching the end of his rookie contract. The Bengals drafted Joe Mixon to an already complicated backfield, featuring Hill and Giovanni Bernard

Overall, this position battle will be interesting to watch. With so many uncertainties in the run game, the Eagles and Doug Peterson will utilize whichever player looks most productive as the season approaches. Expect to see a full-team effort as the season begins, if they do not acquire another back.

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