Free Agent Running Back Overview


LeSean McCoy leads a strong group of running backs in Philadelphia (Image Courtesy of

Over the next couple of weeks, Eagledelphia will be addressing the Eagles free agents needs while evaluating producing a position-by-position analysis.

The today’s area to be addressed: Running Back.

The Eagles trio of running backs is perhaps the strongest in the NFL.

In starting running LeSean McCoy, the Eagles have one of the best backs in football. McCoy led the league in rushing yards (1,607) and rushing attempts (314), while catching 52 passes, good for second on the team. Shady was also able to find the end zone 11 times on his way to breaking Philadelphia Eagles records for most rushing yards and all-purpose yards in a season.

McCoy received many accolades during his historic season. Besides rewriting the Eagles record books, the Harrisburg native was named to his second Pro Bowl and recognized as a first team All-Pro for the second time. McCoy also took home the FedEx Ground Player of the Year award as well as NFC Offensive Player of the Year.

While McCoy excelled in Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense, there is cause for concern on the number of snaps that he played. Going forward, the Eagles will need to be careful of Shady’s workload, and to do that, they will need to utilize backup running backs Bryce Brown and Chris Polk .

Brown, now entering his third year in the NFL, burst onto the scene as a rookie when McCoy was injured. In consecutive games, Brown ran for 178 and 169 yards, respectively. 2013 was different for the Kansas State product, however, as he only ran the ball 75 times and had limited results.

Polk, on the other hand, appears to be gaining on Brown to be McCoy’s primary backup. While Polk was limited in his rookie season due to nagging injuries, he proved more productive during the 2013 season when given the opportunity. Although Polk only carried the ball 11 times, he either ran for a first down or scored a touchdown on five of those carries.

Also on the roster is Matthew Tucker. Tucker spent part of the season on the practice squad but was elevated to the roster when Polk sustained a shoulder injury during week six. Tucker was active for only two games and did not receive a carry.

Barring a trade of either Brown or Polk, the Eagles appear locked at running back. The Birds have every ingredient to have a successful rushing attack. In McCoy, they have a perennial rushing champion. In Brown, they have a capable back up to fill in with speed to get to the outside. In Polk, the Eagles have a straight-ahead rusher who is not afraid to be physical.

As such, the Eagles will likely stay away from the big names like Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden in free agency. If the Birds were to sign a running back, expect that player to someone who can add depth as well as a strong special teams performer. Below are three possible veteran additions that fit the above criteria.

1. Brian Leonard. The former Rutgers running back/fullback spent last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Leonard is a hybrid back, as he has spent time as a lead blocker as well as running the ball. The former second-round pick also as good hands, and could be a cheaper alternative to hybrid tight end James Casey.

2. LaGarrette Blount. Blount played under Chip Kelly at Oregon, so bringing in another Duck would not be a surprise to Eagles fans. Blount packs power and size (250 pounds) with surprising speed. This year he returned kicks for New England, and did not look out of place doing so. A stellar postseason will more than likely price him out of the Eagles range, but don’t be surprised if the Birds sniff around the former Patriot.

3. LaRod Stephens-Howling. A “scat back” who spent last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Stephens-Howling who was active for just one game last season, is primarily a kick returner. While with Arizona in 2010, he led the NFL in kick return yardage, which included two touchdowns and a 102-yard return.

Keep an eye on: John Kuhn. Although it appears that Kuhn will return to Green Bay, he is the type of short-yardage back the Eagles could utilize. If contract negotiations stall with the Packers, Kuhn will look at other offers. A true fullback, he has decent hands and good size that could add a new dimension to Chip Kelly’s offense and provide a lead blocker for LeSean McCoy.

 Hal Greenblatt covers the Eagles for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter: @HMGreenblatt


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