It’s the NFL offseason so that means it’s time for some arbitrary rankings. The latest come from NFL.com: Bucky Brooks made a list of the NFL’s Top 10 scariest position groups. The Philadelphia Eagles’ running backs made the cut at No. 6:
“When Chip Kelly traded LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills early this offseason, few expected the Eagles’ running back rotation to eventually improve. Yet, the Eagles suddenly sport a frightening backfield trio of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles (pictured). Murray is the reigning NFL rushing king and sports a downhill running style that is better suited to Kelly’s zone-based system than McCoy’s shifty approach. Mathews is a versatile playmaker capable of ripping off 100-yard games as a runner or receiver. The sixth-year pro has battled through a host of injuries throughout his career, but a pair of 1,000-yard seasons illustrate his raw talent. Sproles is the most explosive returner in the game, but it is his electric talent as a rusher/receiver that scares defensive coordinators around the NFL. In Kelly’s warp-speed offense, the thought of defending a diverse, three-man backfield will induce headaches in defensive meetings.”
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Patrick Wall recently wrote a great article about the Eagles’ run game. Go check it out if you haven’t already.
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It’ll definitely be interesting to see how the Eagles split up the touches. In past years, the Eagles have used single running back formations more than any other team. Will that change now? Will Philadelphia use a heavy rotation?
In any case, it’s clear Chip Kelly wanted to get back to running the football. The team kind of got away from that in 2014 due to the struggles of the offensive line and the struggles of McCoy. In 2013, the Eagles offense was at its’ best when the run game was firing on all cylinders.
The running back position is generally thought to be devalued since the players have relatively short shelf lives. Not to mention that it can be rather fungible. Kelly rejected this type of conventional wisdom when he invested big money into Murray and Mathews this offseason. He wants a strong running game at any cost.
While the talent at running back is certainly intriguing, there are obviously some concerns. One reason the Eagles’ running back corps could be “scary” is because Murray and Mathews have significant injury histories. Also note that Sproles turns 32 this summer.
Another issue is about the blocking up front. The Eagles could have two new starters at offensive guard depending on what happens with Evan Mathis. There are also question marks about the depth
If the blocking can hold up and everyone stays healthy, however, these running backs should combine to be a pretty formidable unit. Murray will be the centerpiece but he doesn’t have to carry the load like he did last year. He’ll pound the rock hard and be able to get the tough yards the Eagles need on short downs and in the red zone. Sproles will be mixed in as a change of pace runner and a weapon in the passing game. As if that wasn’t enough, tired defenses might be forced to face a fresh Mathews late in the game when the Eagles want to kill the clock. That’s a potentially scary group, indeed.