Eagles

This offseason, Eagles need to finally find stability at running back

This offseason, Eagles need to finally find stability at running back

When Chip Kelly traded away LeSean McCoy nearly four years ago, he sent the Eagles down a road of complete instability at that position. In the four seasons since that move, the Eagles have had four different leading rushers. 

This offseason, it’s time for the Eagles to find a new featured back. 

There are options, of course. They can try to pick one up in free agency, they can make a trade or they can try to draft the next guy, which is probably the way I’d lean.  

I know what you’re going to say: Well, the Eagles won a Super Bowl with a running back by committee. Doug Pederson seems to prefer it.

I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. This past season, the Eagles seemed eager to find out if Josh Adams could be the lead guy. They want someone to be the starter and at least be the primary runner of the group. That guy needs to be a three-down back who can catch the ball too. 

Think about this: Before Chipper traded away McCoy, Shady led the Eagles in rushing for six straight seasons. Before then, Brian Westbrook led the team in rushing for six straight seasons. So that was 12 straight years (2003-2014) with two of the best running backs in franchise history. Before then, Duce did it in four of five seasons and, before that, Ricky Watters did it for three straight. The Eagles haven’t had this type of instability at running back since the '80s. 

Since Shady’s last season in Philly, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount and Adams have all had their turn as the Eagles’ leading rusher. 

And in 2014, his last season with the Eagles, McCoy rushed for 1,319 yards. In the four years since, the Eagles’ top two rushers in each season added together haven’t reached that total. The closest they came was when Murray and Mathews combined for 1,241 in 2015. 

Take a look at the last four years: 

2018
Josh Adams: 120 carries, 511 yards, 3 TDs
Wendell Smallwood: 87 carries, 364 yards, 3 TDs
Corey Clement: 68 carries, 259 yards, 2 TDs
Jay Ajayi: 45 carries, 184 yards, 3 TDs
Darren Sproles: 29 carries, 120 yards, 1 TD

2017
LeGarrette Blount: 173 carries, 766 yards, 2 TDs
Corey Clement: 74 carries, 321 yards, 4 TDs
Jay Ajayi: 70 carries, 408 yards, 1 TD 
Wendell Smallwood: 47 carries, 174 yards, 1 TD
Kenjon Barner: 16 carries, 57 yards, 1 TD
Darren Sproles: 15 carries, 61 yards 

2016 
Ryan Mathews: 155 carries, 661 yards, 8 TDs 
Darren Sproles: 94 carries, 438 yards, 2 TDs
Wendell Smallwood: 77 carries, 312 yards, 1 TD
Kenjon Barner: 27 carries, 129 yards, 2 TDs
Byron Marshall: 19 carries, 64 yards 
Terrell Watson: 9 carries, 28 yards, 1 TD

2015
DeMarco Murray: 193 carries, 702 yards, 6 TDs 
Ryan Matthews: 106 carries, 539 yards, 6 TDs
Darren Sproles: 83 carries, 317 yards, 3 TDs
Kenjon Barner: 28 carries, 124 yards

In the four years since Shady has been gone, the Eagles have drafted just two running backs. They took Smallwood in the fifth round of the 2016 draft and took Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. Smallwood has at least developed into a serviceable backup/rotational player, but Pumphrey hasn’t played a single snap in the NFL. 

Looking at the position now, there are obvious question marks just with the guys who were on the team last year. Ajayi is coming off a torn ACL, already had knee problems and is a pending free agent. Darren Sproles is a 35-year-old pending free agent who might retire. Clement is under contract but is coming back from a season-ending knee injury of his own. Adams was the leading rusher in 2018 but was benched in the playoffs. And Smallwood is under contract but clearly isn’t going to be the No. 1. 

The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first two rounds since they took Shady back in 2009, but with two second-round picks this year, maybe that changes. Either way, it’s time to finally find some stability that hasn’t been there for the last four seasons.

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Nick Foles willing and ready to help Peyton Manning take down Tom Brady

Nick Foles willing and ready to help Peyton Manning take down Tom Brady

Anytime you put a microphone in front of Peyton Manning, it’s good TV. 

Today is no exception. 

Tiger Wood and Manning are golfing against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady today in a nationally televised showdown, Champions for Charity, to raise money to assist coronavirus relief efforts. 

Manning was trying to figure out who he could have gotten to caddy for him to rattle Brady and he landed on two names. 

“It’s hard to get to him,” Manning said. “So do you bring Eli? Could do that. Do you bring Nick Foles? Maybe.” 

That’s when Brady turned around: “That’s a cheap shot.”  

And Foles is ready! 

Could you imagine: It’s all tied up going into the final hole, Foles walks up next to Manning just before Brady’s tee shot … “You want Philly Philly?” 

Brady might be a six-time Super Bowl champion but he’s lost three times in the big game. To Eli Manning in 2008 and 2011 and to Foles in 2017. 

You might remember that game. You know, the one where Foles outplayed the greatest quarterback in NFL history, winning Super Bowl LII MVP, as the Eagles won 41-33 to kick off the greatest party in Philadelphia’s history. 

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Why Merrill Reese was afraid of blowing call of Eagles' Super Bowl LII win

Why Merrill Reese was afraid of blowing call of Eagles' Super Bowl LII win

Merrill Reese had been waiting 40 year for this moment.
 
And he was nervous.
 
After announcing Eagles games since 1977, including two Super Bowl losses, he was about to call one of the biggest plays in Eagles history.
 
Nine seconds left. 
 
Eagles 41, Patriots 33. 
 
Patriots near midfield. 
 
One play left.

People say, ‘Were you nervous before that last play,' and the answer is yes,” Reese recalled this week on the Eagle Eye podcast. “But my nervousness was not on whether or not the Eagles would win that game. Because Brady didn’t have an Aaron Rodgers arm, and I had a feeling he was going to have trouble getting it there at that point where a Rodgers gets it way up in the air. I thought the Eagles were going to hold on. I was worried because we were sitting in the exact opposite corner of the end zone in Minneapolis and I was 110 yards away from where that ball landed and I didn’t want to be known as the announcer who blew the Super Bowl call. That’s why I was nervous.

As the world watched, Tom Brady’s Hail Mary pass fell incomplete, the clock hit 0:00, the Eagles had their first Super Bowl championship and Reese didn’t blow the call.

As it went up there I followed it and I was able to see it, and I said, ‘It’s batted around and it’s … INCOMPLETE.’ Quickly, I looked up at the clock and I said, ‘The game is over and the Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions, and then I said what I felt and I said, ‘Eagles fans everywhere, this one’s for you, let the celebration begin.’ That’s just what came out.

It was vintage Reese including the fans in his iconic call as the Eagles won their first NFL title in 57 years.
 
Reese appeared on the latest Eagle Eye podcast with Dave Zangaro and myself and spoke about how he prepared for the biggest moment of his professional career.
 
“There are broadcasters who will write out a paragraph to describe a championship if it occurs so they get it right,” he said. “We’ve been through this so many times - all of us - that I felt that I just wanted to let my emotion play out.”
 
Reese is a Philly guy, grew up in Overbrook Park, graduated from Overbrook High and Temple, spent all his life here.
 
Nobody connects with Eagles fans like Merrill.
 
And that synergy was fundamental in his impromptu call at the end of the Super Bowl.
 
“I want the Eagles to win the Super Bowl for the fans,” Reese said. “These are people, some of whom take second mortgages to buy their season tickets, people who spend their last dollars to buy their kids Carson Wentz jerseys for Christmas, these are the people who come out for wins and losses, ice, snow and rain, these are the people that I want that Super Bowl for. … That’s who deserved it more than anyone else. Best fans in the world. They’re great.”

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