A Closer Look at the Eagles Backup RB Situation

Just the other day, Kyle wrote a post about the Eagles depth at running back.

As you can see from that post, the Eagles have a number of talented, young running backs behind the Eagles All-Pro starting RB LeSean Kamel “Shady” McCoy. These aren’t guys you want starting for an extended period of time obviously, but they have the ability to contribute in a limited number of snaps. That’s exactly what backup RBs for the Eagles have been: players who don’t get many snaps.

Recent Eagles Backup RB History

Since McCoy took over as a full time starter in 2010, the Eagles have had 3 backup RBs: Mike Bell (2010), Jerome Harrison (2010) and Ronnie Brown (2011).

In the 5 games Mike Bell played as an Eagle, he had a mere 16 attempts. After those 5 games, the Eagles traded Bell for Jerome Harrison. Harrison recorded 40 attempts in 8 games played, although he did start 1 of those games in a meaningless Week 17 match against the Dallas Cowboys. In 2011, the Eagles backup was Ronnie “The Man Who Saved Jerome Harrison’s Life” Brown. He registered a mere 42 attempts in 16 games played. It is worth noting Brown started 2 of those games.

This confirms what we should already know by now: the Eagles don’t use their backup RB often. And this isn’t likely going to change. McCoy is too good of a player to keep off the field.  Although Andy has said he wants to reduce Shady’s reps, I doubt it will be any kind of significant decrease. But maybe a closer look tells us something else  – that the Eagles like to have a veteran as the backup RB. Bell, Harrison, and Brown were all considered veterans  in their time as Eagles. So might the Eagles be looking for another?

Kyle wrote:

A lot of people were expecting the Eagles to draft a running back fairly high in the draft after not adding a veteran in free agency and the logic behind that is pretty sound. […] But, the Eagles never added a free agent nor did they draft one. Whats the deal? They’re comfortable with their backups. At least that’s what Andy Reid says. And if what he says is actually true (you never know), you can see why. The Eagles have some talented young bodies at the running back spot who should be given a chance to make an impact.

And after acquiring those talented, young RBs, I was convinced the Eagles weren’t interested in adding a veteran at the position. After all, they hadn’t been linked to having interest in a veteran RB the whole off-season.

But then that changed. (More after the jump…)

Eagles Interested in adding a Veteran RB (?)

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/caplannfl/status/197428967039447041″]

Before I get into what I think this means, a brief history on Deji Karim (full name: Abdul-Gafar Olatokumbo Ayodeji Lamar Karim). Karim was the backup RB and primary KR for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Eagles apparently had interest in drafting him back in 2010. The Jags ended up taking him in the 6th, and he’s been the backup to workhorse RB Maurice Jones-Drew since.

So what’s this mean? The Eagles put in a claim on Karim, so clearly, they wanted him on their roster, but they lost out to the Colts since the Colts have a higher waiver claim order. But even more, this leads me to believe the Eagles want to add a veteran RB. Think about it: it’s not just running ability the Eagles are looking for. They want RBs who have the ability to pass block as well, especially since they love to air it out often. It also makes sense because the Eagles did not invest much into any of the backup RBs on this team. They’re all either late round draft picks or undrafted.

It’s also possible I’m just reading into things too much. As I mentioned earlier, the Eagles haven’t been linked to any other free agent RB this whole off-season. But if I’m right, there’s still some free agent veteran RBs the Eagles may have interest in.

Veteran Free Agent RB Targets

  • Joseph Addai – Used to play for the Colts while Howard Mudd was there. Has experience running in his scheme.
  • Justin Forsett – Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz has mentioned Forsett as a possible target. The Eagles worked out Forsett in a pre-draft visit in 2008 . Also can handle KRs.
  • Ryan Grant – Has some injury history, so he’s a perfect target for the Eagles! Joking aside, he could handle a backup role.

These are the guys I’m most interested in. You can see a full list of veteran free agent RBs here. There’s no real time frame for the Eagles to decide on a backup RB. Maybe they see something in post-draft mini-camps they don’t like and cut a RB. Maybe that happens in training camp instead. Or maybe it doesn’t happen at all, and they decide they like what they have. Whatever the case, the good thing about these veteran RBs is that they will come cheap since they’re not in demand. There’s no rush to go out and sign one. (Not that salary cap space is an issue for the Eagles anyway.)

Potential Dilemmas

The issue with going young at RB is that you’re potentially heavily relying on inexperienced players if (God forbid) Shady gets injured. It’s possible there may be a RB on the market who can fill in if needed should an injury happen, but it’s not a sure thing to get the guy they want. Shady has been able to stay healthy (knock on wood), so there’s no preexisting injury issues that are a concern for the future.

Some may say then, just to be safe, the Eagles should add a veteran RB. However, this move also causes a dilemma. Recent history indicates the Eagles are probably going to only keep 3 RBs. Shady is your 1, and the veteran would be your 2, but who’s your 3? The Eagles will have to part ways with one of D. Lewis / Polk / B. Brown / G. Cooper. Once again, there’s not a lot invested in these guys, but I’m sure the Eagles aren’t willing to part with them so soon either. I don’t think you want to store any of these guys on the Practice Squad either because other teams have the ability to sign them away. If the Eagles are indeed high on their young players, they shouldn’t keep a veteran RB on the final roster.

Therefore, the best decision for the Eagles is to wait and see how the young RBs do before deciding if they need to add a veteran to the mix. There will be veterans available if you need one in a pinch. You don’t want to dispose of young potential talent if you don’t have to.

TL;DR Version:

  • Shady is a beast. Therefore, he will continue to get a lot of snaps.
  • The Eagles have some young RBs with potential in Dion Lewis, Graig Cooper, Chris Polk, and Bryce Brown.
  • The Eagles barely use their backup RB.
  • The Eagles had interest in adding a veteran RB, and still might have interest. 
  • There are some decent veteran RB options should the Eagles want to sign one.
  • The Eagles should wait to sign a veteran RB only if they’re not confident in what they have and are potentially willing to risk losing one of their young backup RBs.
  • I just wrote over 1300 words on the Eagles backup RB situation. I win!

– Follow BG on Twitter – @PhillyFollower

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