The running back depth

At 5'11" and 223 pounds with 4.37 speed, Bryce Brown is one of a couple talented young backs on the roster.

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. Last year LeSean McCoy played more snaps than any other running back in football and that was despite missing an entire game against the Redskins. If the Eagles want McCoy to be around for a significant amount of time, it would be wise not to run him into the ground like the Chiefs did with Larry Johnson, like the Ravens did with Jamal Lewis and like the Titans did with Chris Johnson.

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.

Dion Lewis: I’m actually pretty excited to see Dion Lewis get more carries, he flashed some electric moves and good potential all year. He’s a small guy who won’t push the pile or punish defenders but he’s got great quickness and he reaches top speed quickly, he’s shifty and hard to grab in the open field, he’s small and can hide behind the offensive line and he’s got a good feel on inside runs and isn’t your typical “bounce it outside” scat-back. He’s got some Tiki Barber in him.

Bryce Brown: This guy is a talent, thats for sure but he’s talent with issues. He smashed county records in high school and he was the #1 overall recruit at any position according to rivals back in 2009. He produced a bit in his freshman year at Tennessee but after the season Lane Kiffin skipped town for his dream job at USC and Brown’s college career was completely thrown off track. Brown then transfered to Kansas State to play with his brother, linebacker Arthur Brown. At Kansas State he got hurt early, he was upset with his playing time and he decided to leave the team. Issues.

But after everyone wrote Bryce Brown off as an overrated high school talent, he lit up his pro-day. At 5’11” and 223 pounds, Brown blazed a 4.37 40 yard dash time. Combine his stellar pro-day with solid tape as a freshman and Brown found himself being picked late in the draft. Wes Bunting, scout for the National Football Post, was a guy who liked Brown despite his past issues saying:

Possesses natural girth and muscle tone through his upper body. But, looks a bit thin and lean through the lower half. … Displays a good first step when pressing the line of scrimmage and runs initially with a good forward lean. He displays a good feel when asked to press the line of scrimmage or edge on perimeter runs and looked very comfortable in Tennessee’s zone scheme in 2009. Felt defenders well around him, displayed good lateral quickness when asked to put his foot in the ground and accelerated quickly into the open field. Showcased some natural wiggle as well as a cut back guy, setting up blocks and using his foot quickness/burst and make a man miss and burst into the open field. Once he collected his feet, did a nice job finishing runs, lowing his pad level and falling forward on contact.

Who remembers watching LeSean McCoy dance around and broadcasters saying that “He’s really good but Mudd wants him to follow his blockers and go to green”? I do. Thats what Mudd wants out of his running backs, he wants his backs to follow his blockers, get to the second level and attack cut back lanes. Bryce Brown is a guy who does those things well when he’s at his best.

Chris Polk: This guy, was an absolute steal in undrafted free agency. His injury concerns are vastly overrated, they didn’t stop him from carrying the ball on Saturdays and they won’t stop him from carrying the ball on Sundays either. He had a shoulder issue last year and had surgery but that isn’t an issue this year or moving forward according to Dr. James Andrews saying that “”If I thought Chris had a problem that needed fixing, I would have operated, but there was not a problem”.

Side note: I’m convinced that Dr. James Andrews has a surgery drive through

Polk played his ass off at Washington and he sacrificed himself for the team. He ran hard and he carried that team’s running game, providing both Jake Locker and Keith Price with a consistent running game to rely on.

Polk isn’t a picture perfect running back, he’s not super bulky, he’s not ripped and he runs high. But when those pads go on, he punishes people. He throws his body into contact and he’s without a doubt the most physical running back west of the Mississippi in college football (Trent Richardson claims the east). He’s just a natural with the football. He presses the hole, he allows his blockers to get into position, great patience, he knows when to accelerate and he doesn’t fumble the ball. He’s a downhill force who pushes the pile and once he hits the second level and gets to top speed, its like a runaway freight train. Chris Polk should have been drafted much earlier but I’m happy he ended up in Philadelphia because his running style compliments LeSean McCoy’s and Dion Lewis’ perfectly.

At Washington he put up 4049 rushing yards, 26 total touchdowns and had 3 straight 1000 yard rushing seasons. And despite carrying the ball 799 times, he only fumbled the ball 5 times and he had a 23 game stretch where he didn’t fumble the ball at all.

His disciplined and physical running style combined with his reliability and consistency have earned him comparisons to Arian Foster. I’m not sure he’s that good yet but Polk really is a player that we’re lucky to have gotten. He’s closer to Pierre Thomas than he is Foster IMO but I can see why people make the comparison.

Graig Cooper: Cooper is another guy who slid into undrafted free agency because of injury issues. In 2009 he tore his ACL and he struggled to return in 2010 and because of it, he slipped in the 2011 draft. He’s now 3 years removed from ACL surgery and he should be 100%. Prior to tearing his ACL, he was seen as a good all-purpose back who would likely end up being drafted fairly early in the draft.

Tony Pauline of Sports Illustrated said this of Cooper:

 “Cooper rated as one of the best running back prospects in the nation until his injury. At the top of his game he justifiably reminds many of former Miami star Frank Gore with his ability to create yardage and elude defenders. Cooper looked like a shell of himself last year when he was just eight months removed from major knee surgery. He may take a while to return to form, if he ever does, but Cooper is capable of producing at the next level if he gets his game back.”

At Miami he was the starter over stellar running back recruit LaMar Miller and he finished his career at Miami with 465 carries for 2383 yards (5.1 YPC), 66 receptions for 402 yards and 16 touchdowns on offense. When taking into account his return numbers, Cooper finished with 3864 all-purpose yards and 17 total touchdowns (1 kick returned for a touchdown).

 

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