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NFL Philadelphia Eagles

Previewing the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles: Backup Running Backs

This is the second article in a series in which I will take a look at the expected backup positions on the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles.

As fans, we know who the starters will be for almost every position next year. Michael Vick is the quarterback, LeSean McCoy is the running back, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are the wide receivers. We know all that.

What we don’t know yet as fans is who will be the backups at most positions, so this ten-part series will highlight my predictions for the non-starters on the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles. (Click here to read the backup quarterbacks.)

Running Backs:
There is nothing that could possibly happen at any point before or during the 2012 season for running back LeSean McCoy to lose his job as the starting running back for the Eagles. McCoy turns 24 next month and signed a five-year, $45 million contract extension this offseason. He is already one of the most successful running backs in franchise history, and his 20 total touchdowns last year broke Steve Van Buren’s record of 18 from the 1945 campaign.

Head coach Andy Reid admitted during the offseason that he probably overused McCoy a little bit during the 2011 season but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything is going to change in 2012. The Eagles do not like to use their backup running back. They never have in the Andy Reid era, whether it was Ronnie Brown, Correll Buckhalter, or Dorsey Levens.

So whoever does win the backup running back position for next year probably won’t play too much anyway. The three candidates for the position are Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, and Chris Polk, and whoever does win the role is probably going to be a below average backup running back.

Your average backup running back should be able to fill in at starter if needed, and that’s not something you’re going to want from the Eagles next year.

Lewis was the Eagles’ fifth round draft pick in 2010 and spent last season as the third string running back. He saw limited action, carrying 23 times for 102 yards and a touchdown. He also returned kicks for most of the season, but failed to express himself as an adequate return threat (long return of 33 yards). He likely has the advantage for the backup running back spot, based on his experience. Another positive is that Lewis is ridiculously young. He won’t turn 22 until the third game of the 2012 season.

Option two is Bryce Brown, the seventh round draft pick of the Eagles in April. Brown is an interesting story, and he carried just three times in his final two seasons at college. He has a lot of raw talent but he doesn’t have experience at all and is a high-risk, high-reward player. At 5’11 and 223 pounds, and 4.48 in the 40-yard dash, Brown is a good combination of power and speed. But there’s really no way of knowing how he’ll do until the Eagles have training camp and preseason.

The third option is Chris Polk, who went undrafted and was signed by the Eagles immediately following the draft. He was called the top undrafted player by the Sporting News and he also has a good combination of power and speed. But Polk has a degenerative shoulder condition and also had knee surgery less than a year ago. Like Brown, he is a big question mark, but he probably has the most ground to make up in the backup running back battle because he went undrafted.

Predicting the backup running back for the 2012 Eagles is virtually impossible because the three candidates have a total of 23 carries in their NFL career (23 by Lewis, 0 by Brown, and 0 by Polk). So if I had to guess, I would say that Lewis enters next season as the backup running back. He has a year of experience under his belt and the Eagles are pretty loyal. I’ll go with Polk as the third running back because I think Brown will get injured in training camp/preseason because he has had such limited actual playing time over the past couple of seasons.

So that’s McCoy number one, Lewis number two, Polk number three, and Brown not on the team.