Undrafted Running Backs Byron Marshall, Terrell Watson Get Opportunity to Shine in Eagles' Finale

The Eagles' leading rusher on Sunday wasn't Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles or even Wendell Smallwood. It was Byron Marshall.

And the Eagles' lone rushing touchdown in the 27-13 victory over the Cowboys? That belonged to Terrell Watson.

Mathews, Smallwood and Kenjon Barner all wound up on injured reserve the past few weeks, which meant the Eagles had to look to some unfamiliar faces to tote the pigskin in the regular-season finale. It worked out well, too, as Marshall ran 10 times for 42 yards and Watson carried nine times for 28 yards and the score.

It was only Marshall's third NFL game, and Watson's first. Yet both backs came away from the experience feeling as though the audition warranted a closer look in 2017.

"I felt like I was able to put on a decent performance out there today, just kind of leave a good taste in their mouths," Marshall said. "I definitely didn't do everything right. There's still a lot of stuff I could fix. As far as how everything went, I thought it went better than worse, so I'm pretty happy with that.

"It's exciting," Watson said. "You dream about moments like that sometimes, but you never know when it's going to come. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to play. I had an opportunity to be called up for the last game of the season, and I was happy with that.

"There's stuff I need to work on still, but I'm happy going into the new year knowing where I stand and know what work I need to do."

For Marshall, the past few weeks were the realization of a season's worth of work with the Eagles. He joined the club as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon to some buzz in May, but was stashed on the practice squad after training camp until injuries forced his call-up in December.

Marshall carried nine times for 22 yards in a Week 15 loss to the Ravens - his only other meaningful action this season - and looked like he was in a little over his head.

This time around, he was ready.

"At least this game, I was able to get my legs under me," Marshall said. "Wasn't too nervous, wasn't trying to overthink things. I just allowed the game to come to me and make the plays I could."

For the most part, Marshall's comfort level showed, as he was much more decisive with the ball in his hands. However, Marshall missed out on an easy opportunity to get into the end zone as a wide-open receiver out of the backfield, except he wasn't ready for the pass from Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

"It's going to piss me off all offseason," Marshall said. "You think I'm playing, but all offseason, that's going to piss me off. I just have to get my head around quicker. Don't blame that on Carson. That's on me 100 percent."

Watson, on the other hand, was able to make it across the goal line on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. It was a surreal experience he won't soon forget, proudly pointing to the game ball stashed in his locker.

"In the moment, you just stop and embrace it," Watson said. "Not many people get to do this, and it was an awesome feeling."

As of two weeks ago, Watson wasn't even a member of the Eagles.

An undrafted free agent out of little-known Division II Azusa Pacific in 2015, the 6-foot-1, 235-pound back spent time on the practice squads of the Bengals, Browns and most recently the Broncos. He was a free agent for nearly a week when the Eagles came calling, and not long after learned he would be active and playing in his first NFL game.

Watson made the most of his chance. Having waited almost two seasons to get it, he wasn't going to come out of it with any regrets.

"For a D-II guy coming from Azusa Pacific, you go out there with a chip on your shoulder," Watson said. "That's how I like to play, and it was a good statement being let go from the Browns and being let go from Denver and now being here in Philadelphia.

"I felt like this was a statement, like I belong here. I got my opportunity here and I'm excited about the outcome."

Having only had Watson on the roster for a couple weeks and his never been in a game before, the Eagles might've been hoping for the absolutely bare minimum with his performance - no fumbles. The 23-year-old accomplished that much, although didn't think it was anything to brag about.

"I mean, it's my job to hang on to the ball," Watson said. "I'm not happy about doing that. I'm supposed to do that.

"I'm happy with the outcome. We got a win. It was a great team win. Defense played good, special teams played out of their mind, the offense did really good and the O-line did amazing."

While this was a meaningless Week 17 for a lot of Eagles veterans, perhaps even a season that will ultimately be classified as a disappointment, Marshall and Watson were excited about what had just transpired.

Not only did they both get plenty of playing time but they also contributed to a win. This season for Marshall and the past two weeks for Watson were so important for their respective futures in the league.

That, and an experience they will never forget.

"I'm living on my dream right now," Marshall said. "I'm just trying to take advantage of it and make it last as long as possible.

"We have a great group of guys that I was able to learn from all year, and I learned a lot and grew a lot as a young man and a player. I appreciate them and thank them a lot. These last two, three months have been a ball."

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