This is the second in a series of posts breaking down the Eagles position by position in advance of the upcoming draft and (hopefully) free agency. Tuesday we looked at quarterback. Wednesday we'll examine the running back spot.
2010 Recap: Last season was all about LeSean McCoy. The Eagles young starter ran the ball even more efficiently than Brian Westbrook at the same age. But other than McCoy, the running back position was a revolving door.
Mike Bell was signed before the season but showed nothing. He was then traded midseason to the Cleveland Browns for Jerome Harrison. Harrison didn't play a lot, but he performed when he was called on, including 100-yard rushing games against the Redskins and Cowboys.
Eldra Buckley was the third back and saw very limited action. Although he did perform well on special teams.
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At fullback, fan-favorite Leonard Weaver severely tore his ACL on his very first carry of the season. The team signed Owen Schmitt to take his place for the rest of the year and the former West Virgina grad performed adequately, if not particularly noteworthy.
Who’s Leaving: Much depends on the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement (assuming there is one). Harrison, a restricted free agent, was tendered at a second-round level under the current rules -- meaning that any team who wanted to sign him would have to give up a high pick to the Eagles. Buckley was only tendered at the lowest level that allows the Eagles to match any offer, so he's more likely on his way out. Finally, the team is only going to keep one fullback, so Weaver will have to fight to show he's fully recovered to keep his job.
2011 Depth Chart: Shady is the starter, backed up by a veteran (likely Harrison) and probably a rookie. Unless the team adds another fullback to make the battle more interesting, only Weaver or Schmitt will return.
Potential Additions: There are a few interesting free agent names. Darren Sproles of the Chargers is a lightning-quick back who would fit nicely into the Eagles' speed offense -- although he may be too expensive. Brian Leonard or Kevin Faulk also could be options.
If the Eagles miss out on Sproles, Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter may be the runner-returner that the team turns to in the draft instead. Hunter visited the Eagles for a workout last month.
Future Outlook: With McCoy in place for the long term, now would be a good time to get a secondary back who could grow into the back up spot. This would be the Correll Buckhalter to McCoy's Westbrook, taking five to 10 carries a game and keeping McCoy from shouldering the entire load. It remains to be seen if the Eagles consider that high on their priority list.