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Breaking Down the Philadelphia Eagles 2012 Backfield

Dion Lewis #27

Here’s some good news going into the 2012 season — the Philadelphia Eagles backfield looks good.

Even though Andy Reid runs the West Coast Offense, which relies heavily on passing the ball, over the past few seasons (really since the start of the LeSean McCoy era) the team has leaned more and more on the running attack. There have been plenty of occasions where running back has been a major concern, especially in regards to depth, but this upcoming season boasts one of the best Eagles’ backfields in recent memory.

Here’s the breakdown:

#25 – RB – LeSean McCoy – (Starter)

If you’re an Eagles fan and you don’t know who Shady McCoy is — find another team. This off-season, McCoy was rewarded with a brand new five-year extension after shattering numerous long-standing Philadelphia rushing records, and with the extension, he is now the franchise cornerstone on offense. Over the past few years, Shady has gone from unknown back-up behind Brian Westbrook to one of the NFL’s top rushers and he is improving with every game.

Expect nothing short of excellence from McCoy in 2012 — he’s far and away the best player on offense, and quite possibly the entire team.

Number Not Assigned – FB – Stanley Havili – (Starter)

Owen Schmitt performed admirably during his tenure with the Eagles, but last year’s late-round draft pick Stanley Havili has been the long-term plan all along. Most haven’t heard of the former USC stud because he was drafted and almost immediately placed on the practice squad in 2011. However, Havili is nearly the perfect fit in Reid’s system as not only does he have the ability to block in the backfield, but he also has hands like a tight end.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Havili make an immediate impact not only in the running game, but also in the passing game.

#27 – RB – Dion Lewis 

For those who are quick to forget, Dion Lewis is another Pitt product just like McCoy. The best way to think about Lewis is really just as Baby LeSean. The kid has some serious moves in the open field, and despite being slightly undersized, he has serious upside. The goal when the Eagles made the move to draft Lewis was to have an unrelenting quick-flash running attack regardless of who was in the game.

That goal hasn’t quite been reached as Lewis has seen very limited playing time since being drafted, but expect a much larger role this season as the primary rusher behind McCoy.

Number Not Assigned – RB – Chris Polk 

If anyone reading this has watched any amount of college football, you have inevitably heard the name Chris Polk. The former Washington rusher was originally projected as a high second-round pick and one of the top running backs in the draft, but due to rumors of a serious shoulder injury — he went undrafted. Philadelphia made the quick move to scoop him up after the draft, and he could end up being a huge steal for the Eagles.

Polk has a great motor and is a relentless rusher that could fill-in perfectly on short yardage situations (finally!) as the Eagles missing power rusher. Along with being a situational guy, I wouldn’t be even slightly phased if Polk impressed enough to jump-up on the depth chart above Lewis as the go-to bench rusher.

Number Not Assigned – RB – Bryce Brown

Bryce Brown is a wildcard. The kid has had almost no in-game experience aside from his freshman season at Tennessee, and then following a transfer to Kansas State, he entered the draft. For what it’s worth, Brown was ranked above Trent Richardson as an incoming freshman going into college. It will be interesting to see what he can do in the Eagles offense, and he may or may not be that guy that makes an impact.

The truth is — there just isn’t enough to judge what Brown can do on the NFL level. He was a seventh-round pick, so worst case scenario is that he busts and Philadelphia didn’t lose anything in the process, but best case scenario is that he makes a huge splash and is productive in his role on the team.

Number Not Assigned – RB – Graig Cooper 

Much like Havili, Cooper was placed on the Eagles’ practice squad really early on last season and never got a chance to prove his worth. Given the level of competition, I’d be really surprised if Cooper made the team, but if he did, it would be strictly special teams. The potential is there, but the fact that he is having to compete with Brown, Polk and Lewis to get a spot on the roster doesn’t bode well for his future with the team.

Conclusion 

As mentioned before, there have been more than a handful of occasions where there was legitimate cause to worry about the Eagles backfield — but this year it is the exact opposite. I’d venture to say that Philadelphia may even have one of the deepest backfields in the entire NFL, and the more I look over the talent, the more impressed I am. As Philadelphia fans, the only thing we can do is hope that Reid runs the ball more than ever and utilizes this killer combination of running backs instead of forcing the ball downfield.


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