Pursuing running back Karlos Williams would make little sense for the Eagles

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Earlier today, the Buffalo Bills stunned the NFL by releasing running back Karlos Williams. The running back had an impressive rookie campaign filling in for LeSean McCoy, racking up over 500 yards and 7 touchdowns on just 94 rushing attempts. But there’s a very good reason why the Eagles would be wise to avoid taking a chance on the former Florida State star.

Williams was reportedly cut because Football wasn’t his number one priority. Williams gained a lot of weight during the offseason due to his wife’s pregnancy, weight which he then proceeded to lose.

It’s certainly a valid reason to gain weight, but as Training camp rolled on, the weight began to creep back up, leading the Bills to eventually part ways with the running back.

So, why should the Eagles be wise to avoid pursuing the powerful rookie? A two word phrase that to Eagles fans is all too familiar by now and the same phrase that should . Character issues. Gaining weight in order to help support your wife is one thing, but then losing it and regaining it during the most important months of the year outside of the regular season to that extent? It’s worrying.

This isn’t the first time that Williams’ work ethic/ desire to play has been called into question. He is already facing a four game suspension due to substance abuse and the reason he fell to the fifth round of the draft in the first place had nothing to do with his play on the field. The running back was investigated for a domestic violence incident after the mother of his children posted an alarming photo online that was later deleted. Williams was not charged and Miranda Wilhelm did not give a statement to the Police.

The trouble doesn’t end there, Williams allegedly set up a drug deal with a Florida-State student and the brother of Miranda Wilhelm. The student was reportedly a victim of an armed robbery following the instructions Williams gave..but the fifth round pick wasn’t charged.

The red flags were enough to turn every niggling doubt into crippling ones. Partner that with the lack of experience at the position after he transitioned from Safety, a drop from 8.0 to 4.6 yards per carry and a lack of dominance in his rushing. Luckily for the Bills,  he was able to turn things around and became a crucial part of their McCoy-less period during 2015.

The problem is that the Eagles already have an abundance of players with “character issues” on their roster, the latest being Dorial-Green Beckham, picked by the Titans in the second round of last-year’s Draft. It’s not so much the character issues, but the impact that this new direction and assertion of said direction would have.

It all started with a couple of low-risk, high reward draft picks whose stock dropped due to “off the field issues”. The decision to rid the city of Chip Kelly and his “culture” left the birds with two options. Rebuild, or look to sustain long-term cost at the expense of some short-term struggles. A way to get the best of both worlds is to hedge your bets on those who were overlooked by many NFL teams due to their problems off of the field. The players clearly still have the talent and potential and in theory, setting them straight in order to get first round value out of a seventh round pick sounds great.

But, this is Philadelphia..and things are never quite that easy. Doug Pederson is yet to coach a regular season game in his first year as Head Coach and already he has had to deal with:

– A newly signed linebacker getting involved in an altercation over an umbrella.
– A Wide-receiver being accused of sexual assault.
– His starting quarterback missing voluntary workouts due to the team’s decision to draft Carson Wentz, hurting his long term future as an Eagle.
– Fletcher Cox missing voluntary workouts until he received a monster contract extension.
– Combatting a “work ethic” problem with Reuben Randle, who showed a lack of it in the opening preseason game
– Signing Dorial Green-Beckham, another wide receiver with “work ethic” concerns.

There is never a quiet moment in Philly..and adding more guys who have issues off of the field is a risk when the pressure is insurmountable on both player and coach. With the Bye-week falling just four weeks into the season, the backups and those who make the roster with character issues could be seeing action much sooner than many expect. If the “work ethic” isn’t there when the Eagles need it most, then the team could fall apart from the inside out as the weight of it combined with bad performances would simply pull down on the rest of the roster.

I can completely understand why fans and analysts would want to see Williams rushing up the field in midnight green. But the Eagles already have five running backs on their roster..and while there are concerns over the durability of the unit, the role he would play would mirror that of Kenjon Barner, rendering him or potentially fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood not needed.

The Eagles traded away a lot of assets in order to draft Carson Wentz and as a result were forced to fill holes in this manner to avoid a full rebuild. Something that isn’t an option for a city that wants to win now. The plan is to have a solid team in place, with cornerstone players signed for the long-term when Wentz sits on top of the quarterback throne. Potentially disregarding a fifth round pick in Wendell Smallwood in order to sign a running back with a deep history of character issues and a player who would flourish in a lead-role as opposed to a committee presence doesn’t make sense.

Williams is a fantastic back and is extremely tough to bring down. But the design by committee would all but fall apart if you begin to focus on a young running back who doesn’t resemble the overall direction of the team and has just as much potential to have a 2015 DeMarco Murray season as he does a 2014 DeMarco Murray season.

The Eagles running back corps isn’t the most intimidating in the league and there are legitimate concerns, but adding another one at the expense of a versatile back, someone who is just finally beginning to flourish after being overlooked under Chip Kelly or a back you’ve taken in the fifth round and rushes in a style that screams system fit, would not only harm the long-term plan that the Eagles have in place..but cement the wrong kind of direction.

This is not Last Chance U. Teams have tried this approach in the past..and it’s not often that there’s smoke without a fire. One look at the Cowboys in recent years is all it takes. There is a reason why these players are being cut or falling down the order in the Draft. Taking a chance may seem like a low-risk, high reward..until another off-the-field incident arises, another suspension hurts the team or the production simply isn’t there. The Eagles have enough to worry about without signing a running back who is just as likely to hurt the unit as he is to help it.

Sometimes, the square doesn’t fit the circle. The Eagles have been able to squeeze some interesting shapes through their mold this offseason..but there comes a point where the shapes stack up and you can’t fit anymore through. The birds need production, reliability and an environment in which the emotional connection is what pushes the team, something absent under Chip Kelly. There are only so many flammable gasses you can fill a room with until something erupts.

 

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