Last week, I decided to put together a slightly different article that highlighted a domino effect at a position of need for the Eagles. This week, we’re embarking on that rollercoaster all over again by taking a similar look at the running back position.
The Eagles backfield has had the same issue since Doug Pederson first walked through the doors; instability. Whether it was Ryan Mathews or Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles or Kenjon Barner, the Eagles ideal committee effort has never really taken shape as many have hoped. Hampered by injuries and what has felt like an early rushing slump where Pederson was reluctant to run the ball in each of his last three seasons, the rushing attack has always taken shape in the cold winter months with some unlikely names. Josh Adams and Corey Clement headline the underdog undrafted free agents who have saved the day, but if this team is to truly embark on the road to becoming a dynasty, establishing and sustaining a stable rushing attack is pivotal.
That’s going to be problematic given that Jay Ajayi is set to enter free agency after yet another injury-plagued year, while Darren Sproles questions retirement. That leaves Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams, and Corey Clement as the remaining backs on the roster. It’s safe to say the position needs redecorating…but how will Roseman go about doing so?
The first thing to note here is that the Eagles have developed two patterns.
1) They don’t draft running backs in the early rounds.
2) They don’t like paying extortionately for said talent.
The last running back drafted as high as the second round by the Birds was LeSean McCoy. The running backs drafted since? Dion Lewis, Charles Scott, Wendell Smallwood and Donnell Pumphrey. Elite company. Of all the backs still on the roster and not hitting free agency, not one of them is set to make more than $1M. That kind of says all you need to know.
Keeping that mentality, the Eagles aren’t going to bring back Ajayi, who signed with NFL Agent powerhouse, Drew Rosenahus with the hopes of securing a big-time payday and they can’t afford to let Sproles vacuum up a roster spot if he’s going to miss significant time once more, should he decide to keep his career alive.
In fact, the Eagles may need to part ways with talent. You can make the case that all three of these backs have earned at least the opportunity to battle for a roster spot during their time with the Eagles, so for this sake alone, we’ll let them stay on the roster and fight for it all during Training Camp…although last year, not one of these backs could stay healthy to do so.
Secondly, the Eagles need to find their featured back, who typically receives an average of no more than 16 carries per game, and a well-rounded, versatile back to compliment. We’ll address the bell-cow situation in the Draft, because free agency offers quite the crop of talent for the team’s second need.
Howie Roseman typically aims for veterans to acquire and sign to prove-it contracts until they draft an eventual replacement, or, looks for players around age 28 to sign to mid-term contracts with the same aim in mind. Names like Mark Ingram, Latavius Murray, and (my personal favorite) Zach Zenner, would all fit the mold of a potential bell-cow for the Eagles…but there are two players who stand out elsewhere.
A 25-year old T.J Yeldon and more interestingly, Tevin Coleman, headline a group of versatile backs who could help the Birds. Coleman likely wants to stay in Atlanta, but will he ever escape Freeman’s shadow if he does? In 2018, the dual-threat back rushed 800 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He also caught 32 passes for 276 yards (8.6 yards per carry) and five scores. Signing either of these names would be a huge grab for the Eagles, but I think Coleman would be the snuggest fit here.
Now that Tevin Coleman is filling the big shoes left by the mightest of mice, the Eagles need to find Jay Ajayi’s replacement. For this, I genuinely feel as though Devin Singletary could be available in day two here. The FAU product saw his draft stock soar in recent weeks, but it’s slowly normalizing after people are settling on the idea that although this running back class is extremely diverse and deep, there isn’t much in the way of elite first-round talent…which is a blessing for a team with two second-round picks.
Singletary’s numbers are just ridiculous. Since 2016, he has the most rushing yards (4,459) and touchdowns (66) in FCS/FBS. His cuts are insanely quick and he reminds me a lot of Tarik Cohen. If the Eagles want to go all-in on a committee backfield, they really need to find a player to replace Sproles who can maybe pick up slightly more of the workload. FAU’s Singletary has the balance, elusiveness and burst to be the perfect fit in this offense.
Long speed would hurt, but who cares when you’re literally a human video game?
The Eagles head into a new season with a healthy Carson Wentz and a backfield that’s still cheap, but also packs a punch.
RB1: Devin Singletary
RB2: Tevin Coleman
RB3: Corey Clement
Would you be satisfied with this? Let me know in the comments!
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports