The Philadelphia Eagles don’t have their quarterback situation settled yet. However, all the attention around the Eagles will center on whether Michael Vick, Dennis Dixon or Nick Foles can master Chip Kelly’s offense and be mobile enough for it. But as usual, the Philadelphia running game is not getting as much attention.
Nevertheless, running backs coach Duce Staley stated on Feb. 19 that LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown should be “licking their chops” at the workload to come, according to philadelphiaeagles.com. This would be ironic, since Philadelphia’s inability to run the ball enough was a hallmark of the Andy Reid era.
Even with Kelly on board, the focus is on whether Vick, Dixon or Foles can run the ball enough in Kelly’s option offense. Yet when it comes to the Eagles’ overall running game, McCoy is a much bigger factor and Brown might be as well.
If McCoy’s 2013 season is interrupted by injury like in 2012, then the Eagles’ quarterbacks will have to carry some of the load with their legs. Brown broke out of the gate when he filled in for McCoy last season, but he came back down to earth after his first two starts. However, if Brown becomes a more reliable backup and gets more carries, he and McCoy may make up one of the most dangerous running duos in the NFC.
In the past, Reid’s pass-first offense would have made carries sparse for McCoy or any other runner. Even when Vick and Donovan McNabb were getting banged up in the past, Reid usually refused to take the ball out of their hands. Given how Vick is on thin ice and Foles and Dixon are largely untested, Kelly will have to be smarter and not put the game entirely in their hands.
His track record at Oregon suggests that he knows what to do with a running game. The Ducks finished in the top five in rushing yards in each of the last three seasons, led by the likes of LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. If he shows that kind of commitment to McCoy and Brown, the Eagles won’t live and die by their quarterbacks for once, no matter who gets the job.
Philadelphia has waited 14 years for the Eagles to fully commit to their running backs. If Staley is proven correct, Kelly may erase one of Reid’s biggest flaws right off the bat.