With the Philadelphia Eagles adding running back Kenjon Barner via trade with the Carolina Panthers yesterday for a conditional 2015 seventh-round draft pick, he will get an opportunity to win the third running back spot. The Barner trade has already shaken up the position as the Eagles announced the release of running back David Fluellen. Now Barner will battle Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey and Chris Polk for possibly the last running back spot on the roster.
In 2013, the Eagles kept three running backs on the 53 man roster and Matthew Tucker on the practice squad. That should be a good gage of where Philly goes again in 2014. Because of the trade, Barner appears to have the inside track to win the job behind LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, but he will have to prove it. Polk is the player the Eagles hoped would have secured that job by now, but a hamstring injury has kept him out for several weeks. Head coach Chip Kelly wants to see Polk on the field in order to properly evaluate him.
The injury to Polk has opened the door for Barner to take advantage, but he will need to outshine Tucker and Henry, who both have had bright spots in the preseason. Tucker had two touchdowns against the Chicago Bears in the preseason opener, but missed the second preseason game against the New England Patriots. In that game, it was Josey who impressed. He took a screen pass in for a touchdown and averaged seven yards per carry rushing.
One of the biggest factors that seems to be in Barner's favor is his familiarity with Kelly for their time at Oregon and his knowledge of the offensive system. Barner was ultra-productive under Kelly at Oregon and displayed explosiveness and big play ability. Another positive in Barner's favor is his ability to help the Eagles as a return man.
Thursday's third preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers will go a long way in seeing how this competition will shake out. We will see who gets carries and how these running backs perform with those opportunities.
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