Home Opinion Spadaro: Eagles need to make a plan for running backs

Spadaro: Eagles need to make a plan for running backs

Howie Roseman is in charge of building the Eagles’ roster back into a championship contender and as he crafts his plan — already making sure that linebacker Paul Worrilow and safety Rodney McLeod will return for 2019 with new deals announced last week — he has to consider just how radical the changes he wants to make.

In other words, are the Eagles looking at tearing apart the roster and building from the ground up, or are they looking at some “tweaking” as they try to take back control of the NFC East?

“There is only reloading. There is only re-tooling,” Roseman said. “We are not in a ‘Let’s get younger, let’s rebuild (approach).’ We want to win every year. I see that being our philosophy for the foreseeable future. Every year we’re going to say, ‘What are the steps we need (to take) to be the best we possibly can be for this year?’ Now, we’re also going to make sure that we’re not sacrificing everything for one year and we’re building also as we go. We feel we can balance that and also give ourselves a great shot to win a championship next year and also put in a situation where we’re not sacrificing so much of the future that we can’t do that in 2020, 2021.”

While the quarterback position will garner most of the attention, the way the Eagles approach the running backs is also critical. The team expected Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement, with some Darren Sproles mixed in, to carry the way in 2018. The Eagles thought they would have a devastating, multi-dimensional running back with those three backs running behind an outstanding offensive line. But injuries ruined everything, and the Eagles head into this offseason with running back as a high “need” area.

From the time former coach Chip Kelly traded star back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo after the 2014 season, the Eagles have employed a rotation in the offensive backfield. First it was DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, a pair of high-priced veterans who didn’t work for the Kelly offense. Then the Eagles mixed it up with Doug Pederson, who used Mathews, Sproles and rookie Wendell Smallwood to varying degrees of success in 2016.

In the Super Bowl-winning season of 2017, the Eagles acquired Ajayi in a mid-season trade and he joined LeGarrette Blount and Clement and the offense rode the wave to the championship.

Ajayi is recovering from a serious knee injury and is scheduled to be a free agent in March. Clement is rehabbing a knee injury. Sproles could retire. Smallwood didn’t particularly distinguish himself in extended carries last season. Rookie Josh Adams had flashes, but ended the season being used sparingly.

How much of an emphasis do the Eagles put on running back in the months ahead? Is this the time they go back to the mostly one-back running game scenario that worked so well with McCoy, and before him Brian Westbrook, and before him Duce Staley … and so on and so on?

Quarterback is going to dominate the headlines, and understandably so. But keep an eye on running back and the approach the Eagles take. They need answers for the position, one that is critical to the offense’s success. ••

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