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Fully Healthy, Polk Looks To Seize Bigger Role


With names like LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles on the depth chart, the Eagles backfield has no shortage of explosive players. McCoy led the NFL last season with 47 carries of 10-or-more yards. Sproles averaged 4.2 yards per carry and 8.5 yards per catch a year ago and is capable of breaking off a big play at any moment.

As prolific as McCoy and Sproles were in 2013, it was a different member of the Eagles' current running backs group that led the way in terms of making the most of his opportunities last season. Chris Polk averaged a remarkable 8.9 yards per carry, and though his sample size was small, Polk proved that he was ready for action each time his number was called.

"It's just like the coaches say, 'show what you know,' because you never know when you're going to get the ball again," said Polk. "How I look at things, every practice, every carry, I act like it's my last carry because you never know what's going to happen, so I go out there and just give 110 percent."

Polk appeared in just seven games as an undrafted rookie in 2012, and his action came primarily on special teams. In 2013, Polk made his way into the offensive huddle, providing a nice change of pace for the Eagles' running attack. Listed at 5-foot-11, 222 pounds, the bruising back carried the ball 11 times in 2013 for 98 yards. He was also a model of efficiency, scoring touchdowns on three of his 11 rushing attempts, including a 38-yard score that effectively iced the Snow Bowl victory over Detroit in Week 14.

Polk's strong second season has him thinking even better things are in store for year three.

"I definitely have a lot more confidence because reality is the best teacher," Polk explained. "Getting in the game, getting a feel for it, getting tackled, getting adjusted to the game speed - that helps. Last year, I felt like I was walking on egg shells because I didn't have a lot of experience. I was out there just wide-eyed, but now the game is starting to slow down for me. I'm learning a lot from Darren and Shady to take my game to the next level."

Despite finding his niche in the offense last season, don't expect to see the former Husky take his foot off the gas in 2014. Polk remains hungry to improve his game and is motivated to do what it takes to become a better NFL rusher.

"I'm my toughest critic," said Polk. "There's never been a point in my life or a game in my life where I felt like I did everything that I could do. I'm real big on the philosophy that nothing stays the same. You're either getting better or you're getting worse, so I'm trying to get better every year."

What makes Polk's 2013 campaign even more impressive is that he did most of his damage while dealing with a shoulder injury. Now fully healthy, Polk hopes to put any concerns about injuries behind him and play to his fullest in his third season in Philadelphia.

"I dislocated (my shoulder) in the Tampa Bay game and I had to wear the two straps, so I was kind of constricted," Polk explained. "I could only go so far when I was running, and it's kind of hard to run without your arm, but now they're free and I'm really looking forward to this year.

Polk's strong play in 2013, along with his impressive offseason training regimen, has not gone unnoticed by the Eagles coaching staff.

"He (was productive last season) and he's really had a great offseason," head coach Chip Kelly explained. "He worked extremely hard rehabbing his shoulders, but he was one of our key special teams players for us and you look at from probably the Detroit game on, he had a couple really big runs in that game and started to develop as a back, and (we're) just trying to figure it out again where he fits in that piece. Obviously we have a talented one in (McCoy), and then when you add Sproles to the mix, where does Chris fit into it?  But I think in terms what has he done in the offseason, I think he's really put himself in the picture."

With Sproles entering the fold and McCoy coming off of the best rushing season in Eagles history, it appears that Polk will once again have to earn his snaps. The good news is that he's become accustomed to that, and the competition in the backfield will only make all of the backs stronger in the long run.

"We're all just going out there and putting our best foot forward, and adding another great player (like Sproles) to our running back room, that just making everyone better," Polk said. "I feel like I can be a great factor (in the offense). We'll see how things play out. We have Sproles, LeSean, myself, a couple of new guys and (Matthew Tucker). The only that I can do is control what I can control, and that's my effort, attitude and what I put on tape. If I do what I know I'm capable of, then I know I'll be playing."

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