The Eagles have had some amazing running backs. In the last 40 years, the team had Wilbert Montgomery, Keith Byars, Herschel Walker, Ricky Watters, Charlie Garner, Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook, and LeSean McCoy. That is one eclectic group of runners. Many of them were also dynamic receivers. They got the job done in different ways, but the key is that they got the job done.
Since McCoy was dealt in the 2015 offseason, running back has been an issue. The Eagles were able to win a Super Bowl with a combination of LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, and Jay Ajayi. The coaches seemed to get the best out of everyone, and there were no egos. When someone got hurt, the next man up delivered.
That's just not a long-term solution, as we saw last season. You need a primary back to build around. The running game in 2018 was highly inconsistent. Ajayi got hurt and missed most of the season. He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. Josh Adams showed real potential at times but looked lost at others. Smallwood made the most of his opportunity. Sproles struggled with injuries for most of the year. He, too, is set to become a free agent. Clement went down with a knee injury.
We've seen the Giants and Cowboys spend top-five picks on Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott, respectively, in recent drafts. Those players became the building blocks for the entire offense, not just the run game. That is an extreme way of doing things.
The Eagles don't need to find a star running back, but they do need to address the position in a meaningful way.
There is speculation that the team could go after free agent Le'Veon Bell. He is a gifted runner and receiver. Bell would be an excellent fit in the Eagles' offense. The biggest issue is that he wants a monster deal. Many teams are now looking for cheaper options at running back rather than paying a star big money. The Eagles might agree with that thinking.
The Eagles could look at signing an explosive runner like Tevin Coleman. They might prefer a more physical back like Mark Ingram. They will have some options in free agency, should they choose that route.
You know Howie Roseman will be talking to teams about players who could be available in a trade. No one expected Michael Bennett to be an Eagle last March, but Roseman pulled that off. What a great deal. Roseman will start talking to teams at the Combine to see if anyone is looking to trade players.
We know some teams will be cutting players in the next few weeks. That could add to the talent pool and give the Eagles even more options.
The Eagles could pass on free agents and focus on the draft. Running back is a position where a rookie can step in and play right away. The Eagles wouldn't have beaten the Patriots without big plays from Clement. That was a rookie free agent delivering impact plays on the biggest stage of them all.
While this isn't a great class of running backs, there are some really talented prospects. Josh Jacobs is a physical, violent runner. He would be a lot of fun in this offense. Jacobs is likely going to be a first-round pick. He might not even make it to the Eagles' spot at No. 25. If he did, would they be willing to spend a first-rounder on a running back? That would be interesting to find out.
Darrell Henderson averaged 9 yards per carry and ran for 22 touchdowns in 2018. He would bring an explosive element to the offense. That is something the run game could use in a big way.
David Montgomery could be an excellent value pick. He is elusive and highly productive. Plus, he is a good receiver. Montgomery would make a lot of sense for the Eagles and wouldn't require a first-round pick.
Trayveon Williams had a breakout year for Texas A&M, running for 1,760 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also caught 27 passes. Williams is an explosive player and would offer a big boost to the Eagles' offense. I would love to see someone with his speed making plays in midnight green.
One player who feels a bit underrated is Miles Sanders from Penn State. He sat behind Saquon Barkley for two years. Sanders finally got to be the workhorse runner at PSU in 2018, and he had a good season. I think he will be a better pro player than he was a college player. Sanders could be a steal in the middle rounds.
Simply put, the Eagles will have options.
We also have to remember that the Eagles' cupboard isn't bare. A healthy Clement will be a big help to the offense in 2019. Adams will be in his second year and should be improved. Smallwood is a reliable veteran.
Ideally, the Eagles would find a feature runner and the returning backs can be looked at more like role players. If the team can't find a workhorse, I think they need to add someone with speed so the offense can get more explosive plays out of the backfield. The 2018 players were able to move the chains. They just couldn't deliver big plays the way you want.
The longest run by an Eagles player last season was a 32-yard gain by Clement. The longest reception by a running back was a 37-yard catch-and-run by Sproles. You aren't going to score a lot of points when your backs can't deliver big plays. In 2017, there were two Eagles running backs who had runs of 68 or more yards. Those can be game-changing plays. The Eagles need more big-play ability in 2019.
Roseman doesn't have to go out and spend a high pick or a huge salary to add a big name, but he does need to find the right player for this offense. When you've got a great quarterback like Carson Wentz, you need to surround him with playmakers.
Alshon Jeffery is a stud receiver. Zach Ertz is an elite tight end. The offensive line has some great players. The one area that is lacking is running back. That is the missing piece in this offense.
The Eagles thought long and hard about taking running backs early the last couple of years, but something always came up and they went elsewhere. I think this is the year they address the position aggressively. I don't know if they'll add a veteran or draft someone, but 2019 will be the year the Eagles make a key move at running back.