Running backs coach Ted Williams has coached some of the best halfbacks in team history - Ricky Watters, Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook are just some of the names on Williams' resume. So it's encouraging that, on the first full day of Training Camp on Monday, Williams said the current group of backs may be the furthest along he's ever coached.
Behind All-Pro LeSean McCoy are second-year pro Dion Lewis and rookies Bryce Brown and Chris Polk. With McCoy's workload expected to be spread more evenly among the other backs, Brown and Polk have a chance to not only impress this Training Camp, but to earn legitimate playing time.
A seventh-round pick for the Eagles in April, Brown began his college career as one of the most sought-after high school backs in the nation. Brown attended Tennessee his freshman year, but transferred to Kansas State to play alongside his brother. However, NCAA rules forbade him from playing the following year, and he left Kansas State after playing in just one game. Now in the NFL, Williams said he sees great potential.
"He's a talented athlete." Williams said, "He's extraordinary in that he has great size and has movement skills, which are a rare combination. I can't wait to see him in pads."
Brown may have flown under the radar for many other NFL teams, but Williams had an inside scoop. A friend of the coach saw Brown play in high school and let him know the young back was the real deal. Williams was able to work out Brown and spend time his family before the draft and see for himself.
To earn playing time, both Brown and Polk will have to learn blitz pickup, something Williams said they are already learning quickly.
"That's been the surprising thing, how well they've shown that they can understand it," Williams remarked. "And that's really amazing for the little amount of time they've been here. They might be, right now, the furthest along total group of kids I've ever seen."
Much of this is thanks to the team's draft evaluation process. According to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the team looks for players who have experience blocking in college.
"Very few are asked to do it very often. And most that do it do a poor job of it. So you've got to be happy with that particular man," said Mornhinweg. "And I think (Brown) has the skills and the ability and the technique and the power that he can do it."
Polk joined the team after injury concerns caused him to go undrafted last April. During his college career at Washington he ran for 4,049 yards and 26 touchdowns on 799 carries. So far, he has impressed his new coaches.
"Polk is a big, solid, well-put-together athlete," said Williams. "You don't realize how big he is when you look at him on tape. He doesn't look that big until you grab him by the arm. He's a man.
"He's faster than he appears to be on tape, and he's got a good motor." Williams continued. "He's got good burst; he's got good acceleration. He's got really good football instincts and football sense."
Brown and Polk now have the chance to improve an offense already loaded with playmakers. It all starts at Training Camp, but it's an opportunity that excites the Eagles' veteran running backs coach.
"To have two kids who are young and exhibit those talents; that's a blessing," Williams said. "They don't seem to be awed by the process. We'll see from this point on where the flaws are."
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider