Inside and Outside the Lines: RB Edition
It’s no question that this offseason has been one of the craziest ones yet, especially for the Eagles. Some call Chip Kelly a genius, but many others have not yet bought into his plan. I am a part of the minority. He has completely reshaped the Eagles roster with “his guys”. One position that underwent a total makeover is RB. In a rare player-for-player trade, LeSean McCoy was dealt to Buffalo for stud ILB Kiko Alonso. This move saved Philly millions in CAP space, which allowed them to afford top free agent CB Byron Maxwell. The Free Agency haul would not stop there, however. An elite RB like Shady would undoubtedly be tough to replace. Chip Kelly looked to Free Agency again and, in search of a more north/south runner, was able to sign two: Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray. So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say the Eagles successfully replaced McCoy’s production. The remaining RBs on the roster are Darren Sproles, Chris Polk, Kenjon Barner, and Matthew Tucker.
DeMarco Murray: 2014 Rushing Leader and Offensive Player of the Year. Philly replaced an elite RB with another elite RB, while Dallas replaced their elite RB with a washed up Darren McFadden. Jerry Jones will surely miss DeMarco on Sundays.
Ryan Mathews: Proved he can be effective when healthy. Chip is well aware of the absurd workload Murray received last year. Mathews will ease that workload in 2015, as both look to become a nasty 1-2 punch for opposing defenses.
Darren Sproles: Last year, Sproles had two punts returned for TDs while also adding 6 rushing/receiving TDs. Look for him to take on more of a receiving role this season with the loss of WR Jeremy Maclin.
Chris Polk: Injury ridden yet hard north/south runner. Adequate backup for the three players above. Has yet sign RFA Tender though.
Kenjon Barner: Likely practice squad.
Matthew Tucker: Likely practice squad.
Position Grade: A. Dubbed the Legion of Zoom already, the trio of Murray, Mathews, and Sproles are going to be a force to reckon with in Chip’s offense if they can remain healthy.
Draft: RB position not a huge need. If anything, drafting a RB in rounds 5-7 is possible, but there are many holes elsewhere that still must be filled through the draft.
Going into 2015, the RB group of the New York Jets has some room for improvement. After kicking the tires on Chris Johnson, who looked nothing like the CJ2K we all hoped he would, after just one year with the team, the Jets looked to Free Agency. After spending big money on the defensive side of the ball, where they were able to bring Revis home, the Jets were also able to sign another former Patriot in RB Stevan Ridley. Other RBs on the roster are projected starter Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, and Daryl Richardson.
Chris Ivory: Solid starter but took a small step back in 2014. Average YPC went from 4.6 to 4.1. Splitting time with Ridley and a rookie is probable.
Stevan Ridley: Coming off of season-ending torn ACL injury. Straight ahead north/south runner. Still only 26 years old.
Bilal Powell: Only 44 touches and one touchdown in 2014. Nothing more than a backup.
Daryl Richardson: Undersized. Will likely be forced to join practice squad after a drafted RB replaces him.
Position Grade: B-. Bringing in Ridley shouldn’t be the last change to this RB group. After the draft, this grade should be more toward that B+/A- range.
Draft: If there was a year to need a RB, this is the year. The Jets should draft a RB relatively early. Guys like Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon could be a stretch to draft at #6 overall, but look for the Jets to draft a back in the middle rounds. Some names that come to mind are Tevin Coleman, Jay Ajayi, TJ Yeldon, Ameer Abdullah, and Duke Johnson. If the Jets view RB as a bigger need than pass rush, then don’t be surprised if they trade down in round one and do select either Gurley or Gordon. I’m sure Jets fans wouldn’t mind watching one of those workhorses for years to come.