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Can Mike Bell catch the football?

New Eagles running back Mike Bell has caught 26 passes in his NFL career. But can he be effective as a receiver this season for the Birds?

Eagles running back Mike Bell has caught 26 passes since beginning his NFL career in 2006.

So when I asked him last week what he thinks about Eagles running backs being expected to perform in the passing game, I expected Bell to talk about how he was just trying to learn the offense and pick up the receiving aspect of his job.

Instead, I got a different response.

"I love it," Bell said. "It's what I've been wanting to do since I've been in the NFL, and I haven't really had the opportunity. Just because when I was in Denver, it was run left, run right, bootleg. And when I was in New Orleans, you got a guy like Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas - who are receivers that obviously can play great at running back, so they don't need a guy like me that's 225-plus running routes. Here I slimmed down back to my college weight, back under 220, so now I feel like I'm a little fresh and quick so I can run those routes now too."

But at least Bell would admit that it's challenging to learn that aspect of the offense in his first season here, right?

"I wasn't really focused in on it when I was at other places because I didn't have to do it," he said. "But now that I'm focused in on it, and going home and studying it, it's almost like a video game to me. I enjoy doing it and understanding the concept of the game."

Catching the football and picking up the blitz. Two skills that Brian Westbrook performed as well as any running back in the league when he was in his prime.

And two skills that Bell and LeSean McCoy will have to perfect to be effective in this offense.

Speaking of McCoy, I mentioned last week that he is pretty much the elder statesman among the running backs, despite being just 21 years old and in his second season. The Eagles have nine running backs/fullbacks on their current roster:

McCoy (21)
Charles Scott (21)
Keithon Flemming (23)
Chris Zardas (23)
Eldra Buckley (24)
Martell Mallett (24)

Bell (27)
Leonard Weaver (27)
Dwayne Wright (27)
The only one younger than McCoy is the rookie out of LSU, Scott. But McCoy has more experience in the system than any of the other RBs

Last year, he had someone in his ear after every rep.

This year, McCoy's the one dishing out advice.

"Oh, definitely. He's helping me out," Bell said of McCoy. "He's 21, 22 years old but he's a pro. You guys should expect a lot of big things out of him. He worked hard in the offseason. I'm probably going to steal a couple of his moves because he's the man. I like watching him run. And if I can incorporate some of what he's got into my game, as a team, we're going to be a force to be reckon with."

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