The Eagles roster is at the maximum of 90 players after the draft. We'll spend the next two weeks resetting the table and taking a position-by-position look at the Birds as Chip Kelly begins the process of assessing his 2015 squad.
The schedule: May 18: Quarterbacks/specialists; May 19: Running backs; May 20: Wide receivers/Tight ends; May 21: Offensive line; May 22: Defensive line; May 25: Inside linebackers; May 26: Outside linebackers; May 27: Safeties; May 28: Cornerbacks.
What's new: DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Raheem Mostert
The Eagles decided to trade LeSean McCoy, the franchise's all-time leading rusher, in the prime of his career and coming off his two most productive seasons. They will replace him with Murray and Mathews, two running backs who have both reached Pro Bowls and have the downfield style that the Eagles seem to prefer.
Let's start with Murray, who is one of the NFL's best running backs and led the league last season with 1,845 yards and 4.7 yards per carry. Murray did not appear to be the Eagles' target when free agency opened, although when Frank Gore backed out of a deal and Jeremy Maclin signed in Kansas City, the Eagles had the money to spend and the opportunity to offer. And Murray, one of the elite free agents on the market, is a prize. At 6 feet and 217 pounds, he's well built and is a skilled one-cut runner.
That doesn't mean there aren't concerns. Last season was the first time he played 16 games, and he had 392 carries. That was the most by any running back since Larry Johnson in 2006. Johnson never had another 1,000-yard season.
Don't expect Murray to near that carry total this season. He will no doubt be the featured running back, but coach Chip Kelly wants carries to be shared. That's where Mathews comes in.
Mathews appeared at first to be the consolation prize to missing out on Gore, but the Eagles still signed him. The former first-round pick is a talented rusher who has twice topped 1,000 yards, but injuries have also been an ongoing issue. He had a career-low 330 yards last season while playing only six games. I wouldn't count on him carrying the ball more than 220 times like he did in his 1,000-yard season (unless Murray gets injured), but he can find a sweet spot in the mid-100s. He averages 4.4 yards per carry through his career, and could find himself in that 500-600-yard area.
Mostert is an undrafted free agent who was a track star at Purdue. His best asset could be his kick return ability. The Eagles return Josh Huff, but they lost Chris Polk. They could look for another kick returner and Mostert would likely need to make the team that way.
What's old: Darren Sproles, Matthew Tucker, Kenjon Barner
Sproles is the only returning running back from last season's active roster, and how fits will be an intriguing story to watch. He was the No. 2 running back last season; depending upon how the Eagles use their backfield, he could be the No. 3 running back this year. However the playing time is split, Chip Kelly needs to get Sproles more involved.
The Eagles' offense was best last season when Sproles was a weapon. Sproles totaled 15 carries for 97 yards and 11 catches for 152 yards in the first two games of the season. That means 26 percent of his carries and 27.5 percent of his catches came in those games, and he was not used nearly as often in his other 13 games. Kelly's explanation was that defenses focused on stopping him. The reality is he was productive whenever given the chance. Sproles only had one game where he averaged fewer than 4 yards per carry, and finished the seasonswith 5.8 yards per carry. He was a dynamic threat in the passing game with New Orleans, yet he caught just 40 passes last season – his fewest since 2010. Sproles made the Pro Bowl because of his punt return ability, and he exceled in that area. Kelly must find a way to use him in the offense this season.
Tucker spent last year on the practice squad, although he was on the active roster for most of the 2013 season. At 6-foot-1 and 227 pounds, Tucker is the Eagles' biggest running back. He could find a role previously filled by Polk. He'll be in competition with Barner, a former Oregon standout who was acquired late in the preseason last year and did not make the team. A full offseason will help him. Barner can compete at kick returner and offer running back help.
DeMarco Murray, Ryan Matthews, Darren Sproles, Matthew Tucker
Murray, Mathews, and Sproles will make the team – unless injury puts any of them on injured reserve before the 53 is set. The question after that is whether the Eagles keep three or four running backs. They kept three last season. Kelly said they were prepared to keep four if Polk was on the team this year. So does Tucker, Barner, or Mostert make it, or do the Eagles keep a fourth tight end or multi-position player such as G.J. Kinne.
The summer will obviously determine what they do, but I'll go with Tucker at this point. He'a a big back that the Eagles like, has experience in the system, and is good insurance.