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Running back roulette for Eagles

Four players will compete for time in backfield as new coach Chip Kelly begins implementing his new offense.

Bryce Brown (34) runs during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (LM Otero/AP file)
Bryce Brown (34) runs during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (LM Otero/AP file)Read more

WHEN RUNNING BACK LeSean McCoy was selected by the Eagles in the second round of the 2009 draft he was fighting for the position with two-time Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook.

While McCoy is now one of the league's premier running backs, four current Eagles are facing a similar situation that McCoy dealt with 4 years ago. Running backs Bryce Brown, Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker and newly acquired Felix Jones will be fighting for an opportunity to share time in the backfield in 2013.

"It's going to be the same as always," Brown said of his approach this offseason. "I just want to be a contributor and do whatever it is that is asked of me, whether that is going in and running the ball, pass blocking, special teams or whatever it may be."

On May 14, the Eagles added another force to compete for time when they signed Jones, a former Dallas Cowboys running back, to a 1-year deal. The veteran averaged 4.8 yards per carry and added 11 rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns during his 5-year tenure in Dallas.

"Well, right now my big role is learning the plays and establishing myself until the coaches find somewhere to put me," Jones said.

For Jones, being a backup to McCoy in Philadelphia should not be an issue as he was the secondary back behind Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray in 2012. Last season, Jones also returned 11 kickoffs for 236 yards in Dallas and has been returning punts in the Eagles' minicamp practices.

In Brown's first season with the Eagles last year, the speedy back showed signs of greatness when McCoy was out with a concussion. But with four fumbles to go with his four touchdowns, it is expected that he will have to fight as hard as anybody to compete for time.

"I'm always trying to separate myself from the pack," Brown said. "It's the little things matter to me and they are what help you to succeed. I'm always doing the little things and emphasizing on them to help me get to where I want to be."

Polk, in his second year, has yet to earn a carry in the NFL, but will be fighting for a chance to help the team in any way possible. The 2012 free-agent signee and former University of Washington standout was used primarily on special teams during his rookie campaign before suffering a season-ending toe injury in November.

"I definitely see myself fitting in and it's always good to be surrounded by a bunch of great talent and a bunch of great running backs because that is bringing the best out in everybody," Polk said. "We are competing with each other and competing for a job so we are not only helping ourselves but helping our team, too."

Of the five running backs on the roster, a few share similarities, but no two backs bring the exact same skills.

"I think we all have different running styles," Polk said. "McCoy and Jones are regarded as shifty running backs, while Brown is a downhill runner with pure speed. I believe Tucker and I both have speed tools, but we are both looking to hit more than anything and looking for contact."

"It's a great experience," Jones said of playing alongside the four other running backs on the roster. "Those guys are real good at what they do. They are great ballplayers, great teammates and I am just glad to be here."

Veterans are pushing Chip Kelly's advice - taking care of your body and eating properly - on the younger players to help them succeed, Polk said. Taking care of your body first is the biggest thing Polk has taken from working alongside veterans McCoy and Jones.

"You also need to do things when people aren't watching," Polk said. "That's what is going to count the most in order to stand out."

Kelly and running backs coach Duce Staley have yet to explain what the current role of each player might be for the upcoming season.

"I don't really expect them to at this time," Brown said. "Right now, the time is just about work and going out there and showing what you got and keep trying to get better."

Each player has a specific part of his game to improve entering the new season. Brown and Polk hope to continue to get into better shape and improve their receiving games, while Jones said he plans to continue to learn the playbook before the preseason begins at the NovaCare Complex in August.

"Just work hard and give it your all," Polk said. "Leave nothing out there, and if you give it your best, that's all you can ask for."

Today on Some clues to the Eagles' depth chart.