Originally posted: July 31, 2016, 12:00pm
Head coach Doug Pederson said Eagles’ No. 1 Ryan Mathews back is day to day and expected to return next week, so at least it sounds like this is a minor ding and nothing to get overly worked up about.
Then again, this is always the question with the talented ball-carrier, a former first-round draft pick who’s twice rushed for over 1,000 yards, but managed to suit up for all 16 games only once in six NFL seasons. Odds are at some point Mathews will be unavailable, and then what will the Eagles do?
“Right now the running back (position), we’ve got a lot of talent right there. We’ve got some young talent,” Pederson insisted after Friday’s practice, rattling off the depth chart. The reality of the situation is there’s not a great deal of NFL experience coming off the bench.
In terms of a proven commodity who could take over as starter, there isn’t one. Third-year back Kenjon Barner has 34 rushing attempts in 18 career games, while fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood and undrafted rookies Byron Marshall and Cedric O’Neal round out the unit.
If Mathews were to miss an extended period, Smallwood seems poised to benefit the most from the absence.
This is something we’ve already talked about here at the site this past week. Darren Sproles and Barner aren’t really cut out for carrying the load over a long period of time. Sproles did tote the ball 15 times last year against New England but most likely wouldn’t hold up in a longer stretch with that much work. That’s why Smallwood makes the most sense as a guy who could get double-digit carries if Mathews is hurt. Given Mathews injury history, it’s a real possibility the Birds will have to deal with this at some point in 2016.
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