The Philadelphia Eagles are fortunate to have one of the best running backs in the NFL. LeSean McCoy is going to be a 1300-plus-yard, 15-plus-touchdown back as long as he stays healthy, and the Eagles running game will flourish for several more years to come.
Key phrase? As long as he stays healthy.
With the recent troubles the Eagles have had with injuries—Michael Vick, Jeremy Maclin, Stewart Bradley and Antonio Dixon just to name a few—having a capable backup will be extremely important. In fact, not only will the second-stringer be available in the case of an injury, but having a change-of-pace back or even a red-zone threat is something the Eagles should fancy.
They tried to acquire that when they signed Ronnie Brown, but his atrocious season sent him packing.
Given that, here are five running backs (plus grades) that could be Philadelphia's backup.
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Lewis is the easy option.
Of course, we have to start off with the easy option.
Dion Lewis is currently the incumbent, standing second on the depth chart with the departure of Ronnie Brown. With the exception of Week 8's 34-7 drubbing of the Cowboys, Lewis played in every single contest.
Lewis had 23 carries for 120 yards and a score in 2011-12, but the only game worth mentioning was Week 17 because he subbed in for an injured LeSean McCoy—the role he would be taking—and rushed 12 times for 58 yards and a touchdown.
That is nearly five yards a carry—impressive numbers for Lewis, but on the year he rushed for 4.4 yards per carry.
When the Eagles drafted Lewis in the fifth round, they though they had a poor man's LeSean McCoy: Lewis is small and quick like McCoy, and both were drafted out of Pittsburgh.
However, Lewis is not as talented as McCoy, which means that his size limits him, at best, to a consistent backup job in the NFL. However, I don't think the Eagles need two "McCoys" as their first and second string.
Taylor only had 20 carries last season with Arizona.
Taylor is the oldest person on this list, at the ripe age of 33, but also the most experienced and accomplished.
Taylor had back-to-back great seasons in 2006 and 2007 with Minnesota, rushing for over 2000 yards and 13 touchdowns. However, he's been given less to do lately, behind Adrian Peterson for three years and then Beanie Wells last season.
He's always been a good receiving back—especially late in plays when quarterbacks need a checkdown—which could help the Eagles in two-back sets or in relief of McCoy.
Taylor will also run hard for first downs and such, as well as mentor the 23-year-old back.
He may not be extremely athletic anymore, but Taylor will run hard and serve as a teacher for the up-and-coming McCoy, and a salary under $1 million won't break the bank.
Addai's injury problems mean he comes with risk.
Joseph Addai is the most talented back on this list, but he is also the one with the most risk involved.
As a first-round draft selection, Addai was stellar in his rookie and sophomore seasons with Indianapolis. He combined for 2153 yards and 19 touchdowns in those two seasons, but since then he hasn't had a single 1000-plus-yard season.
Injuries have been the main issue—he's missed 17 games over the last four seasons—and he's starting to wear down. Fans just don't see the explosiveness from Joseph that they saw earlier in his career, and his sputtering yards-per-carry numbers are testament enough to that.
He's similar in build to McCoy, but he likes to take it downhill a little more than "Shady." He may not have the quickness, but the Eagles have seen firsthand—Addai scored four touchdowns in one game against them—how effective the former Colt can be in the red zone.
He'd be getting paid around $4 million, which is a stretch considering his injury risks, so the Eagles would need to bargain with him.
Hightower is helped off the field in the 33-20 loss to Carolina.
In 2011-12, Hightower played only five games, rushing for 321 yards and a touchdown at a clip of 3.8 yards per carry. Unfortunately, his season was cut short against the Panthers when he tore his ACL.
Hightower has always been an average to slightly above-average runner, but in 2009 he had a breakout year receiving, with nearly 500 yards. He's a "just-under" 1000-yard running back as a starter, but his touchdown numbers have continued to fall as his yards continue to rise.
If he can stay healthy, Hightower will be a capable backup in the case of McCoy's injury, and he is a decent red-zone threat. His consistency has never been great, but at $1.2 million, he isn't a terrible option.
He carried the ball 149 times for 597 yards and two touchdowns, with his only 100-plus-yard game coming against Indianapolis when he rushed for 119 yards.
His rushing style is much different than that of Shady McCoy, due to the size differential. Battle is 6'2", 238 pounds and built like a truck. He likes to run the ball down the nose of the defense, while Shady likes to squeeze through holes and make people miss.
Having a change-of-pace back, especially one who is such a stark contrast to the starter, would certainly help Philadelphia create a nearly unstoppable running game. In fact, defenses would have three types of runs to be scared of: late-play outside runs by Vick, smash-mouth running by Battle and make-you-miss running by LeSean McCoy.
Battle played well enough in Kansas City as a part-time starter to make the Eagles feel comfortable using him on a weekly basis.
Also, Battle would be a great cap option, as signing him would only be a $600,000-800,000 cap hit.