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What Should Philadelphia Eagles Fans Expect from Kenjon Barner in 2014?

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What Should Philadelphia Eagles Fans Expect from Kenjon Barner in 2014?
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The Philadelphia Eagles completed a trade for depth at the running back position, sending a conditional seventh-round pick to the Carolina Panthers for Kenjon Barner.

Barner was a 2013 sixth-round pick of the Panthers, seeing action in eight games. He rushed six times for seven yards and caught two passes for seven yards. He hasn’t fared much better this preseason, as he’s totaled 15 carries for 25 yards, a whopping 1.6 yards-per-carry average.

Michael Perez/Associated Press

Barner will likely begin as the fourth running back on Philadelphia's depth chart. He’s obviously behind LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, and Chris Polk will probably have the edge on Barner. Then again, Polk is dealing with a hamstring injury that may be more serious than initially expected, and Barner provides a familiar face and depth at an important position.

Barner was a former star at Oregon, thriving in Kelly’s offense. As a senior, Barner rushed for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging over six yards per carry. He finished ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Barner is undersized at just 5’9” and 195 pounds, but he posted tremendous numbers in the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran a 4.52 40-yard dash and put up 20 reps on the bench press. He also led all running backs in the vertical jump and 60-yard shuttle.

He has that second-level quickness that Kelly loves, and he’s a poor man’s version of Sproles. He's also a very similar player to both LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas, each of whom is a former Oregon running back.

How will Kenjon Barner fare in 2014?

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Don’t expect Barner to return too many kicks for the Eagles; he took a hellacious hit while playing for the Ducks back in 2010 and hasn’t returned many kicks (or punts) since. What he could do is provide help in the role of a running back, slot receiver and pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Barner’s main camp competition will be in the form of Polk, Matthew Tucker and Henry Josey. Given McCoy’s toe injury and Polk’s hamstring problem, expect Barner to make the 53-man roster. Tucker was active for a handful of games for the 2013 team, but he’s a replaceable fourth running back. Josey is an undrafted rookie who will probably wind up on the practice squad. Barner could just be a camp body, but Kelly seems to like his Oregon players.

The only other running back, David Fluellen, was just shipped to Indianapolis in a trade:

The 2013 Eagles led the NFL in rushing yards and finished fourth in rushing attempts. Kelly is a run-first coach who likes pounding the football.

Should McCoy get hurt, there’s not a ton of proven depth at the position. Sproles isn’t your traditional running back, as he carries the ball just two to three times per contest. If Polk isn’t healthy, Barner could be in line for a handful of carries, if he can beat out Tucker. It was a low-risk acquisition for the Eagles, and it could have a decent reward.

Realistic expectations for Barner are that he will make the 53-man roster but finish with fewer than 25 carries. The Eagles didn't give up much to get him, and he was just a sixth-round pick a year ago.

Any contribution from Barner should be considered a bonus.

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