It’s easy to understand why people think the most impact this offseason will come on the defensive side of the ball.
The unit surrendered a staggering 27.2 points over the last four games of the regular season and postseason combined. Things obviously had to change, and deficiencies needed to be addressed.
Veterans like Darryl Tapp, Marlin Jackson and Ernie Simms were brought on board with the hopes the three could provide an immediate impact. Tapp and Simms will have the opportunity to prove their worth,unfortunately for Jackson, his season officially ended June 10, when he was placed on the Injured Reserve list with an injured Achilles.
Highly touted draft picks Brandon Graham, from the University of Michigan, and Nate Allen, from the University of South Florida are also players who have the potential to make significant contributions to the Eagles. They are viewed not only as players of the future, but players who can make significant contributions in the upcoming season.
All of those names make sense when searching for the player who will make the most meaningful impact next year. Yet, there is still one name that is being slightly overlooked, and he’s not a defensive player.
Yes, the free agent from the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints will provide the biggest impact for the Eagles this upcoming season.
So how can someone who has been in the league four seasons and yet only stepped onto the field 37 times provide the most impact?
That’s simple: He helps the offense out in multiple areas.
Bell played two seasons for both the Denver Broncos and Saints and he was always in a constant battle for playing time. Unfortunately, as an undrafted free agent you are not going to get the touches or as many opportunities as someone who was drafted higher than you or makes more money than you. Teams want a return on their investment.
Hey, it’s a business and that’s the way it goes.
The Eagles have a running back who is more than willing to serve the role as a backup. This is the same player who was named as the Broncos’ starter at running back before the team’s first preseason game only to see the decision reversed before the start of the regular season.
Tatum Bell stepped into the spotlight and Mike Bell took a back seat, but it never stopped Mike’s drive. Mike Bell was eventually given an opportunity to play against the undefeated Indianapolis Colts in week eight after Tatum Bell left the game with an injury.
Mike Bell went off for 135 yards and a touchdown in one half. The next week he racked up a mere 28-yards against the Steelers before he became inactive the following week.
In a league that lives with the mentality, “What have you done for me lately,” Bell quickly saw players pass him on the depth chart, before he was asked to move over to fullback. By the time his second season ended, he was released.
He suffered a similar fate in New Orleans last year. When Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas found themselves on the sideline at the beginning of the year, Bell was given the opportunity to play.
He rushed for 229 yards on 45 carries and found the end zone once in the Saints’ first two games.
Once Thomas came, Bell saw his role reduced. He didn’t create a distraction, and didn’t mess up the team’s chemistry. He assumed his position and eventually led the team in carries with 172.
To have someone like that is huge for the development and productivity of second-year running back LeSean McCoy.
McCoy, who is maybe 200 pounds with his pads on, will undoubtedly need Bell to lighten his load as the season progresses. And when the versatile McCoy gets into a groove, Bell will step to the side and not make a sound.
Okay, great, he’s a team player. You probably get that by now. But does he actually bring anything to the table for the Eagles to use? And is he going to make players other than McCoy better?
Yes, and yes.
We all know the Eagles’ difficulties in short-yardage situations and in particular their ineptitude to score around the goal line. That’s where Bell steps in.
Last year, he scored five rushing touchdowns. The number is not going to blow you away, but don’t forget that he was splitting time with Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, and he was in a pass-happy offense.
The thing that needs to stand out is the yardage of the touchdowns scored. Bell plunged into the end zone in chronological order from 7, 2, 3, 1, and 1 yards out last year.
Bell obviously has a nose for the end zone and that is a huge boost to an offense that seems to stall as they get closer to the goal line. Leonard Weaver is certainly more than capable when the Birds get close to pay dirt, but if I can have someone with Bell’s power and quickness and I will take my chances with him and his track record against any opponent.
As for who else he makes better, that one is easy. He makes Kevin Kolb better.
Think about it for a minute. We all expect the Eagles to scale back on the passing a little bit this year. Maybe Andy Reid goes from throwing the ball 65 percent of the time to 62 percent of the time. Who knows what the exact numbers will be, but we expect more running.
Well if you are going to run the ball more often you need someone capable to do it. And if you are successful at running the ball, guess who is relieved of pressure? Yep, good ‘ol Kolb.
Go back and look at the running backs the Eagles used when players like Koy Detmer, AJ Feeley, and Jeff Garcia were asked to step in for Donovan McNabb. They all were responsible in helping those quarterbacks succeed.
When you add it all up, Bell looks like the player who will provide the most significant impact to the Eagles even if he isn’t the most talented or talked about offseason addition. He will understand his role, improve the offense’s red zone efficiency, and help take some of the heat off of Kolb.