Philadelphia Eagles: Why the Eagles Could Have the Best Backfield in 2011

Bob QuaintanceContributor IMay 10, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 03:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball past Rocky McIntosh #52 of the Washington Redskins on October 3, 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

When legendary Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook was released by the team at the end of the 2009 season, there was some initial concern among the fanbase as to whether his successor could carry the load.

Now, one year later, Pitt product LeSean McCoy has proven himself not only to be the best running back in the NFC East, but also a worthy heir to Westbrook's throne.

As both a threat in the rushing and receiving game, McCoy racked up 1,672 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns off of 285 plays. That's an average of 5.9 yards gained every time he touched the ball, a stat which far exceeds those of fellow NFC East running backs Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Ahmad Bradshaw and Ryan Torain.

Now the team has added another threat to the mix: Dion Lewis, who was acquired by the Eagles with the 149th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Although he stands at a mere 5'7", Lewis projects to be an elusive change-of-pace back with enough durability to withstand the pounding of some of the league's best defensive lines. A former teammate with McCoy at Pitt, Lewis will reunite with his old friend to create a fantastic one-two punch that will guarantee to leave defenses guessing.

On top of that, the Eagles still have a chance to bring back Jerome Harrison, the record-setting former Cleveland Brown who posted a staggering 286-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Chiefs in 2009.

The front office has already expressed an interest in bringing back Harrison for a second season with the Eagles, tendering him with a second-round offer. However, there is a chance that when the NFL Lockout is finally lifted, all tenders will be rendered invalid and Harrison will become a free agent.

With his level of talent, the six-year veteran will likely seek a starting job with another team. Still, if the Eagles are able to hold onto Harrison, they will possess the most feared trio of running backs in the NFL.

Eldra Buckley, the team's current third-string back, provides some value as a special teams contributor, but will likely have to fight for a roster spot with the high level of competition at his position.

However, as productive as the halfback position promises to be, it would be remiss to discuss the Eagles backfield without mentioning their fullback position. After the gut-wrenching end to Leonard Weaver's season (and possibly career) in week one, the Eagles managed to acquire a stud of a fullback in Owen Schmitt.

The former Seattle Seahawk filled in admirably for Weaver, becoming a great emergency receiving option for Michael Vick and even earning a Pro Bowl alternate selection.

Never one to be satisfied, head coach Andy Reid saw fit to pick up USC's Stanley Havili with the 240th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Although reportedly drafted to play fullback, Havili has a chance to make it at tight end as well with his speed, large frame and sure hands.

If Harrison doesn't return to Philadelphia, Havili will have his chance to make an excellent change-of-pace option as a third back on the Eagles' depth chart.

With so many options already on the team, there's no question that once the 2011 season starts the Eagles will possess one of the most dynamic and explosive backfields in the NFC East, if not the entire league.