Both know there will be plenty of carries to split in Kelly’s offense
Eagles running back Chris Polk (32) has lost 15 pounds to boost his speed for the new offense. / Howard Smith/USA TODAY Sports
PHILADELPHIA — Chris Polk knew what to expect when Chip Kelly left the University of Oregon to coach the Eagles last winter.
Polk had played at the University of Washington, a Pac-12 rival of the Ducks. He saw Kelly’s fast-paced offense first hand.
So Polk knew he had to get in shape and get faster. He lost 15 pounds, getting down to 215, and came into the Eagles’ training camp ready to compete for one of the backup running back spots.
“It was very hard because I love food, and I love to eat,” Polk said. “But you’ve got to stay disciplined. It’s like a car. If you have a nice car, you’re going to put 91 [octane fuel] in it. You’re not going to put unleaded in it.
“This year, with different schemes, seeing how many plays we’re running, how many backs we have, in this uptempo offense, you have to be fit and be in really good shape,” he added.
So far, Polk, an undrafted free agent in 2012, has impressed the coaches with his speed and power running. He will need both this season.
Polk is coming off a disappointing rookie year in which he didn’t get a carry and missed the final eight games because of turf toe. The Eagles also signed former Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones in May, mainly to compete with Polk for the third running back spot.
LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown are considered near locks for the first two spots. That leaves Polk, Jones and undrafted free agent Matthew Tucker competing for the final two spots – assuming the Eagles keep four running backs.
“I didn’t see it as [more competition] because any running back we have is threatening,” Polk said. “It’s a numbers game. I wasn’t really worried about that because [Jones] is going to come in here with the same intent – to make the team. As a result, that’s going to make us all better.”
Jones has the pedigree of being a former first-round pick, to go along with five NFL seasons and an impressive career average of 4.6 yards a carry. While injuries have hampered his career, Jones has been healthy so far in training camp.
Jones also has the advantage of being a feared kickoff returner.
“I’m trying to get the plays down and learn everything so I can play fast,” Jones said. “Bring some speed and more tempo and a little bit more to the running back group. The group we have right now is real good. I’m trying to add a little more to that.”
The Eagles saw Polk as a power runner last season under former coach Andy Reid. They even considered using him at fullback.
Kelly’s offense, of course, has no use for a fullback, so Polk dropped the weight and worked on his speed. Kelly knew from watching Polk play at Washington that he could do more.
“He was a workhorse for Washington,” Kelly said. “He was really the guy you had to stop. But he has versatility and can catch a ball coming out of the backfield. I think he’s not just a one-dimensional guy.”
Polk knows that if he makes the team, there are plenty of carries for all the running backs in Kelly’s offense.
“Everything is just real fast,” Polk said. “I was real good friends with [former Oregon running backs] Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James. I admired what they did, how [the coaches] had them run up the middle, outside, catching the ball. They ran that to perfection. I want to show them that I can be that back to get it done.”