You wouldn’t necessarily describe the Eagles as being thin at running back, not with All-Pro LeSean McCoy and impressive 22-year-old Bryce Brown. However, since Dion Lewis was shipped to Cleveland for linebacker Emmanuel Acho, there is definitely an opening on the roster.
That explains why the team is kicking the tires on Felix Jones. On Tuesday ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Eagles gave the former Dallas Cowboy and first-round pick a workout, which for now GM Howie Roseman is describing as “due diligence.”
That explanation is fine, but assuming all went well the Birds may want to consider offering Jones a contract next.
For starters, it’s unclear who will fill the third running back spot vacated by Lewis. Chris Polk seems the clear favorite among the players currently on the roster. Polk managed to make the team last season as an undrafted free agent out of Washington, so the organization appears to think highly of him. Chip Kelly's familiarity with him from the Pac-12 can't hurt, either.
Aside from Polk, the club has two new undrafted rookies on the 90-man roster, likely just camp bodies. Maybe they have a shot at making the final cut, but then a little veteran competition couldn’t hurt, either.
Brown for that matter is no sure thing. With his combination of size and speed, there’s no doubt the Eagles would like the second-year back to be the uncontested number two behind Shady. Fact is he had a fumbling problem last season, and while that can be corrected, it’s not a given, especially not over one offseason.
Still, Jones could be more than competition. He never quite fulfilled his potential with Dallas, but the cat didn’t post bad numbers at all, running for 2,728 yards over five seasons at an impressive 4.8 yards per carry. He added another 1,062 yards through the air on 127 receptions.
That said, 2012 was Jones’ worst season in the NFL. Part of the reason for that might be playing in the worst rushing offense in the NFL. Regardless, he posted a career-low 3.6 YPC regardless, while his 664 yards from scrimmage were his lowest since he was a rookie.
And Jones hasn’t always been the most sound ball carrier himself, fumbling the ball at least twice in each of the past four season despite limited touches.
Is he a player in decline? Hard to say from the outside, and likely one of the answers the Birds were trying to get from a workout. Jones isn’t old or anything, turning 26 today as a matter of fact, and he doesn’t have a ton of mileage on him at the NFL level, only 569 carries in five seasons – that’s two seasons worth to some backs.
Of course the other issue here is besides returning kicks – something the team wouldn’t necessarily ask him to do – Jones doesn’t play on special teams. The third back usually helps out on the coverage unit, something Polk did for the Eagles last season.
Then again, the team carried four running backs a season ago, so it’s not exactly mandatory.
Could Jones help the Eagles? He was a special talent coming out of college, it just never quite materialized in the pros. He has been an effective spell though, something the Birds could probably use in Kelly’s up-tempo system.
We’ll see what the Eagles think after they’ve had another camp or two to evaluate their own players, but don’t undersell Felix Jones. He didn’t live up to being a first-round pick, but he might have some value yet in the NFL.