Eagles to lean on Henry Josey in 2nd half vs. Pats

Eagles to lean on Henry Josey in 2nd half vs. Pats
August 15, 2014, 10:30 am
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Henry Josey is expected to play all of the second half Friday vs. the Patriots because of injuries to Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker and David Fluellen. (AP)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — You search the depth chart and then you do it again, assuming you missed somebody the first time.

And no matter how many times you search, you just can’t find anybody to run the football in the second half against the Patriots Friday night other than Henry Josey.

LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles are both expected to be out of the game by the middle of the second quarter. Matthew Tucker, Chris Polk and David Fluellen are all hurt and won’t play Friday night.

That leaves Josey. And nobody else.

“I don’t want to know how long I’m going to play,” the affable undrafted rookie said Thursday morning, after the final Eagles-Patriots joint practice.

“I just want to go out there and play. It’s not how long you play. I’ve been playing this game all my life, so I’m not worried about how long I’m going to play.”

This will likely be a tremendous opportunity for Josey, who rushed for 30 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards in three seasons at Missouri.

Polk is a talented kid, but he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy throughout his career, and he’s been hurt for most of camp.

Josey is still a heavy longshot to make the roster, but there’s still a lot at stake for him Friday night when the Eagles and Patriots meet at 7:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium. A possible practice squad spot. A chance to impress other teams. These are the kind of chances that don’t come around very often, especially for undrafted rookies.

“The main thing is just to focus on the game and not worry about how many carries I’m going to get or how long I’m going to be in the game,” he said. “Focus on what I need to get done.”

Just staying healthy is such a huge thing for roster longshots. And Josey is the only one in the entire group of street running back who’s been able to do that.

“Henry, he’s functioned in this offense, he played in a no-huddle operation in Missouri, he’s quick, he’s got good vision as a runner,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.

“So it’s blocking, and it’s important for him to be able to catch the ball as well, which he can do. He can do everything we’re asking in our offense, it’s just a matter of him being able to go do it in a game.”

Josey didn’t have a carry in the preseason opener against the Bears. He had one reception for four yards and got 15 snaps total on offense.

Those numbers will be much higher Friday night.

“It helps to get into a rhythm, and that’s something I haven’t been able to do,” he said. “So I’m looking forward to it.”

The Eagles do have a regular-season emergency back in slot receiver Brad Smith, whose 7.3 yards per carry average on 134 carries is highest in NFL history – just ahead of Michael Vick.

But Smith, like McCoy and Sproles, isn’t expected to play in the second half.

The emergency back Friday night will be Damaris Johnson, a wide receiver/kick returner who is also a roster longshot despite spending the last two years with the Eagles.

Johnson, the all-time NCAA total yardage record holder, had 122 carries at Tulsa for 1,062 yards, an 8.7 average.

“Damaris can do some things so if we need to use him,” Shurmur said. “We have things we know he can do if we get in a situation, especially late in this game, where we’re a little thin.”

Johnson has three career carries for 12 yards, all in 2012. He has 21 receptions for 270 yards and had a 98-yard kick return touchdown against the Cowboys in 2012.

“I’m just trying to take advantage of every opportunity that I get,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty comfortable. I just want to get the ball in my hands and just go out and be productive for this team.

“Growing up I played running back a lot so I know how to get the ball, but it happens much faster in the game, so I’m just trying to prepare for that.

“I’m prepared to go in and get some carries. Another opportunity, another game, another chance to go out and make plays.”

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