Eagles under the radar: Running back Chris Polk

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Eagles under the radar: Running back Chris Polk

In a five-part series from Monday to Friday, Eagles insider Geoff Mosher and columnist Reuben Frank preview five Eagles flying “under the radar” as the team heads into training camp and the 2014 season. These unsung Eagles have a chance to make a bigger impact this season than people may expect. Camp opens July 25.

Chris Polk
Position: Running back
Height/weight: 5-11/222
Acquired: Rookie free agent (2012)

Background
Polk, signed in 2012 as a rookie free agent out of Washington, turned heads in very limited offensive snaps last year. On just 11 carries, he rushed for three touchdowns, including a 6-yard TD on his first career carry and an impressive 38-yard burst up the gut against the Lions in the infamous snowstorm game. He also caught a 34-yard pass from Nick Foles against the Cowboys. A power runner with some elusive moves, Polk ranks second on the Huskies' career rushing list (4,049 yards) and broke a school record by having 21 100-yard rushing games.

Geoff's take
The coaches keep touting Darren Sproles’ running ability and shooting down theories that Sproles is more of a slot receiver, but there’s no question that Polk will be the primary ball carrier behind LeSean McCoy. The team made that statement by dealing backup running back Bryce Brown, who regressed slightly last year but still has tremendous upside, to Buffalo for draft compensation. With Brown out of the picture, Polk can inherit the four to six carries per game that Brown shouldered last season as McCoy’s backup. Polk isn’t as explosive as Brown, but he’s a more decisive runner and has better hands, which makes him a nice fit for Chip Kelly’s offense. Polk has really good vision and makes people miss despite the 222-pound frame he’s carrying. And then he can just bowl over people, too. Polk could easily see more touches than Brown did and catch more passes, and if McCoy were to suffer an injury, Polk would step into the top halfback role and move the chains. You need depth in the NFL, especially at running back.

Roob's take
I really like Polk, and I thought he should have played more last year, especially with Brown unable to approach his record-setting form of 2012. Polk was saddled with shoulder injuries last year, but he had offseason surgery and says he feels significantly better than he has since the Eagles signed him as an undrafted free agent after the 2012 draft. Think about this for a moment: Polk last season became the first running back in NFL history to rush for three touchdowns in a season with 11 or fewer carries. That’s production. And this one: Last year he became the first running back to net 159 yards of offense in a season on 15 or fewer touches in 24 years. Nobody wants to take McCoy off the field, and Sproles is certainly going to have a prominent role, at least at the outset, but there is no reason Polk can’t get four to six touches a game in this offense. Throw it to him, hand it to him, let him block, and good things will happen. I have a hunch by the time the season is over Polk will be considered one of the big surprises of the 2014 Eagles' season.

Eagles Injury Update: Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Vinny Curry still out

Eagles Injury Update: Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Vinny Curry still out

The Eagles were back to practice on Tuesday without the same four players.

Isaac Seumalo (pec), Wendell Smallwood (concussion), Vinny Curry (knee) and Taylor Hart (knee) were all held out of practice.

On Monday, head coach Doug Pederson said the team would hold Seumalo back from practice until he was 100 percent. Pederson expects Seumalo back next week and then the team will make a decision about the starting offensive line.

Pederson also said he expects Curry and Hart back for the season opener on Sept. 11.

For the second straight day, however, Carson Wentz (ribs) and Jordan Matthews (knee) were practicing. Neither will play on Thursday in the preseason finale against the Jets, but both also said they'll be ready for the opener.

The Eagles wrap up their preseason at the Linc on Thursday with a 7 p.m. kickoff against the Jets.

Eagles injured rookie Alex McCalister staying positive about redshirt year 

Eagles injured rookie Alex McCalister staying positive about redshirt year 

Eagles rookie seventh-round pick Alex McCalister was placed on injured reserve on Sunday and will miss his entire rookie season. 

Now it’s time to eat. 

McCalister, 22, said he’s going to use this year — after a conveniently timed left calf tear that doesn’t need surgery — to bulk up.  

“Of course it’s frustrating, the fact that my rookie year I can’t get out there and play, but you can always turn something bad into something good,” McCalister said. “I can almost look at this as a redshirt year, just adding on that extra bulk, learning the playbook, stuff like that. It’s not all bad in my eyes.”

The rookie from Florida is 6-foot-6, with freakishly long 36-inch arms, but desperately needed to put on more weight coming out of college. Coming into the NFL, McCalister said he weighed just 236 pounds. On Monday, he said he’s up to 254. 

How did he put on the weight? 

“Cheesesteaks,” the rookie said. 

He hopes to add an additional 10 pounds during his redshirt year, which would have him at around 264 (the same weight as Connor Barwin) — 30 pounds heavier than when he entered the league. 

Will it be tough for McCalister to learn how to play at that new weight? 

“As long as I have the strength behind it, I won’t lose any speed at all,” he said. “I feel like it won’t be that big of a deal.”

The Eagles took McCalister in the seventh round of the draft this spring after the Florida prospect went through a draft-day slide amid character concerns. Upon his arrival to Philadelphia, McCalister adamantly denied a report that he was kicked off Florida’s football team, but said he spent a good portion of his interviews with teams answering questions about his maturity. 

It’s easy to see why the Eagles took a chance on him, though. He’s athletic and long and has the kind of traits teams want to see in a pass rusher. 

Now he’ll have an extra year, which he said will “definitely” help him to become more NFL-ready. 

“Just having that extra time to gain that weight, dive into the playbook even more,” McCalister said. “By this time next year, I’ll be ready to go.” 

Eagles sign Soul DT Jake Metz following workout

Eagles sign Soul DT Jake Metz following workout

Jake Metz has gone from the Soul to the Eagles.

Soul majority owner Ron Jaworski on Monday night tweeted a congratulatory message about the defensive tackle signing with the Eagles.

Metz and Soul wide receiver Darius Reynolds, fresh off an ArenaBowl title last Friday, worked out for the Eagles this afternoon before practice. Metz is the 74th player on the roster, which means the team is still below the next cut line — which is Tuesday at 4 p.m. — of 75. The Eagles' roster has to be at 53 by 4 p.m. on Sept. 3.

Metz, 25, graduated from Souderton Area High School and played his college ball at Shippensburg University. For the Arena Football League champions, Metz posted Soul highs in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (10).