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.

Forever linked to Reggie White, Derek Barnett wants to create own identity

Forever linked to Reggie White, Derek Barnett wants to create own identity

Derek Barnett was 4 years old when Reggie White played in his final NFL game.

Nonetheless, the two are inexorably linked. And probably always will be.

Barnett broke White's University of Tennessee career sack record this past winter, and on Thursday — 25 years after White played his final game in an Eagles uniform — Barnett joined the team White spent his first eight NFL seasons with.

Barnett said Friday he's actually been in contact with White's widow, Sara, who contacted him after he broke Reggie's Volunteers sack record in the Music City Bowl against Nebraska in Nashville this past Dec. 30.

"She gave me a phone call about a week after the bowl game after I broke the record," Barnett said. "She just congratulated me on everything I've accomplished.

"Even though I broke the record, I told her, 'Reggie's still Reggie. I don't think I'm better than Reggie.' I told her thank you a lot and I really appreciated it.

"It meant a lot. She went out of her way. She didn't have to call me, but I'm glad she did."

Barnett recorded 33 sacks in his college career. White had 32.

Now, let's be realistic. Barnett is not White. Nobody is. White recorded 124 sacks in 121 games as an Eagle — more than one per game.

Add in his six years with the Packers and final season with the Panthers, and White had 198 sacks in his career. That stood as the NFL record until Bruce Smith finished with 200. White still ranks second all-time.

White, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, his first year of eligibility, died the day after Christmas in 2004.

It was Sara White who spoke for White at his Hall of Fame induction in Canton, Ohio, and Barnett said he can't wait to meet her in person.

"She lives in Nashville, so when I get the chance, I will go over there and meet with them," Barnett said. "But Reggie White, in Knoxville, is a legend. He's all over the place in the state of Tennessee."

Since White left Philly for Green Bay, the Eagles have drafted exactly one defensive end who's ever had double-digit sacks in a season. That was Trent Cole, a fifth-round pick in 2005.

One guy in a quarter of a century.

Barnett said he actually watched old film of White while he was in college to try and learn from his arsenal of pass-rush moves.

"I watched tape of him at Tennessee because I was trying to put the hump move in my game," Barnett said. "As a pass rusher, I feel like everyone has their own moves and I think that move is for him, probably not for me."

None of this is really fair to Barnett, who found himself being compared to maybe the greatest defensive player in NFL history before his NFL career was 24 hours old.

In an open letter to NFL teams published in the Players' Tribune this week, Barnett said he's proud he broke White's record but ultimately wants to be known for more.

"You might know me as the kid who broke Reggie White's sack record at Tennessee, but that's not the only thing I'm going to be remembered for by the time I leave this game," he wrote.

"Achieving that sack record definitely meant a lot to me, but I would have traded it away in a heartbeat to have won a championship while I was in college."

NFL draft Day 2 updates: Another CB, and so is Dalvin Cook

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NFL draft Day 2 updates: Another CB, and so is Dalvin Cook

The Latest on the NFL draft (all times Eastern):

Latest picks from the NFL draft:

No. 33 Green Bay (from Cleveland)

Kevin King, CB, 6-3, 203, Washington

One of the tallest corners in the draft. Big question is top-end speed.

No. 34 Jacksonville (from Seattle through San Francisco)

Cam Robinson, OT, 6-6, 322, Alabama

The All-American has all the measurable. Needs more consistent footwork.

No. 35 Seattle (from Jacksonville)

Malik McDowell, DT, 6-6, 295, Michigan State

Inconsistent play and some injuries as a junior kept him out of the first round. Freaky athlete.

No. 36 Arizona (from Chicago)

Budda Baker, S, 5-10, 195, Washington

Baker goes to the team that has the player he is most often compared: Tyrann Mathieu.

No. 37 Buffalo (Los Angeles Rams)

Zay Jones, WR, 6-2, 201, East Carolina

Jones led the nation in catches with a record 158 last season. Yes, 158.

7:15 p.m.

The Green Bay Packers opened the second round of the NFL draft by selecting Washington cornerback Kevin King.

Green Bay traded out of the first round, so King, a 6-3 former safety, was its first addition in this draft. The Packers owned the 29th pick, which they sent to Cleveland on Thursday night.

Just before Friday's selection, Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski thanked Philadelphia and the fans. Folks in the theater even booed Goodell's tribute, but not when "Jaws" repeated it.

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6:45 p.m.

Cardinals first-round draft pick Haason Reddick arrived in Arizona Friday and gushed about his new NFL home.

He praised the welcoming fans and called the area "heaven on earth."

Apparently nobody warned him about practicing in 120-degree summer temperatures.

The versatile linebacker also said he's looking forward to learning behind veteran Karlos Dansby, who was signed to a one-year contract.

Reddick, the 13th pick overall, said he's already talked to Dansby and that he's "blessed and lucky" to be in a position to learn from him.

Round two of the draft begins at 7 p.m. with a pick by Green Bay.

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