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Chip Kelly's RB committee for the Eagles gets a preview

PHILADELPHIA -- DeMarco Murray ran for a touchdown. Ryan Mathews ran for another touchdown.

The two running backs Chip Kelly signed to replace LeSean McCoy made a good impression on Philadelphia Eagles fans Saturday night.

But it went deeper than that. Watching Kenjon Barner and Raheem Mostert, you got the impression any running back could rush for 100 yards in Kelly’s offense.

“I thought they hit it,” Kelly said after the Eagles’ 40-17 preseason victory over the Baltimore Ravens. “You watched those guys, they hit it and came out the other side a couple times. Ryan's touchdown, J.P. (left tackle Jason Peters) and (tight end Brent) Celek did a great job on the back side, but that ball got to the secondary; he didn't get touched.

“And DeMarco showed a little pop today, when you watched him hit it and come out the other side. I was happy with all three of those guys.”

Kelly was talking about Murray, Mathews and Darren Sproles. He worked all three of them into the Eagles’ first couple of offensive series. Murray carried the ball five times for 17 yards and a 2-yard touchdown. Mathews had three carries for 19 yards and a 14-yard touchdown. Sproles had two carries for 10 yards.

Meanwhile, Barner carried the ball four times for 15 yards, Mostert had 54 yards on 10 carries and Villanova product Kevin Monangai carried the ball 10 times for 87 yards.

The Eagles ran a total of 84 offensive plays. Of those, 38 were running plays. That reflects Kelly’s emphasis on the run game, and also the fact that the Eagles were playing with a lead and looking to keep the clock moving.

But if there is a mystery about how Kelly can keep multiple backs content, the solution lies in those numbers. If there are going to be 35 to 40 running plays per game, it will require Murray, Mathews and Sproles to divide them up.

Murray and Mathews were pretty much finished after the first quarter. If you prorated their carries for a whole four quarters, Murray would finish with 20 carries and Mathews with 12. Over 16 games, that would mean 320 carries for Murray and 192 for Mathews.

Kelly could adjust things so Murray gets fewer carries one week while Mathews picks up the slack. That would even out their workloads a bit. The bottom line is that Kelly can keep Murray from the 392-carry pounding he took in 2014 without reducing his carries more than Murray would like.

The number of plays the Eagles run create more opportunities, and their uptempo pace puts a premium on alternating players so they stay fresh.

“Obviously, we have a good group of running backs,” Murray said. “Mathews and Sproles, those guys are very phenomenal, great guys who work extremely hard. So it’s going to be hard for teams to really focus on one running back, and I think it is going to be good that we are all going to be fresh and going in and out of the game.”