Monday, August 3, 2015

Thoughts on the Bell/Harrison trade

What does the Eagles' trade of Mike Bell for Jerome Harrison mean for the running back situation? Here's my take.

Thoughts on the Bell/Harrison trade

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The Eagles acquired Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Harrison for Mike Bell today. (AP Photo / Brian Blanco)
The Eagles acquired Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Harrison for Mike Bell today. (AP Photo / Brian Blanco)

The Eagles announced this afternoon that they've traded running back Mike Bell to the Browns for running back Jerome Harrison.

The Birds signed Bell in the offseason as a restricted free agent, but he was never able to get things going. Bell was hampered by injuries during training camp. In five games, he carried 16 times for 28 yards. The Eagles' coaching staff clearly did not trust him to fill in for LeSean McCoy. Bell averaged 8.8 plays per game in the first five weeks of the season.

Last week, with McCoy playing with a fractured rib, Bell was only on the field for seven of 60 offensive snaps (11.7 percent). McCoy, meanwhile, was on the field for over 83 percent of the snaps.

Which brings us to Harrison. The Eagles desperately need someone to fill two roles at running back:

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1. Complement McCoy.
2. Fill in for McCoy if he is injured.

That's the role Bell was supposed to fill. And that's the role the Eagles expect Harrison to fill.

McCoy has played over 81 percent of the snaps in each of the Eagles' five games. Last year, he averaged 12.2 touches per game. This year, he's averaging 19.2 touches per game. Last year, McCoy averaged 9.7 carries; this year, 13.6.

Harrison, 27, was a fifth-round pick by the Browns out of Washington State in 2006. Last year, he carried 194 times for 862 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He scored five times and fumbled twice. Harrison also caught 34 balls for 220 yards and had a pair of receiving touchdowns.

During his career, Harrison has carried 302 times for 1,401 yards, while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He also has 61 receptions for 444 yards.

Last year, Harrison had 23 carries of 10 yards or more, tied for 18th-most in the NFL. Interesting stat that I'm not sure what to make of: Harrison averaged 5.1 yards per carry in the second halves of games. That was eighth-best in the league.

Almost all of his success came in the final three games. Harrison carried 34 times for 286 yards against the Chiefs in Week 15; 39 times for 148 yards in Week 16 against the Raiders; and 33 times for 127 yards against the Jaguars in Week 17.

This year, though, he's seen limited action, carrying 31 times for 91 yards, while fumbling once.

It's difficult to be critical of the Eagles for the trade, although it's fair to be critical of the signing in the first place.

If Harrison can play, the Eagles get a guy who can fill the two roles mentioned above. If he can't, they have to hope McCoy stays healthy and doesn't wear down. Then the Eagles will have to target a second running back in the offseason. The others currently on the roster are: Eldra Buckley and Joique Bell.

Earlier today, I posted the weekly What about Kolb? analysis.


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Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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