Entering his seventh NFL season, Duce Staley put his career in jeopardy this past off-season. Not satisfied with their current contract status, Bobby Taylor and Staley both held out of the team's voluntary mini camps much to the chagrin of head coach Andy Reid. Both players however, are expected to be at Lehigh on time for training camp 2003. Staley will once again hold the starting job as Eagles halfback.
Coming off of an impressive season in which he rushed for 1029 yards and five touchdowns (a career high), Staley hopes to prove he is no throw away once this season is finished. When Donovan McNabb went down with an injury, Staley was instrumental in keeping the offense together in the second half of last season. Arguably the best halfback not in the 2002 Pro-Bowl, the Eagles had one of the more durable halfbacks on their roster last year.
Look, as solid a player as Duce Staley is, I just don't think that holding out of minicamp was the most calculated of moves he could have made going into a contract year. It's no secret that the team has some very versatile and young players behind him, and they will start. This is Staley's proving ground to teams who may need a halfback next year. Sure it would be nice to keep him around but with this organization it's just not likely to happen.
Duce is still on track to have another great year, especially if the wide receivers don't perform early and the team decides to take a run first approach. However, don't look for Staley to gain 1,000 plus yards this year because the Eagles backfield may look more like a running back by committee with Staley, Buckhalter, Westbrook and Ritchie all getting touches.
Is it such a bad thing to have many running backs? History says no. With three backs with distinctly different strengths, this may just be the most versatile group the Eagles have had since Rickey Watters and Charlie Garner roamed the Vet. Front and center of that group is Duce Staley.