When the Philadelphia Eagles signed superstar running back Saquon Barkley in free agency, it served as one of the biggest splashes the team has made in recent memory.
Locked up to a three-year deal to a championship contender, there’s going to be a lot of weight on his shoulders.

What can Barkley provide for the Eagles? When all is said and done, how might he compare to the great running backs in franchise history?

Let’s take a look.


Looking at Barkley & His Potential

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Despite what some New York Giants fans will tell you, Barkley is still really, really good. Done dirty by one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, this is exposed just a bit by his rushing yards over expected (RYOE) during the past two seasons. He is the only running back in the NFL to finish with a RYOE total inside the top 10 in the league in both 2022 and 2023—on a better team, the 27-year-old would have excelled.

Barkley has shown explosiveness in recent seasons, which is exactly what the Eagles need. Assuming he can stay healthy for most of the next three seasons, the Eagles should be getting a lot with him. In 2023, he had 1,242 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns in 14 games. Now playing for one of the best offenses in the league instead of one of the worst, he should be noticeably more productive.


Which Eagles legends will he be trying to beat out?


Steve Van Buren

The NFL was undoubtedly a different league back in the 1940s and 1950s when Steve Van Buren played for Philadelphia, but his accomplishments are impossible to deny. Spending his entire eight-year career with the Eagles, he was a first-team All-Pro on five different occasions, led the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns four times each, won two championships (1948, 1949), and is a member of the Hall of Fame.

Only the most loyal of Eagles fans could remember Buren’s time in the league, but he was certainly an all-timer. From 1945-1949, in 54 games, he had 4,921 yards from scrimmage and 57 total touchdowns. Over the modern 17-game season, that would be 1,549 yards from scrimmage per season and 18 touchdowns to boot.


Brian Westbrook

Brian Westbrook is one of the most beloved players in recent Eagles memory, and for good reason. He played in 107 games in Philadelphia across eight seasons, putting together five consecutive dominant campaigns from 2004-2008.

In 69 games during that time, he had 8,106 yards (4,915 rushing) from scrimmage and 53 touchdowns (29 rushing)—over a 17-game season, this would give him an average of 1,997 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns per campaign. Just for reference as to how impressive that is, Barkley’s career-high is 2,028 scrimmage yards and 15 total touchdowns in 16 games back in 2018.

In 2007, Westbrook was a first-team All-Pro after putting together a league-leading 2,104 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns in 15 games. He was a fantastic playoff performer in Philadelphia and was the Eagles’ primary returner in 2003, showing his Jack-of-all-trades nature.


LeSean McCoy

At his peak, there were few better than LeSean McCoy. One of the best running backs that the NFL has seen since the 2010s began, he had similar numbers to Westbrook did in the 2000s—McCoy put up his dominant campaigns from 2010-2014.

In 74 games in that span, McCoy had 8,129 yards from scrimmage (6,155 rushing) and 50 total touchdowns (4o rushing). Over a 17-game season, that would be good for 1,867 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns.

In both 2011 and 2013, he was a first-team All-Pro—he finished second in Offensive Player of the Year voting in that latter campaign. With a peak of an NFL-best 20 touchdowns in 2011 and a league-leading 2,146 yards from scrimmage in 2013, McCoy is hard to beat.


Wilbert Montgomery

A slightly less modern Wilbert Montgomery also played eight seasons in Philadelphia like Buren and Westbrook, peaking in 1979 but having an elite four-season stretch from 1978-1981. During that span, he had 6,529 yards from scrimmage and 44 total touchdowns in 57 games, good for a 17-game average of 1,947 scrimmage yards and 13 touchdowns.

In 1979, Montgomery reached his ceiling with a league-leading 2,006 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns. He was a second-team All-Pro twice and a two-time participant in the Pro Bowl, so he etched out a fantastic NFL career for himself.


Other notable Eagles running backs that we shouldn’t forget are Duce Staley, Ricky Watters, Timmy Brown, and, yes, Miles Sanders.
Barkley has some history to compete with to put himself among the all-time greats in Philadelphia lore.

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