Former Oregon star Byron Marshall has his chance with Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Byron Marshall spent most of the season practicing with the Philadelphia Eagles during the week, watching their games on the weekend and waiting for his chance to play.
He got a taste of NFL action two weeks ago and should get plenty more Sunday.
The former Oregon star is one of two running backs left standing for the Eagles (6-9) heading into the season finale against Dallas (13-2).
Ryan Mathews, Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner are on injured reserve, so Marshall and veteran Darren Sproles should carry the workload. Terrell Watson is expected to be added to the roster off the practice squad to be the No. 3 back.
''I'm excited about the opportunity. I've been waiting for it all year,'' Marshall said.
Marshall tore ligaments in his ankle in the fourth game of his senior year at Oregon after rushing for 1,038 yards as a sophomore and catching 74 passes for 1,003 yards his junior season.
He signed with the Eagles after going undrafted and was among the final cuts in the preseason. He was on the practice squad before being promoted on Dec. 13.
Players on the practice squad don't travel for road games and watch home games in a suite. It can be frustrating, especially for players who were standouts in college.
''You just want to go out there and play so bad,'' Marshall said. ''Everyone is a competitor. You don't want to just practice and then go home on the weekend and watch like a fan. That's the worst part.
''That's more motivation than anything to go out there work hard, get better in practice and wait for your time to come.''
Marshall impressed coaches in practice and made his debut against the Ravens, who had the NFL's best run defense. He ran for 22 yards on nine carries and was in the backfield for the failed 2-point conversion to end a 27-26 loss.
''If you took the 10 most eye-popping `wow' plays on the field this year, Byron might have three or four of them,'' offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. ''He's got some explosiveness and elusiveness to him.''
Coach Doug Pederson likes what he's seen from the rookie.
''Receiving is probably one of his strengths,'' Pederson said. ''As a runner, he's got a great sort of a first, jump-cut type move that is very elusive, and you see it in practice when he's going against our defense. Those are things we've got to see carry over obviously into a game.''
Marshall was recruited out of high school by former Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who was 46-7 at Oregon from 2009-12. He played two seasons as a running back, including his freshman year under Kelly. Then Oregon coach Mark Helfrich turned the 5-foot-10 inch Marshall into a receiver his junior year.
''I had to learn how to play it or don't play,'' Marshall said. ''I hated it at first. It was different but it was a blessing in disguise, made me more versatile, made me better.''
Marshall became the first player in Pac-12 history to accumulate 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in his career.
As for Kelly, Marshall is fan.
''He's a really good innovator with the offense and knows how to use people on the field the best way,'' Marshall said.
Kelly developed a reputation in Philadelphia for not being a player-friendly coach and management criticized his communication skills.
''Chip is from New Hampshire. He acts like he's from New Hampshire. He's cut from the cloth of where he comes from and you either love it or hate it and he's OK with that,'' Marshall said.
''He's not too much of a people person and if he likes you, he really likes you and if he doesn't, I don't think he shows that he hates you. It's business and business isn't personal. Some people like him, some don't. I had no problem with him.''
Kelly is 2-13 in his first season with San Francisco and there's speculation he might get fired or choose to return to college after two consecutive losing seasons in the NFL.
''Chip is as much a competitor as anybody and I'm sure he wants to make it work and win,'' Marshall said. ''I wish the best for him.''
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