PHILADELPHIA ( - The Eagles have taken a lot of hits at the running back position as their 2016 season nears its conclusion, the latest of which was the herniated disc suffered by lead back Ryan Mathews.

The injury likely spells the end of the veteran’s time in Philadelphia because the Eagles will save $4 million in salary-cap space if they decide to move on and Mathews, who, while productive when on the field, has a significant injury history.

The problem in the short term is that Mathews’ latest injury follows season-enders for Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner, meaning the Eagles will be down to just veteran Darren Sproles and undrafted rookie Byron Marshall for Sunday’s season finale against the Dallas Cowboys.

Marshall was elevated from the practice squad before the Dec. 18 game in Baltimore and was the second back in that one behind Mathews as Sproles was dealing with a concussion. He ran it nine times for 22 yards and added two receptions for seven more yards while playing in 45 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.

With Sproles back against the Giants in Week 16, Marshall was active but only played in only one offensive snap.

Now with Mathews on the shelf, Marshall again figures to be the second back against a defense that ranks No. 1 in the NFL defending the run, allowing just 81.5 yards per game.

“Right now the plan is [RB] Darren [Sproles], but for sure see Byron [Marshall] a little bit more on first and second down probably, and even in some third-down situations,” coach Doug Pederson said at his Wednesday morning press conference.

Marshall is an interesting prospect because he played both running back and receiver in college at Oregon and had 1,000-yard seasons playing both positions. In a lot of ways his college career mirrored Detroit’s Theo Riddick, who was a solid contributor at both RB and WR at Notre

In a lot of ways his college career mirrored Detroit’s Theo Riddick, who was a solid contributor at both RB and WR at Notre Dame, and has developed into one of the tougher matchup problems in the NFL

“Receiving I think is probably one of his strengths,” Pederson said when discussing Marshall. “I think out of the backfield, he's extremely elusive; he's quick. 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.”

The Eagles have gotten extended looks at a number of rookies this season, most notably with quarterback Carson Wentz and cornerback Jalen Mills. Others like Smallwood and offensive linemen Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo have gotten opportunities and are part of the future.

Marshall could also put himself into that conversation with a solid performance against Sean Lee and the Cowboys.

“I think he learned a lot from the Baltimore game playing and sort of calming himself down in that game, and he had a couple of nice runs,” Pederson said. “Had a nice little 12-yarder in that game, something to learn and build from.”

-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for You can reach him at or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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