For the second consecutive year, the Philadelphia Eagles finished a season with a 7-9 mark. In 2015, most of that was the product of head coach Chip Kelly, who was let go by the organization with one game remaining that season. This past year, a 3-0 start turned into nine losses in the final 13 outings for first-time NFL head coach Doug Pederson. But while the records were the same, the main difference is that this is an organization with a much more definitive plan under general manager Howie Roseman. There’s obviously still plenty of room for improvement for a club that finished in last place in the NFC East and was the only team in the division with a losing record.

And one aspect that could be better is a ground attack that was inconsistent at best in 2016.

A tale of three seasons

During the team’s unbeaten start, the Philadelphia Eagles totaled at least 30 running plays and at least 100 yards on the ground in each contest. The club combined for an impressive 10 offensive touchdowns and 92 points while racking up at least 400 total yards in wins over the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the same story in terms of rushing attempts and yards in the Birds’ final three games of the season, two of which resulted in victory. In between there were eight setback in 10 contests. And just once over that stretch did the Eagles run the football at least 30 times.

In fact, Pederson’s club was held below 100 yards rushing in six of those games.

Who is the Birds’ best running back?

This was a team that finished 11th in the NFL in rushing in 2016 with 113.3 yards per contest. But as we showed, the ground attack was a bit too inconsistent and that didn’t help quarterback Carson Wentz’s cause.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive unit managed only 22 touchdowns in its final 13 games. The team’s leading rusher, Ryan Mathews, missed three games but did manage to run for 661 yards and eight scores. And 2016 fifth-round picks Wendell Smallwood (77 attempts, 312 yards, 1 TD) had his moments when given the chance. But you could make the case that ageless Darren Sproles was the team’s most consistent performer out of the backfield.

He ran for 438 yards and two touchdowns on just 94 carries (4.7 average) and ranked third on the club with 52 catches, good for 427 yards and two more scores. Despite Sproles’ still-explosive capabilities, you get the feeling this team could go looking for another fresh set of legs in the 2017 NFL Draft.