Chiefs running back Nate Eachus fought, scratched, pushed and pounded for every yard as if his job depended on it.
Eachus mashed his way for 98 yards in 10 carries in the second half of the Chiefs’ 44-14 preseason loss to Seattle Friday night, including a 7-yard touchdown run in which he dragged three Seahawks across the goal line.
The performance bought him at least another week on the Chiefs’ roster.
Eachus, an undrafted rookie free agent from Colgate, survived Sunday’s roster reduction when the Chiefs released 14 players. But Eachus and others at the bottom of the depth chart will have to sweat out another week when teams have to be down to the regular-season limit of 53 this Friday.
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So Eachus knew what was at stake when he entered the Seattle game in the fourth quarter.
“You see we’re down 30-something points,” he said, “so I tried to bring a spark back to the team and to the fans and tried to run hard on every carry.”
Eachus bolted for runs of 20 and 17 yards on his first two carries against a Seattle backup defense that may have played a little soft with a 44-7 lead. With blood oozing from his arm, Eachus had five runs of 11 yards or more behind second- and third-team offensive linemen looking to win roster spots, capped by the touchdown run.
“We were working hard as an offense with Brady Quinn out there and the offensive line,” Eachus said, “and we wanted to punch it in the end zone and have some pride so we could at least put double digits on the board.”
The Chiefs likely will carry three true running backs on the active roster, depending on special-teams needs. Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis are locks, leaving Eachus, second-year back Shaun Draughn and sixth-round draft pick Cyrus Gray battling for one job.
“At the end of the day, they’re going to tear up the film and analyze it and take the best 53 players,” Eachus said. “I’m trying to show them how hard I can work. Whether it’s catching the ball, running or blocking, I was trying to do whatever I can.”
Because the Chiefs are taking it slowly with Charles, who is coming off a knee injury, and Gray has been out because of a hamstring injury, Eachus probably will share a lot of the running load with Draughn in Thursday’s preseason finale at Green Bay.
“I was impressed with the way he approached the game and he approached his opportunities,” Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel said of Eachus’ play against Seattle. “He’s the type of guy and that type of effort that I think we all want.”
That effort was exemplified by Eachus’ devastating cutback block that sprang Quinn for a 4f-yard run that picked up a first down and sustained the scoring drive.
“He’s been doing good all of camp,” Crennel said. “He just hasn’t had the opportunities in the games that some other guys have had. On the practice field up at St. Joe, he has done a decent job when he’s been in there, even though he had to play fullback some. When he went in at fullback, he did a nice job of blocking and caught your eye out of training camp.
“So, giving him the ball at his natural position (Friday) night, that excited him, and he tried to lift the team and almost averaged 10 yards a carry and scored a touchdown, so it means something to the kid.”
Did it ever. Eachus, a Pennsylvania state wrestling champion in high school, had Division I offers to wrestle in college, but not to play football.
So Eachus went to Colgate, a Division I-AA program, where he rushed for 4,484 career yards and 53 touchdowns and was the 2010 Patriot League offensive player of the year. The Chiefs attended Eachus’ pro day last spring and gave him a chance.
“That touchdown meant a lot,” said Eachus, a compact 5-10, 212-pounder. “I didn’t get a lot of respect getting recruited out of high school, and it feels good to show my talents out here and show how all the hard work can pay off.”
Eachus’ best shot at remaining with the Chiefs will be as one of the eight members of the practice squad that will be assembled after the final cutdown. That’s the hope of other first- and second-year players who are likely to be released at the end of the week.
Center Lucas Patterson has been through this before. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M last year, Patterson was converted from defensive line to offensive line and spent 2011 on the Chiefs’ practice squad.
“Last year was pretty nerve-racking,” Patterson said. “All you can do is get out there and show the coaches what you can do and hope for the best. “I keep trying to fix the little things I can do better and try to keep it going for the next week. That’s why we play in the preseason, to get tape on a resume, and hopefully someone else likes what you can do.”
That’s what happened for wide receiver Jamar Newsome, who made Jacksonville’s opening-day roster last season as a rookie free agent out of Central Florida and appeared in two games, was released, re-signed to the Jaguars’ practice squad, released again, spent four weeks on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, was released by the Steelers and signed to the Chiefs practice squad last December.
“I take what I can get,” said Newsome, who has caught three passes for 27 yards in the preseason. “I just have the hunger to get better, and that’s what has kept me going. I’m comfortable with whatever happens. You push day to day, that’s all you can do, especially as a free agent.
“If worst comes to worst, I keep grinding and somebody else will give me an opportunity.”