Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles Training Camp Positional Preview: Running Back

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While all eyes are on the wide receivers this season when it comes to the Eagles, the running back group has probably grown into one of the deepest positions on the roster. Compared to previous seasons, the team has a unique mix of young and veteran talent surrounding their centerpiece in Miles Sanders.

While Sanders is yet to have the explosive season that most people have been waiting for, one could argue that a change in coaching staff and personnel could see that finally come to fruition. Let’s take a look at the current players that the Eagles have in the fold at running back:

Miles Sanders

As mentioned above, Miles Sanders will be the focus of the Eagles run game, as he should. His usage last year was confusing at best. While Sanders has started both seasons with an injury, the third-year year back has shown that his ceiling is extremely high. The Penn State product is explosive off of the line of scrimmage but at times has looked lost due to lack of running lanes and still suffers from indecision at times.

Nevertheless, Sanders has to be excited to be surrounded by Nick Sirianni and company. His new Head Coach’s usage of rookie back, Jonathan Taylor, last season helped propel the rookie into the upper echelon of running backs in the league. Taylor was explosive last season as he posted seven runs for 20+ yards with three of them going for more than 40 yards. Miles had a similar feat last season as he had three runs of 74 yards or more. He also averaged 5.3 yards per carry while only averaging 72 rushing yards per game.

There’s also the new threat of having Jalen Hurts with Sanders in the backfield. Due to Hurts being a threat to run on any down, defenses had to choose their poisons when Hurts had the ball in his hands. This was huge towards the end of last year. For example, against the New Orleans Saints, Miles Sanders averaged 8 yards per carry while rushing for 115 yards on 14 attempts. Jalen Hurts stole the show as he ran for 108 yards and passed for 167 yards while stealing a victory against the team that has haunted the Eagles during the Doug Pederson era. 

Boston Scott

For the first time in a while, Boston Scott may not be a lock to make this roster. The Eagles have stacked the running back room with good talent this season, talent that may surpass everything that Scott can do. Now, this isn’t a knock on the L.A Tech graduate at all but instead, an admiration towards what the team has added to the backfield. Scott started four games last season and didn’t jump out on the stat sheet at all. Many felt that the magic he had in 2019 seemed to have worn off.

While he did average 4.7 yards per carry, Scott only tallied 374 rushing yards for the season and never had a game with more than 70 yards rushing. They also didn’t use him as much in the passing game. While Scott could be a huge benefactor to this new scheme and staff, the fact of the matter is that the Eagles added two more running backs that can do what Scott can and more. 

Jordan Howard

This could be it for Jordan Howard. After having a stellar career in Chicago and doing well in Philly, it seems as if he never came back the same from his injury in Philly.

Howard signed a nice deal with the Miami Dolphins during the 2020 offseason and was then cut during that following year. The Eagles brought him back as a security blanket on the practice squad but that’s as far as it went for him last season.

Sirianni is a huge fan of offensive players that could pass block and if the Eagles keep four running backs then I still have a dream of seeing Kerryon Johnson (spoiler alert) and Jordan Howard as the big backs on this team that could be brought in for short-yardage situations, pass blocking, and even receiving but the odds don’t look to be in Howard or my favor right now.

Kenneth Gainwell

Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, I was hell-bent on seeing the Eagles draft Miles Sanders due to the kid’s potential. After he was drafted I felt like I won a million dollars. The same could be said for Kenneth Gainwell. I saw the explosion that he possesses and fell in love with his game. The Eagles have been trying to pair Sanders with a Sproles-type player and Gainwell could be exactly that.

If you watched the Colts at all last season then you saw the damage that both Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines did against defenses. Hines was explosive as a receiver and a runner while Taylor wore down defenses with his physical style. The Eagles now have a very similar tandem in Gainwell and Sanders. I personally can’t wait to see what Sirianni does with that tandem going forward.

Kerryon Johnson

How does the saying go? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure? Queue in Kerryon Johnson. After exploding onto the scene in Detroit, the former Auburn product has been on a downward trend due to knee injuries. He injured his left knee during his rookie season and ended up injuring his right knee one year later, which led to him becoming an outcast in Detroit.

While the potential and heart are still there, Johnson will have to show the Eagles that his past injuries won’t slow him down going forward. As long as he does that then there shouldn’t be any doubt of him making the team’s final 53-man roster.

Eagles wildcards

Outside of the top five backs are a trio of backs comprising of speed and power that will surely make it onto the practice squad, but are long shots for roster spots unless one of the top four goes down to injury.

Jason Huntley, Adrian Killins Jr, and Elijah Holyfield are all fighting for their careers right now. While Huntley is the most talented out of the bunch and could be a big special teams addition, he still could be facing an uphill battle just like Killins and Holyfield. Holyfield has yet to see the field with the Eagles as he’s the longest-tenured player out of the three but anything is still possible in the NFL especially with the new 17 game slate. 

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

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1 comment

  • Dave says:

    The Eagles will rise and fall on the backfield. With the OL at least healthy for now, they are one of the better run blocking lines in the league. Whether Scott makes it or not, which I personally hope he does, I see both backs getting carries, mixed with QB runs and passes. Both Sanders and Gainwell are excellent receivers, so I expect to see a lot of swing and screen passes, as well as either of them lining up as a receiver.

    If the OL plays well and can protect Hurts long enough for him to get through all his reads on a play, I think it will allow confidence to build and get a rhythm going to eat up yardage. Everything will be better by default. Hurts had an off-season to work, the receivers are a year more experienced, we finally have a true #1 WR to throw to. The key is Hurts. All he has to do is manage the game. No heroics necessary. Keep the run game going always, mix in QB runs and short passes to allow YAC, which is where they will make a lot of their yardage. Then take your shots on the long ball when the timing is right. That’s really all that has to be done. This is a regrouping, revaluation year of where the team is and where it can go. Who steps up to be the player we’re all hoping they become.

    The only true weak spot is CB #2. We have young hungry guys who all want to show what they’ve got, but is it enough? Will we get the benefit of one of our guys on a rookie contract who could step up and be an option going forward? S is solid, the LB situation is solid, as well as the DL. The Safeties are going to have to play a hybrid CB role, helping over the top and backing each other up. With help, I think it could be managed. Teams like the Cowboys who have 3+ good receivers will be a challenge, but playing a zone scheme will help contain those guys as much as possible.

    We have a tough schedule, but it all depends on the health of the club. The last several years, we have had guys out injured, last year in particular with the OL …..14 different combos in 15 games is nuts. When the OL is healthy, they are extremely good run blockers. All our guys are huge
    (except Kelce) but they are also extremely mobile. Even a guy like Kelce, who is not huge by OL standards, always reaches the 2nd level to take out LB’s, etc. on each play. The upside of having so many guys playing OL last year is that they got valuable experience, which a lot of guys don’t get.

    With the addition of Dickerson, guys like Herbig and Driscoll, are ready fill-ins. I will be happy if the team can go 8-9. We all want to see progress. We want to see a direction that looks promising. We want to see young players develop, and then next year, with 3 possible first round picks, we can draft the best players to elevate the talent pool. How about a new star CB or two, a DE who is a monster, another star WR….with three 1st round picks, by the end of the first round, we could have 3 new starters, plus we still have our other draft picks. What we want to see is…. now that Doug is gone, was it Doug, or the lineup?

    I think the Eagles caught lightning in a bottle with the SB win. When you think about Nick Foles battling Brady, pass for pass, they were in a moment and an improbable win happened. In the few short years since that win, everything has been blown up. A lot of the players are gone and it’s a new era in Philly. I am always a huge optimist when it comes to the Eagles, and I think this year is going to be the start of something good

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