The Eagles have a running back problem, but it’s not what you think. For the first time since the second half of their Super Bowl winning season, Howie Roseman and the Eagles have TOO much talent in the backfield. The combo of LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement was a three headed monster that played a major part in the Eagles storming through the NFC in 2017. However, since then the Philly backfield has seemed relatively thin. Blount left in free agency, Ajayi played in just 4 games in 2018 before tearing his ACL, and Clement battled injuries all season long before eventually being shut down Week 12. This all led to the Eagles being ranked the 5th worst in the entire NFL in total rushing yards, and 3rd worst in average yards per carry. In case you couldn’t tell, that’s really really bad.
Coming into the 2019 season, it was obvious Howie and the front office were prioritizing the running back position. Trading for Jordan Howard, drafting Miles Sanders, and re-signing Darren Sproles were all “A+” moves that put the Birds in prime position to have one of the most lethal running games in the NFC. So what could possibly be the problem here? As mentioned before, the Eagles might just have too many talented backs. Howard, Sanders, and Sproles are all locks for a spot, but given the restricted roster size I expect Doug to realistically only take 4 RBs. With Training Camp just now kicking off, now seems like a perfect opportunity to break down each potential back that could grab that fourth and final RB spot.
This is my personal pick for who should be our RB4. Despite a relatively underwhelming sophomore season in 2018 (almost definitely due to injury), Clement was an electric option out of the backfield in 2017. In just 74 total rushing attempts Corey tallied 321 yards (4.3 per carry) and 4 TDs. Throw in the 123 receiving yards and 2 receiving TDs and you can see why Pederson loves him so much. The undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin-Madison is just 24 years old and has shown a knack for both running and catching the football, giving him a special sense of versatility. After exploding on the scene with an incredible Super Bowl performance, the job is his to lose at the moment.
If a few things had gone differently, Corey Clement would have won Super Bowl MVP.
— Jon Marks & Ike Reese on 94WIP (@MarksReeseWIP) July 3, 2018
Smallwood was a 5th round pick for the Eagles back in 2016 and overall has not really lived up to the expectations that he could be a #1 back in the NFL. With all the injuries that took place last season, Wendell found himself thrust into a joint top back role and performed with limited success. And while his numbers were relatively respectful for the amount of carries he got (312 yards and 1 TD on just 77 carries), his overall inability to be a receiving threat out of the backfield left something to be desired. A 46.2% catch rate is a number Smallwood needs to drastically improve upon this training camp if we wants a spot on the roster.
Another undrafted rookie, this time hailing from Notre Dame, who many analysts actually labeled as a massive steal for the Philadelphia Eagles. Similar to Smallwood, Adams found himself carrying a majority of the load in the rushing attack, actually finishing as the leading rusher for the team with 511 yards. Throw in his 3 TDs and a 4.3 yards per carry average and it’s clear why so many analysts like him. However, lack of usefulness in the passing game (53.8% catch rate and just 7 catches) and his recent shoulder surgery this offseason pose some tough questions about his future. Is Adams a raw product who just needs some more time to develop? Or was he simply the beneficiary of a good o-line who belongs on a practice squad?
Josh Adams! 28-yard @Eagles TD!
— NFL (@NFL) November 18, 2018
Before Darren Sproles re-signed, many considered Boston Scott a lock for the final roster. His small frame and freaky elusiveness actually reminded many fans of Darren, earning him the nickname “Baby Darren Sproles” from some. Scott was pretty effective as a kick returner for Philadelphia this year, racking up 96 yards on 4 returns in the regular season and 54 yards on 3 returns in the playoffs. Fans love this dude, and I do too. He’s shown flashes of real potential as a special teamer/third down back, however with Sproles being back, Boston might just be another casualty of a team being in “win now” mode.
“He would be the kind of guy who’s taken over that role right now” -Doug Pederson
on the possibility of Boston Scott taking over Darren Sproles’ kick return duties
Donnel Pumphrey Jr
No, Pumphrey Jr is not going to make the Eagles’ final roster. He’ll be put on the practice squad and bounce around a few different teams before someone inevitably gives him a chance. That is all.
So there you have it, the pros and cons of each contender for that 4th possible RB spot. Now to be clear there’s no obligation for Doug and the Eagles to even take four RBs, they could be content with the three they have. However with Sproles on his way out the door, and injuries being an inevitability, I’d put money down one of these guys makes the final roster. At the end of the day, too much talent is always a good problem to have.
-David Esser via Philly Sports Insider
~image taken from nbcsports.com~