Projected Eagles depth chart at running back in 2021
Heading into training camp, the Eagles have a crowded running back room. The team came out of the 2021 NFL Draft with dual-threat runner Kenneth Gainwell while also adding Jordan Howard and Kerryon Johnson during the offseason.
Amidst a disheartening 2020 season, the Eagles still finished top-10 in total yards on the ground. The rushing attack is expected to improve next season with Jalen Hurts under center and an upgraded backfield. With 8 backs currently on the roster, here’s my projection of what the Eagles RB depth chart will look like on opening day:
When utilized correctly, Sanders is a top-10 running back in the NFL. Despite being 21st in the league in carries — 13 per game — Sanders was ranked 5th in yards per attempt and 7th in yards per game amongst running backs. Coming off two straight 800-yard seasons, Sanders looks to become more of a featured back in Nick Sirianni’s new offense.
Sanders missed four games in 2020, and his fumbling woes from college have seemingly carried over into the pros, but he was one of the few bright spots on a struggling offense last year. With fluidity on offense and the trust of his new coaching staff, Sanders can develop into an elite back next season.
Miles Sanders 74 yards to the house on the #1 rushing defense. pic.twitter.com/pRFN8dsAb4— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) October 11, 2020
The Eagles selected Gainwell in the 5th round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Gainwell opted out of the 2020 season but had a highly productive 2019 campaign:
- 1,459 rushing yards
- 51 receptions
- 610 receiving yards
- 16 total TDs
The Memphis product was a projected 3rd-4th round pick — Kiper referred to him as the steal of the draft — and led the American Athletic Conference in scrimmage yards in 2019. Gainwell is a dynamic threat with tremendous upside and will allow Nick Sirianni to be even more creative with his offense. While his frame may not allow him to handle a 3-down workload, his pass-catching ability will complement Sanders well for the foreseeable future.
The Eagles claimed Johnson off waivers after Detroit cut him in early May. Johnson accumulated 1,225 rushing yards and 527 receiving yards over the last 3 seasons with the Lions. He does come with an injury history, having knee issues in 2018 and tearing his meniscus the following year.
The team did need a downhill runner to switch up the pace on offense. With hardly any tread on his tires, Johnson will handle that role if he can remain healthy. The former second-round pick carried the ball just 52 times for Detroit last season.
The Eagles brought back Scott on his ERFA tender earlier in the offseason, so he’ll probably make the roster in a limited role. Scott regressed with more playing time last season after a sensational run down the stretch in 2019. He has experience with the team, but given that everyone is starting fresh in Sirianni’s new offense, snaps will be hard to come by.
Scott was ranked 8th in the league in kick return yardage last year, so he may be able to carve out a spot on special teams. If anything, keeping Scott around for strictly Giants games wouldn’t be a bad idea.
With the addition of Kerryon Johnson, Jordan Howard would likely be relegated to the practice squad. This will be Howard’s 3rd stint with the Eagles after spending the 2019 season with the team and signing to Philly’s practice squad late last year. Howard ran for 525 yards and 6 TDs for the Eagles in 2019.
This roster would leave Adrian Killins, Elijah Holyfield, and Jason Huntley out of the mix at running back. Killins was signed to a two-year deal at the beginning of free agency, but it isn’t easy to see him making the roster with the arrival of Gainwell. Holyfield has yet to play an NFL snap, and Huntley saw the field sparingly last season.
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