Backfield Battle: What to expect from the Eagles RBs and an early 53-man roster prediction
Miles Sanders is still the top dog in this backfield and should benefit from a fully healthy offensive line for the first time in his career. His breakaway speed and downfield vision are undeniable as he’s averaging almost five yards per attempt in his career.
A staple of the Colts’ offense that head coach Nick Sirianni will likely bring to Philadelphia is getting his elusive backs the ball in space. I saw one too many screen passes from Carson Wentz sail over the head of Miles Sanders last season to think those looks had any sort of chance. Those packages are crucial for slowing down a defense’s pass rush and should result in some explosive plays from Boobie Miles that Carson airmailed in 2020.
Boston Scott returns on his one-year ERFA tender and fills that “Nyheim Hines” role perfectly. However, Scott adds more upside in pass protection than Hines. In 52 pass-block snaps last season, Scott allowed just one QB hit, two QB hurries, and only three QB pressures. His pass catching ability and change-of-pace style make him a lock to make the 2021 roster.
This year’s fifth-round pick, Kenneth Gainwell, again fits the bill of a dynamic pass-catching running back that Sirianni loves to use. Last year, PFF graded the Memphis product as the only running back in college football with an 85.0+ receiving and 85.0+ rushing grade. Oh, and then there is this fantastic clip of him just flattening new Cowboys’ linebacker, Micah Parsons, in pass protection.
I expect Gainwell to handle most of the preseason carries along with former Detroit Lion, Kerryon Johnson, and Jordan “Just Kidding I’m Back” Howard. In my opinion, the latter two are fighting for the last running back roster spot on the 53-man roster.
Howard has turned heads so far coming into camp in terrific shape and seeming to have a revitalized approach.
“I feel like I took things for granted early in my career. I’m just trying to get back, get a foothold in this game again.”
The competition with Kerryon Johnson should certainly spark that fire for Howard to prove he’s the undisputed short-yardage back on this team.
Despite a rocky start to his NFL career, Kerryon Johnson brings a massive frame to the Eagles’ backfield and is one of the more underrated pass protectors in the league. Since entering the NFL in 2018, the former Auburn Tiger has been a brick wall in 138 career pass-block snaps.
- 2 sacks
- 2 QB hits
- 3 QB Hurries
- 7 QB Pressures
It will be an exciting competition, but I think Howard’s revitalized approach to this season will land him the roster spot over Kerryon.
The other backs you’ll see plenty of during preseason games are Jason Huntley, who was claimed off waivers from the Lions last season. The former New Mexico State Aggie ended up with five carries for 19 yards in an obviously limited role last season. At 5-foot-9, 188-pounds, Huntley is one the smaller backs in the league but has the hands and speed Sirianni wants. He can also provide a much-needed spark in the return game that has been missing for years.
Eagles beat reporters say he looks explosive in camp and might wind up on the practice squad. He could fill an emergency back role and provides immediate value in the return game if promoted to the active roster.
Elijah Holyfield returns for his third stint with the Birds and will need all the preseason reps he can get to showcase his skills to his front office or other teams in need of running back depth.
Here’s my 53-man roster prediction prior to the Eagles Week One preseason game against the Steelers.
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