Eagles Outlook: How will the running back rotation shake out?
As the Philadelphia Eagles finally gear up for the 2023 NFL season, the excitement is high among fans and players alike.
Training camp is just days away as rookies are scheduled to report on July 25th and veterans on the 27th.
One position that will capture everyone’s attention during training camp is the running back spot, which boasts a deep and talented pool of contenders. The competition promises to be fierce, with D’Andre Swift, Rashaad Penny, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, and Trey Sermon vying for spots on the roster and snaps during the season.
Let’s dive into each player’s strengths and what they bring to the table as they fight for their place in the Eagles‘ backfield.
The Eagles acquired Swift’s services in a draft-day trade after Detroit surprisingly took Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the front office is reportedly open to extending Swift if he performs well next season.
“A big part of the Eagles’ draft was the acquisition of Lions running back D’Andre Swift for a fourth-round pick and a swap of seventh-rounders, and the expectation is Swift will upgrade the Eagles’ backfield receiving game. Swift is a slick route-runner with 156 catches in the past three years.
Throwing to backs hasn’t been Philly’s game; no Eagles tailback had more than 29 targets a year ago. Expect that to change. The Eagles could try to do a short-term extension with Swift, too, though the player appears set to hit 2024 free agency.”
Swift is undoubtedly the marquee name among the Eagles’ running backs. Entering his fourth season, he has established himself as one of the league’s most dynamic and versatile backs. Swift’s speed, agility, and receiving ability make him a threat on the ground and through the air. As a proven feature back, he will be determined to solidify his status as the Eagles’ primary ball carrier and provide a spark to the offense.
Penny, aged 27, was a former first-round pick known for his productivity when in good health. However, unfortunate injury setbacks limited him to playing at most ten games in each of the past four seasons.
Before suffering a broken fibula in Week 5, Penny showcased an impressive average of 6.1 yards per carry, indicating his potential to excel with his hard-nosed running style, especially behind Philadelphia’s dominant offensive line.
While Swift is probably the most talented all-around back on the roster, Penny, if healthy, may be the most dominant ball carrier with his unique combination of size and explosiveness. It will be fascinating to see the dynamic between Penny and Swift, not only in training camp but heading into the season and onwards.
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Gainwell made quite an impact as a sophomore in 2022, quickly becoming an impact player with potential. His ability to line up as a receiver or running back makes him a Swiss Army knife for the Eagles’ offense.
Gainwell’s shiftiness and elusiveness in open space can cause matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. As he continues to grow and refine his skills, the coaching staff will look to carve out a more prominent role for him in the upcoming season.
He offers a similar skillset to D’andre Swift, who could be a mentor in many ways for Gainwell. Depending on how this season plays out, Gainwell will be a valuable RB #3 in the rotation with the potential to receive more snaps and opportunities.
He will benefit from fresh legs, and he’s probably playing behind two backs in Penny and Swift, who have had injury concerns throughout their careers.
Scott is the dependable veteran in this running back group and the fan favorite “Giant Killer.” Scott has been a reliable backup and special teams contributor for the Eagles. Though he may not possess the flashiest attributes, Scott’s consistency and familiarity with the system give him an edge in the competition. Believe it or not, he is the Eagle’s highest-paid running back with a 1.9 Mil cap hit this coming season.
As the Philadelphia Eagles head into the 2023 training camp, the running back competition promises to be one of the most exciting storylines. With a blend of established talent and promising young players, the coaching staff faces the challenge of determining the optimal backfield combination.
The battles during training camp will undoubtedly shape the team’s offensive strategy and give fans a glimpse of what’s in store for the upcoming NFL season.
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