Eagles training camp position preview: RB.
Philadelphia Eagles training camp is nearly here! Players are scheduled to report to the NovaCare Complex on July 26 ahead of the first practice on July 27. As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles’ roster. We continue today by taking a look at the running back position. Previously: Quarterback.
This is a big year for Sanders; he’s currently set to be a free agent after this season. Can he do enough to warrant a contract extension?
The Eagles would probably have interest in re-signing him to a relatively team-friendly deal now. But Sanders probably isn’t in a rush to agree to such terms.
Evaluating Sanders is a bit tricky despite the fact we’ve had three seasons to watch him. With a 5.1 career rushing average, he’s clearly been an efficient runner. He’s displayed the ability to break off big plays and take it to the house.
But it’s not as simple as highlighting all of his positive contributions. One must also account for his shortcomings. He’s regressed as a pass-catcher every year and durability has been an issue with nine missed games over the past two seasons.
Another Sanders criticism is that he leaves meat on the bone with a number of his runs. Instead of taking what’s blocked for him, he can dance too much and either lose yardage or fully capitalize on his gaining potential.
One could say this flaw sums up Sanders’ career thus far: certainly not bad but also not as good as it could be.
Sanders has the ability to inspire more confidence by staying healthy and not struggling as a pass-catcher in camp. Drops were a really big issue last summer; it would be nice to see those go away.
Sanders needs to set the table for a career year.
Gainwell should be aiming to take over the RB2 job. He seemingly earned it early last year before he ultimately fell out of favor. Outside of garbage time, Gainwell hardly saw much rushing volume as a rookie. As evidenced in this sorted chart from Pro Football Reference:
Given his smaller frame, Gainwell might never be destined to be a volume runner in the NFL. But that’s OK if he can make an impact as a pass-catcher. There’s often been talk about how the Eagles hope Gainwell can be their version of Nyheim Hines. On that note, those two finished with similar yard per reception marks last year (Hines at 7.8 and Gainwell at 7.7).
The Eagles will hope Gainwell takes a step forward as an NFL sophomore. His camp performance could help shape his role for the 2022 season. The extent to which he takes reps as a slot option will be interesting to monitor.
Entering his fourth camp with the Eagles, we have a good idea of what BoSco is at this point. He’s been a solid RB2-type who can effectively contribute as both a runner and receiver. He’s a good second or third option to have in the rotation.
Huntley was having a nice camp last summer before a hamstring injury derailed him. The Eagles will foolish to not give him more opportunities as a kick returner until their meaningless Week 18 finale. It was in that game that he posted the second longest kick return of the season, prompting the Eagles to finally sign him to their active roster.
Huntley should be the front-runner to be their kick returner in 2022. Might he also warrant some occasional offensive touches? He looked good showing off his speed in OTAs. Don’t sleep on Huntley.
Listed at 213 pounds, Brooks is the heaviest running back on the Eagles’ roster (though just ahead of Sanders at 211). There’s thought he could be Jordan Howard’s replacement as a more physical, no nonsense runner. We’ll see. As an undrafted rookie free agent, Brooks will have to prove himself in camp just to earn a roster spot. For what it’s worth, film junkie Matt Waldman is intrigued by Brooks and likes how he’s a smart player. Waldman joined BGN Radio earlier this offseason to talk about Brooks (starting around the 19:31 mark):
Before we even talk about the backs in this section, it should be noted they’re primed to succeed again behind arguably the NFL’s best offensive line. That helps!
Barring injury, Sanders will lead the Eagles in carries this season. It’s just a matter of exactly how big his role will be. We all know the Birds like to rotate their backs as opposed to trusting their top runner with 20+ carries per game. Sanders has just three career games with 20+ carries and one with more than 20.
Gainwell and Scott could split time as RB2A and RB2B. Their playing time could vary depending on performance and game-planning.
Huntley isn’t a lock to make the roster but his returning ability shouldn’t be discounted. Brooks might be more of a practice squad contender unless the Eagles keep five backs.
Not really applicable. The Eagles will probably keep the top four guys at this position … and maybe all five. A ‘surprise’ addition (not actually so surprising) would involve the Eagles re-signing Jordan Howard, who is still out there.