Updated: Apr 22, 2019
Ever since LeSean McCoy was traded from the Eagles in 2015, the team has been in constant rotation at its running back position. There has been a new leading rusher for the Birds in each season since McCoy left, and the team also hasn't had a 1,000 yard rusher since "Shady" packed his bags for Buffalo:
2015 - DeMarco Murray (702 receiving yards)
2016 - Ryan Mathews (661 receiving yards)
2017 - LeGarrette Blount (766 receiving yards)
2018 - Josh Adams (511 receiving yards)
The running back by committee approach which Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson instituted has been working, as that approach helped them win a Super Bowl in 2017, while last season that approach got them to within a game of another NFC Championship Game. With the Eagles trading for Jordan Howard this week, they now know they have a running back capable of handling the majority of the responsibilities, but it's yet to be seen if Roseman and Pederson will stick with what has worked and go with the hot hand week by week.
The addition of Howard means that there are six running backs currently on the Eagles 90 man roster. With that in mind here is how I seen the Eagles depth chart for these players and what their future holds in the backfield in Philadelphia:
6. Donnell Pumphrey
When the Eagles first drafted him in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft, fans all thought the team found their eventual replacement for Darren Sproles. That turned out not to be the case, as Pumphrey showed absolutely nothing promising in his rookie training camp and preseason games. He was placed on injured reserve and got a second chance to prove himself in 2018. Once again, Pumphrey showed nothing encouraging, and Howie Roseman decided to pull the plug by releasing Pumphrey.
He went on to make the practice squad of the Detroit Lions, but they also moved on from him after a few weeks. He ended up back on the Eagles, and signed a futures contract for a chance to prove himself again in 2019. Now he finds himself getting his third (and likely final) chance at trying to impress in Philadelphia. With Darren Sproles possibly not returning, he has a chance to make himself into the "Next Sproles" that everyone thought he'd be, but I don't like his odds.
5. Boston Scott
Scott was a late season addition to the Eagles in 2018 off the New Orleans Saints practice squad. He showed some promise as a kick returner, but the addition of Jordan Howard pushes him down the depth chart by a notch. I see him as the 5th best running back on the roster. The Eagles will likely keep four backs on the roster, which means I don't see him making the 2019 Eagles unless someone above him is traded or released.
4. Josh Adams
Adams didn't start the season on the Eagles 53-man roster, but he found himself on that quickly after the season started. He was promoted to the active roster for Week 3, and stuck with the team the rest of the way. Adams did well in his limited role, and then when the team gave him a chance to handle the bulk of the carries he succeeded. He ended up becoming the team leader in rushing yards to end the season.
A fumble late in a crucial game against the Houston Texans ultimately sealed his fate though, as the team lost trust in the rookie. When the team made the playoffs, he didn't play a role at all, getting just one carry in two games. He'll start 2019 where he ended 2018 - behind Wendell Smallwood with a chance to earn a bigger role in the offense if the Eagles decide to keep him instead of possibly finding a trade partner.
3. Wendell Smallwood
Smallwood is an interesting case. He seems to have a small cult following who seems him as a great running back, while there is a louder group that claims he sucks and needs to be chased out of the city. I am in neither of those groups, as I see him as a "meh" ball carrier. You need three yards? Smallwood will get you four. You need six yards? Smallwood will get you.....four. You get the point.
While Darren Sproles was injured, Smallwood became the team's best pass blocking back. With Carson Wentz returning from another season-ending injury, pass blocking will become even more important for Eagles running backs. If the team doesn't find a trade partner late in the summer who'd want his services, Smallwood will likely remain on the team as the third back who gets time sparingly.
2. Corey Clement
After making himself a household name in Super Bowl LII, Clement was primed to have a breakout year in 2018. Two separate injuries hampered what should have been his breakout year, and now we enter 2019 not really knowing what to expect from Clement. Will he return to his 2017 abilities, where he came up big in the running game and the passing game?
If he remains healthy, I see him being a productive back for the Eagles. But I don't see him becoming a bell cow in the Eagles backfield - he will be the change of pace back who can earn yards in all different ways. He has a pretty good chance of being the teams kick returner as well in 2019.
The Eagles traded for him for a reason. Howard is on the final year of his contract, which means that Howie Roseman will make sure Doug Pederson uses Howard until he is physically unable to run the ball anymore. This way, Roseman wouldn't want to re-sign him after this season as he would have a lot of tread on his tires. Howard will likely leave in Free Agency in 2020, which in turn will give the Eagles a compensatory draft pick in 2021 (Howie Roseman is a damn wizard). Howard is primed to have a successful 2019 season as the Eagles' leader in carries, rushing yards and likely touchdowns.
So there you have it - my predictions for the 2019 Eagles backfield. Assuming no more trades are made and everyone has full health: Jordan Howard will be "the guy."Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood will likely be sprinkled into the game as well.The times he isn't listed as inactive on Sundays, Josh Adams can possibly poke his head into the game too.