Back at the beginning of the new league year, I gave my rankings of the six running backs that were currently on the Eagles roster. I wasn't expecting the Eagles to go out and use a high draft pick on the dangerous Miles Sanders nor was I expecting them to bring back Darren Sproles. Now that both of those events have taken place, it's time to revisit and update my ranking of the eight running backs that are currently wearing midnight green.
8. 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. I don't like his odds at being able to outplay all the talent in front of him and make the Eagles roster. He'll likely be cut unless the Eagles somehow find a trade partner for him.
7. 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 additions of Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders pushed him down the depth chart by a few notches. I see him as the 7th 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 some of the players above him are traded or released.
6. 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 - low on the depth chart 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.
5. 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 could very well make the roster and play very sparingly.
4. Darren Sproles
Sproles is ready for his last hurrah in the NFL, and he came back to Philadelphia with every intention of playing in a Super Bowl and earning a second ring to his potential Hall of Fame resume. He was limited in 2018 thanks to a hamstring injury that cost him most of the season, but when he was finally healthy towards the end of the season he showed he still can be reliable in the passing game.
Sproles' role will likely be mostly in the passing game, but his great pass-blocking abilities will give him some extra snaps to help protect Carson Wentz. He also will likely take back the punt return duties.
3. 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.
2. Miles Sanders
After the Eagles traded for Jordan Howard, it didn't seem likely that the Eagles would invest much in the upcoming draft on the running back position, but Howie Roseman decided to grab one of the best available 'backs when he selected Miles Sanders in the second round. The Eagles had health issues with their running backs in 2018, which lead to Wendell Smallwood and an inexperienced Josh Adams to handle carries late in the season. Roseman didn't want that to be a problem again in 2019, and he has secured a dynamic one-two punch in Sanders and Howard.
With this being his rookie season, Sanders might have some growing pains. But he has the talent to have a productive first season in the NFL, and he'll be learning from Howard Clement and Sproles throughout the year on how to adjust to playing on Sundays. If Doug Pederson and Duce Staley decide to keep a running back by committee approach, then Sanders will have a decent shot of being the Offensive Rookie of the Year by taking some snaps away from Howard.
1. Jordan Howard
The Eagles traded for him for a reason. Howard is on the final year of his contract, which means that Howie Roseman will persuade Doug Pederson to use 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. However, Pederson and Staley might want to keep the running back by committee approach. 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."Miles Sanders will likely be the change of pace back, with Corey Clement and Darren Sproles likely being sprinkled into the game as well. If they keep a fifth running back, then Wendell Smallwood is the leading candidate in that race.