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What the Eagles should do at running back

Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2018 roster. It’s time to start figuring out what this team needs to do to get back to the Super Bowl. Today we’ll continue this roster outlook series by looking at the running back position.

THE PLAYERS

WENDELL SMALLWOOD

Regular season stats: 324 snaps, 87 carries, 364 rushing yards, 4.2 average, 3 rushing TD, 28 receptions, 230 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD, 2 fumbles

Playoff stats: 18 carries, 53 yards, 2.9 average, 3 receptions, 26 receiving yards

Review: Smallwood wasn’t even a lock to make the 2018 roster as he battled for the fourth running back spot in training camp. He ultimately did enough to not lose the job. Multiple injuries to the running back position forced Smallwood into action. Overall, he was decent relative to expectation. Pass protection was a major issue, however, and there was one point during the year where he was phased out of the rotation entirely ... for the second season in a row. Smallwood bounced back and ended up being the Eagles’ “lead back” for a late season run that extended into the playoffs.

Outlook: Smallwood is JAG: Just A Guy. He runs hard, which is nice, but there are also plenty of times where he leaves yards on the field due to poor vision. Having him as a third or fourth running back is acceptable but he’s just not an ideal option as a lead ball carrier. Smallwood, entering the final year of his contract, will need to fight for his spot on the 2019 roster.

Poll

Wendell Smallwood: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Stay
    (2051 votes)
  • 67%
    Go
    (4167 votes)
6218 votes total Vote Now

JOSH ADAMS

Regular season stats: 252 snaps, 120 carries, 511 rushing yards, 4.3 average, 3 rushing TD, 7 receptions, 58 receiving yards, 0 receiving TD, 1 fumble

Playoff stats: 1 carry, 2 yards

Review: Adams began the season on the practice squad after showing some nice flashes in the preseason. Adams was called up to the 53-man roster early in the season but it wasn’t until mid-season that he started to see a significant workload. There was a stretch during the year where he was clearly the Eagles’ most efficient runner. The Eagles even gave him 20+ carries in back-to-back weeks at one point. Adams’ effectiveness waned late in the season and the Eagles went away from him completely in the playoffs. His Week 16 fumble late in the Texans game did him no favors when it came to earning the trust of the coaching staff.

Outlook: It says a lot about the quality of the Eagles’ ground game that Adams was Philly’s leading rusher with just 511 yards. Not great! Overall, Adams did well relative to expectations for an undrafted rookie free agent. But his value to the team moving forward is limited by the fact he’s not a factor as a pass catcher or pass protector. Adams will have to show improvement to make the roster in 2019.

Poll

Josh Adams: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Stay
    (4060 votes)
  • 36%
    Go
    (2302 votes)
6362 votes total Vote Now

COREY CLEMENT

Regular season stats: 238 snaps, 68 carries, 259 yards, 3.8 average, 2 rushing TD, 22 receptions, 192 receiving yards, 0 receiving TD, 4 fumbles

Review: Looking back, Clement was one of the biggest disappointments of the 2018 season. There was an expectation that he’d take a significant step forward after a promising rookie campign. It never happened, though. Clement likely wasn’t helped by the fact he seemed to be dealing with injury issues the entire year. Clement did have two of his most efficient games prior to suffering a season-ending injury in Week 14.

Outlook: Clement will likely be with the team in 2019. The Eagles were very high on him heading into last season. It just seemed like he was never truly healthy in 2018. It’d be really nice to see him have a strong offseason. He still projects as a solid rotation contributor with third-down back skills.

Poll

Corey Clement: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Stay
    (5698 votes)
  • 10%
    Go
    (699 votes)
6397 votes total Vote Now

DARREN SPROLES

Regular season stats: 149 snaps, 29 carries, 120 yards, 4.1 average, 1 rushing TD, 15 receptions, 160 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD, 0 fumbles

Playoff stats: 16 carries, 25 yards, 1.6 average, 5 receptions, 35 yards

Review: Sproles played in just one game before suffering a hamstring injury that kept him out until December. There were calls to shut him down for the season but Sproles made those look foolish as he was able to be a productive player late in the season. He accounted for 108 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown against the Texans in Week 16. Sproles failed to make much of an impact in the playoffs, however.

Outlook: Sproles, who turns 36 in June, reportedly told the Eagles he might want to play another season. The feeling here is the Eagles should be open to bringing the veteran free agent back for one last ride. The ideal approach might be to handle it like how they did last year, which is to wait to sign him until after the NFL Draft. The Eagles should plan as if they’re not going to have Sproles for 2019. If it comes to the point where the 2019 NFL Draft is over and they feel like they still need him, then it could be time to bring him back, assuming he’s even still interested in playing.

Poll

Darren Sproles: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    Stay
    (4243 votes)
  • 33%
    Go
    (2179 votes)
6422 votes total Vote Now

JAY AJAYI

Regular season stats: 120 snaps, 45 carries, 184 yards, 4.1 average, 3 rushing TD, 5 receptions, 20 receiving yards, 0 receiving TD, 1 fumble

Review: Leading up to the 2018 season, there was a lot of talk about how Ajayi was going to be used as a true lead back. It never truly happened, though, as Sproles and Ajayi played the exact same amount of snaps in Week 1. Ajayi then suffered a back fracture in Week 2, which caused him to miss a game, before returning to the lineup in Week 4. Ajayi then suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 5.

Outlook: Ajayi is going to be a free agent this offseason. It’ll be very interesting to see what his market is like coming off an ACL injury. There was already concern about Ajayi’s “degenerative” knees prior to his 2018 injury. Perhaps his market won’t be so strong and the Eagles will be able to sign him to a relatively afford one-year, “prove it” deal. That might be the best option for both sides. The Eagles won’t be overpaying to keep Ajayi.

Poll

Jay Ajayi: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Stay
    (2731 votes)
  • 57%
    Go
    (3715 votes)
6446 votes total Vote Now

BOSTON SCOTT

Regular season stats: 4 kick returns for 96 yards

Review: The Eagles signed Scott off the Saints’ practice squad late in the season. He really only contributed as a kick returner.

Outlook: Scott will have a chance to compete for a roster spot in 2019. The odds are stacked against him.

Poll

Boston Scott: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Stay
    (1310 votes)
  • 76%
    Go
    (4302 votes)
5612 votes total Vote Now

DONNEL PUMPHREY

Review: It was looking like Pumphrey might actually win the Eagles’ No. 4 running back job at one point in training camp. But then he got hurt AGAIN and missed most of the summer. The Eagles cut their 2017 fourth-round pick and showed no interest in bringing him back to the practice squad, opting to keep Adams instead. Pump spent some time on the Lions’ practice before ultimately ending up back on Philly’s practice squad.

Outlook: Pump will have yet another chance to make the Eagles’ roster but he’ll need to stay healthy and have a strong offseason. Hard to count on that happening given his history so far.

Poll

Donnel Pumphrey: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Stay
    (563 votes)
  • 90%
    Go
    (5308 votes)
5871 votes total Vote Now

WHO COULD SIGN

The Eagles ranked 30th in rushing yards per play in 2018. They clearly need to upgrade their running back talent.

It was rumored the Eagles had interest in trading for Le’Veon Bell before the 2018 trade deadline but that never happened. Interestingly enough, Bell told ESPN he believes the Eagles are one of the teams that want to sign him in free agency. I just can’t see the Eagles spending big money on a free agent running back but the previous buzz makes Bell worth mentioning.

Kareem Hunt is reportedly expected to be playing in 2019. From an on-field perspective, Hunt makes a ton of sense for Philly. The off-field issues could easily be a deal-breaker for the Eagles, though.

Tevin Coleman or T.J. Yeldon could make sense as guys who fit in a rotation-based system.

NFL DRAFT OPTIONS

The Eagles haven’t drafted a first-round running back in 34 years. I don’t think that trend is going to broken this offseason. This front office has shown a reluctance to heavily invest in the position. With that said, I would think getting a runner on Day 2 is certainly possible because the Eagles clearly need more help at the position.

It’d be great if Josh Jacobs fell to the second round. Other options include: Damien Harris, David Montgomery, Justice Hill, Devin Singletary, Miles Sanders, Elijah Holyfield, Benny Snell.