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What the Eagles should do at running back

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Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have a lot of tough decisions to make as they try to get this team back to Super Bowl contention. Today we continue our position-by-position roster outlook series by examining the running back position. Previously: Quarterback.

THE PLAYERS

MILES SANDERS

Regular season stats: 613 snaps, 179 carries, 818 yards, 4.6 average, 3 TD ... 50 targets, 509 yards, 10.2 average, 3 TD ... 2 fumbles

Playoff stats: 49 snaps, 14 carries, 69 yards, 4.9 average

Review: Sanders flashed juice in the offseason but got off to slower start than expected. He only averaged 3.5 yards per carry in his first seven games. Sanders fumbled twice in his third game and he generally danced around a little too much as opposed to being more decisive. Sanders’ struggles quickly subsided as he evolved into the team’s most reliable big play threat. He really was the team’s most explosive receiving threat. Sanders also showed progress as a runner, averaging 5.2 yards per carry in his final nine games. Sanders finished the season with a real case for Offensive Rookie of the Year considering he led all rookies in total yards from scrimmage. Sanders showed star potential in 2019. He erased all concerns about him coming into the season.

Outlook: Sanders only turns 23 in May. The future is very bright for this young man. He figures to be the Eagles’ lead back in 2020 and beyond. He’ll be a weapon as both a runner and a pass catcher. The coaching staff has an offseason to figure out how to feature him even more than they did in 2019.

Poll

Miles Sanders: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    Stay
    (4964 votes)
  • 1%
    Go
    (74 votes)
5038 votes total Vote Now

JORDAN HOWARD

Regular season stats: 280 snaps, 119 carries, 525 yards, 4.4 average, 6 TD ... 14 targets, 10 receptions, 69 yards, 6.9 average (nice), 1 TD ... 0 fumbles

Review: Howie Roseman did well to trade for Howard for the cost of a mere late Day 3 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Howard was clearly the Eagles’ most efficient running back for the first half of the season. He wasn’t a regular big play threat by any means but he consistently churned out positive gains and rarely took losses. The Eagles were essentially running their wide receiver-depraved offense through Howard at one point, counting on his touches to play ball control. Then Howard suffered a shoulder injury that was described as a stinger in Week 9 and only played one snap for the rest of the regular season. Howard had previously only missed one game in his entire career. Howard ended the season as the third running back on the depth chart.

Outlook: Howard was on pace to early some real consideration in free agency prior to his injury. It’s hard to imagine that’ll still be the case after he didn’t play in the second half of the season. Howard has a strong track record of production with 897 career carries for a 4.3 average and 30 touchdowns. He’s also only 25 years old. Maybe there’s a team out there that gives him considerable money and a role that’s bigger than what he’ll have in Philly. If not, though, he could return to the Eagles at a reasonable price on a one-year contract. Sanders is an ideal complement to Sanders and Scott given his physical running style.

Poll

Jordan Howard: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    Stay
    (3997 votes)
  • 24%
    Go
    (1306 votes)
5303 votes total Vote Now

BOSTON SCOTT

Regular season stats: 186 snaps, 61 carries, 245 yards, 4.0 average, 5 TD ... 26 targets, 24 receptions, 204 yards, 8.5 average ... 4 fumbles

Playoff stats: 21 snaps, 6 carries, 25 yards, 4.2 yards ... 3 targets, 3 receptions, 23 yards

Review: Scott was injured for a good chunk of the summer and began the season on the practice squad. He was promoted to the 53-man roster in mid-October but he didn’t see meaningful playing time until December. Scott had a breakout game against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football in Week 14 before continuing to be a valuable contributor down the stretch. Scott’s three touchdown game in Week 17 earned him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Watching Scott provide the Eagles’ offense with some much-needed juice was refreshing.

Outlook: Scott established himself as the Eagles’ new version of Sproles. He should be a role-playing running back who gets a handful of carries and targets each week. Scott figures to be a nice complementary piece in the offense moving forward.

Poll

Boston Scott: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    Stay
    (5105 votes)
  • 1%
    Go
    (94 votes)
5199 votes total Vote Now

DARREN SPROLES

Regular season stats: 103 snaps, 17 carries, 66 yards, 3.9 average ... 10 targets, 6 receptions, 24 yards ... 1 fumble

Review: The Eagles re-signed Sproles shortly before 2019 training camp began. Some (myself included) wrongfully thought he still had some gas left in the tank. Others were rightfully concerned he was donezo. The Eagles oddly force fed Sproles early in the 2019 season — he had the most offensive touches of any skill player at halftime of Week 1! — and it wasn’t smart. The Eagles reduced Sproles’ playing time before he suffered a hip injury in Week 6. That was the same game he moved into fifth place in career all-purpose yards. Sproles returned in Week 9 only to re-aggravate his injury and be placed on injured reserve.

Outlook: The Eagles confirmed Sproles is retiring for real this time. It’s time. He’s had an incredible career. One of the most unique players to ever play in the NFL.

Poll

Darren Sproles: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Stay
    (159 votes)
  • 96%
    Go
    (4806 votes)
4965 votes total Vote Now

COREY CLEMENT

Regular season stats: 3 snaps

Review: Clement was expected to bounce back in some capacity after finishing the 2018 season on injured reserve. It didn’t happen. Clement barely even played on offense. He suffered a shoulder injury on a play where he fumbled a kick return in Week 2. The Eagles placed Clement on IR and called up Scott in October.

Outlook: Clement is set to be a restricted free agent. The Eagles will likely tender him at the lowest level — the right of first refusal. Such a scenario would allow the Eagles to match any deal that Clement is offered. The Eagles were high on Clement heading into 2018 and understandably so. He was coming off a promising rookie season that featured a 100-yard receiving performance in the team’s Super Bowl LII win. Since then, though, Clement hasn’t been able to stay healthy or effective. He’ll have to prove he belongs on the 2020 roster this offseason.

Poll

Corey Clement: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Stay
    (2130 votes)
  • 57%
    Go
    (2909 votes)
5039 votes total Vote Now

ELIJAH HOLYFIELD

Review: Holyfield spent the entire 2019 season on the Panthers’ practice squad but didn’t sign a reserve/future contract with Carolina, as is common practice. The Eagles signed Holyfield to their 53-man roster ahead of the team’s playoff matchup but he was predictably inactive on game day.

Outlook: The Eagles are clearly interested in giving Holyfield a look on their 2020 offseason roster. Perhaps Holyfield has some upside despite his awful athletic testing; BGN’s Benjamin Solak said the Georgia alumnus had the second best tape of any running back in last year’s draft. Holyfield profiles in the Howard mold as a player who won’t offer much in the passing game but can contribute as a powerful rusher in short-yardage and goal line situations. Interested to see what he can do in the preseason games.

Poll

Elijah Holyfield: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Stay
    (2214 votes)
  • 50%
    Go
    (2232 votes)
4446 votes total Vote Now

JAY AJAYI

Regular season stats: 21 snaps, 10 carries, 30 yards, 3.0 average ... 1 target

Review: The Eagles re-signed Ajayi in mid-November with Sproles going to IR and Howard dealing with his shoulder injury. Ajayi appeared in three games before the Eagles eventually released him on Christmas Eve. He looked totally cooked, which was sad to see given his Super Bowl contributions. Ajayi is now a professional gamer, though he doesn’t appear to be very good at it.

DE’ANGELO HENDERSON

Review: The Eagles signed Henderson to their practice in mid-October. They opted to re-sign Jay Ajayi instead of promoting him. The team also brought in Holyfield while Henderson was still on the practice squad. Henderson was one of only two final 10 practice squad members who did not sign a reserve/future contract with the Eagles. Henderson recently signed with the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks.

WHO COULD SIGN

The Eagles could look to re-sign Howard if his market doesn’t develop like he hopes it does. The Eagles won’t be looking to pay any kind of big money to running backs. Maybe a veteran depth guy if Howard isn’t retained.

NFL DRAFT OPTIONS

Written by Ben Natan:

Given the dynamics on the roster with Sanders and Scott both being shifty, playmaking backs; it would make sense for the Eagles to bring in a banger at running back. Someone who can beat and wear down a defense on every carry while also serving as a short yardage option. This draft class has three or four backs who could go in the first round between Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, Travis Etienne and JK Dobbins.

Obviously anything higher than a third round pick on a running back would be a bit silly for the Eagles this year so they need to look at sleeper prospects. A guy like ASU’s Eno Benjamin is a great back who could be available in the mid rounds but his style would be a bit redundant with the current group. Players to keep an eye on who could slip are Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Boston College’s AJ Dillon and Tony Jones our of Notre Dame.

All three are bigger, grinding backs who can punish defenders with size and an aggressive running style. Vaughn could be a big riser through this draft season as people clue into him being a major SEC producer on a team where he was the only offensive weapon. Dillon was phenomenal every year at Boston College but teams might question his speed. Tony Jones was underused at Notre Dame but has lead back potential.

Every year there is a new group of talented running backs who come out of the college ranks. There is no doubt that using draft capital on another back for a second straight year would be a luxury, but there is also no doubt that it could be a huge boost to an exciting young running back group in Philadelphia.