If you follow me on Twitter, you will know by now the Eagles signed one of my favorite pre-draft running backs last week in Trey Sermon. So I had to go back and watch his college film and his NFL film and write about him. Let’s start with my scouting report of him before the 2021 draft. I’ll back up some of my comments with some film as always so you can see what I mean. I had him as my running back 5 and with a 4th round grade (Kenny Gainwell was my RB6!).
Pre-Draft Scouting Report
+ Weight says he weighs 215 but plays bigger. Physically dominant at times and has good contact balance.
Again, a pretty simple run but gets downhill quickly and the contact balance is really good. You see arm tackles bounce off him and he always gets extra yards at the end. pic.twitter.com/Cvpyg8KfUp— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
This is exactly what I think the Eagles are missing at RB. A powerful back who can handle early down carries and play with a physical edge. This is the stuff I loved pre-draft pic.twitter.com/oFaGvp7V7E— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
He has that 'you aren't going to get me down' mentality when he's running with confidence that's hard to learn. His contact balance is really good but it's his aggression and willingness to fight for extra yards that stood out. pic.twitter.com/dVNLerGeXx— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
+ Always keeps his legs moving and falls forward a lot. Excellent at finishing his runs. Has a really good stiff arm too to avoid getting hit or even slowed down at times.
Watching Trey Sermon today... Will start with some college film and some NFL later on. I always liked the ability to fall forward and gain extra yards on contact. When he's confident he's decisive and plays urgent. pic.twitter.com/8RvwirmPd0— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
When I've said for ages I want the Eagles to get a physical downhill runner... This is what I mean. When he gets going he plays really, really hard and will not go down without a fight. pic.twitter.com/pSDEmxhhcZ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
+ Looked he had OK hands when targeted and has the build to be effective in pass pro. Has some impressive pass pro reps too.
+ Can handle a good workload. Got better late in games as he wore out defenses.
+ Has enough burst off the line for a big guy to get through creases. Good vision at times too, knows how to set up defenders and find gaps.
His vision in college wasn't always perfect but I thought he had good vision at the second level when the play was blocked well at the start. This should help him with the Eagles who obviously have an excellent run blocking OL. pic.twitter.com/kcw53NQpDD— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
- Will struggle to create behind a bad OL. Won’t make people miss in the backfield consistently. Isn’t elusiveness enough.
The thing that held him back in college was his inability to make the first man miss if a play was badly blocked. He also stopped his feet too often if he was uncertain and he became easy to tackle at the LOS. pic.twitter.com/purWnj56Rw— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
- Doesn’t have breakaway speed. Won’t create many big explosive plays.
- Quite upright with high pad level. Needs to get lower if he wants to avoid taking shots at the next level.
- Wasn’t used much in passing game.
Sermon isn’t a spectacular back and won’t blow anyone away with his game but he can be a solid early down back in the right zone system. He wasn’t used a great deal in the passing game and he will probably only ever be an early down back. However, he has the build to handle a lot of touches and improved as games went on. If an NFL team wants to get more physical at running back he makes a lot of sense as an early down back who can handle 12-15 carries a game and will keep an offense on schedule. I liked him more the more I watched him.
I have been desperate for the Eagles to sign a running back with aggression and a nasty edge to him to handle early down snaps and also carry the ball when the Eagles are winning in the 4th quarter. The Eagles offensive line is so nasty and physical and we just do not have a running back who suits this aggressive style. When you read my pre-draft summary, Sermon looks like the absolute perfect fit for the Eagles.
But, surely a 3rd round pick who was released after 1 year must suck, right? I am not so sure. I went back and watched Sermon’s carries from last year and he basically only played in 3 games. He went 10-32, 19-89 and 10-31 in those games. Overall on the year he had 41 carries for 167 yards. This is hardly good, but hardly terrible either.
I watched all of his carries, and these were some of my big takeaways. You saw flashes of the same player I saw in college, but he wasn’t consistent and didn’t play with that aggressive edge. In particular, he struggled with their wide zone which is the staple of a Kyle Shanahan offense.
Getting to some NFL film now... Very clear he wasn't confident at all running the 49ers wide zone. Far too hesitant here and runs straight into his blocker. pic.twitter.com/AGvzfwsbSQ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
He just seemed really lost too often on plays and ran into his own guy far too often. He never ran with the confidence he did in college. pic.twitter.com/ZYl9NAsxIY— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
On the positive, you saw flashes of the physical Sermon with good contact balance, especially on power and inside runs.
Far more comfortable running power, good pad level and more urgent, direct style. Gets upfield quickly and falls forward. pic.twitter.com/FiUcKyYJeI— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
He was so much more confident running power with the 49ers. He hits the hole and gets upfield in a hurry. pic.twitter.com/i81JewBzgA— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
You still see the player from college there. Good contact balance with weak arm tackles just bouncing off him. pic.twitter.com/sYLowRoXZ7— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
Lastly, I just didn’t see that nasty aggressive player I saw in college.
This play is the one that surprises me. I am sure Sermon in college just charges into the 2 safeties rather than try and get cute and cut it back. He's a physical, powerful back and needs to embrace that side of his game again. pic.twitter.com/eoLZ0mFs3N— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 5, 2022
I really didn’t think Sermon’s film was that bad. It wasn’t good, but you saw flashes of the same player I loved watching in college. I asked one of my favorite follows on Twitter (@richjmadrid) who breaks down 49ers film and what he said agrees with my own thoughts.
“I think he’s a better inside runner than outside runner. He’s not as decisive as an outside zone runner, tends to stop his feet a lot and hesitates when he hits the hole. As an inside, runner, he’s much more decisive and physical and will serve the Eagles offense well on zone read as an inside runner. I was surprised he was cut but the 49ers and thought he’d end up back on the practice squad at least given how many injuries the running back room tends to sustain in Shanahan’s offense. But I am not surprised he got picked up by another team. He can still be an effective back but his usage will be limited to more inside zone running schemes.”
When you go back and watch Sermon’s carries from last year, it’s clear he didn’t suit the 49ers scheme and struggled with the outside zone. Because of this, I don’t think he ever felt confident out there and we didn’t see the same Sermon that I saw in college. I didn’t see the aggression or attitude that I saw in college. He seemed to be overthinking everything and kept stopping his feet or showing hesitation at the line of scrimmage, what resulted in too many poor runs where he never got going.
Sermon doesn’t have the explosiveness or talent as Miles Sanders, but I really do believe he will fit the Eagles power running game and could excel on inside zone carries too. The Eagles don’t really run outside zone much at all so he won’t have to worry about that part of his game too much. If the Eagles can get Sermon feeling confident again and he can starting playing with an aggressive attitude, the Eagles might have a player who can really help their offense this season. I have felt this offense badly needed a physical downhill runner and I really do hope Sermon can be that guy for them this year.