All of a sudden, the Eagles have a crowded running back room.
After adding Jordan Howard at the beginning of April, Howie Roseman selected Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft, and just last Friday he went out and claimed former Lions running back Kerryon Johnson off waivers.
That leaves the Eagles with at least five backs who are capable enough to make the final roster — Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Howard, Gainwell, and Johnson. They’ll most likely elect to keep four backs on the roster, which would make sense given how many backs Nick Sirianni likes to use in his offense, along with how many solid backs there are on the roster.
That means one of those five will be cut during training camp this year. The natural choice that most fans would go to right away is Jordan Howard. He was only signed to a one-year deal making the veteran minimum with no guarantees. So if the Eagles want to cut him during camp, they’ll face no cap penalty.
But Boston Scott is a guy to keep an eye on as a potential ‘surprise’ cut during camp this year. Mostly due to the fact that his role as a receiving/third down back will most likely be taken by either Gainwell or Johnson.
Scott took a nice leap in his efficiency last season, averaging 4.7 yards per carry while totaling 374 yards on the ground. But what’s concerning is his lack of development as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Despite playing in all 16 games in 2020, Scott only caught 25 balls for 212 yards and one touchdown. In 2019, Scott nearly matched those numbers despite appearing in just 11 games — 24 receptions, 204 yards, no touchdowns.
Johnson has been a solid third down back for his entire career, but due to a crowded running back room in Detroit, his numbers steadily went down throughout his three-year stint with the team. In his rookie season, Johnson caught 32 balls for 213 yards and one touchdown. While Johnson’s and Scott’s receiving numbers are pretty similar, their ability to pick up oncoming pass rushers is what really separates them.
According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson has a 84.8 career pass blocking grade, which ranks him sixth among all active running backs. Scott had a pass blocking grade of 51.7 in 2020. It’s an often overlooked aspect of being a third down back, but it’s arguably the most important. If Nick Sirianni can’t trust one of his backs to effectively block for the quarterback, he simply won’t play him in those situations.
Gainwell, on the other hand, may be a more polished receiver out of the backfield than Scott already, plus he understands the importance of picking up the blitz. In his final season at Memphis, Gainwell recorded 51 receptions for 610 yards and three touchdowns. He has a legitimate slot receiver skill set at the running back position and should make an impact from day one. Which means Scott’s productivity will go down if he remains on the roster.
If the team likes what they have in both Johnson and Gainwell, Scott may just be the odd man out. Jordan Howard fills the power back, short yardage role for this team and there’s no way Scott can suddenly transition into that role. He’d need to grow about five inches and put on an extra 10 pounds, at least.
This isn’t a guarantee that Scott won’t make the roster in 2021, but none of us should be shocked if he ends up getting cut before the season gets underway.
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