The Eagles had the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL last season. While that’s an impressive feat that any running back room should be able to hang their hat on, the Eagles success on the ground in 2021 was due in large part to their all-world offensive line. Not to mention the running ability of Jalen Hurts, who led the team in rushing with 784 yards.
The Eagles running back corps is good not great, but they certainly have the potential to be a top tier group by the end of this upcoming season.
Let’s take a look at each player in the running back room and breakdown how they’ll fit into the Eagles offensive attack this season
The Main Trio: Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott
The Eagles three-headed rushing attack is essentially set in stone. Miles Sanders will be the RB1 who plays the majority of snaps, Kenny Gainwell will be the primary third down back, and Boston Scott will be the change of pace guy who will fill in from time to time.
Sanders has the most to prove entering the 2022 season. He’s been a very efficient back since entering the league in 2019, averaging 5.1 yards per carry for his career. But his overall production, along with his struggles to stay healthy, remain a concern. Sanders didn’t score a single touchdown last season and his yards from scrimmage have steadily declined in each of his three seasons.
Here’s a quick look at Sanders stats by year:
Sanders 2021 season was his worst statistically. He didn’t find the end zone a single time and it was the first time in his career where he didn’t eclipse 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
Maybe it was due to the change in offensive systems, maybe the ankle injury had a bigger effect than we perceived at the time, who knows. The fact of the matter is, if Sanders doesn’t increase his production in 2022, he probably won’t get the type of contract he’s looking for.
Unless Sanders has a Pro Bowl season, getting top-10 money at the running back position is out of the question. But, a contract where he’s making about $6 million to $6.5 million is certainly feasible. That would place among the likes of Kareem Hunt, Austin Ekeler, and Nyheim Hines as far as yearly salary is concerned.
The best thing the Eagles backfield has going for them right now is that they don’t need Sanders to do everything. Kenny Gainwell proved last season that he’s capable of picking up the slack on the receiving end of things.
He’s your prototypical third down back. Gainwell led the Eagles backfield in receiving last season, tallying 33 receptions for 253 yards and a touchdown. His 75.9 receiving grade from Pro Football Focus ranked eighth among backs last year, along with his 75.8 pass blocking grade.
Pass blocking is typically the steepest learning curve for any young running back. Gainwell did it with ease in 2021.
Expect his role to expand a bit in 2022. He should get some action in the slot along with getting more carries out of the backfield. He showed nice vision and balance when running between the tackles last season.
Then we have Boston Scott. He had his moments last season when Sanders was out with injury and he continued his production as the RB2 when Sanders was healthy. He had his most productive rushing season to date in 2021, racking up 373 yards on the ground on 87 carries (4.3 YPC) and found the end zone 7 times.
Even though he’s just 5-foot-6, Scott is a north-south runner who’s shown between the tackles ability all throughout his career. He’ll continue to be a nice change of pace back for Sanders in 2022.
What about the fourth running back?
The final spot on the running back depth chart will likely come down to Jason Huntley or Kennedy Brooks. I wrote extensively on that camp battle a week ago; you can read that here.
In short, we have to see how both perform during camp before making a determination. Huntley may be the fastest back on the roster, but Brooks can fill the power back role left behind by Jordan Howard. It will be one of the more interesting storylines to follow throughout camp this year.
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