With off-season workouts underway, it is time to take an in-depth look at the Philadelphia Eagles roster. The Eagles are coming off a season where they reached the highest heights, the Super Bowl. Although, they did not come out on top, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Eagles are looking to retool to get right back to the big dance and capture the second Lombardi trophy in team history. One area that has seen a drastic change is the running back position. In this article, we will be looking over the Eagles running back room and which players have the best chance to make an impact in 2023.
Eagles Positional Preview: Running Backs
Back in April during the draft, the Eagles traded a fourth-round pick in 2025 and a seventh-rounder to the Detroit Lions to acquire D’Andre Swift and a seventh-rounder. The Lions drafted Swift in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The 24-year-old Swift has shown signs of being explosive at the NFL level but has been unable to put it all together. Swift fell out of favor with the Lions last season. He was out-performed by now New Orleans Saints running back Jamaal Williams. Swift has one year left on his deal and will need to perform much better to ensure a lucrative second contract.
One of the problems Swift has faced during his NFL tenure is injuries. He has yet to complete a full season without missing games. In 2022, he played in the most games in any season at 14. Swift has averaged over 4 yards per carry for his entire career. Despite seeing a career low in carries (99) in 2022, he had his best average at 5.5 yards per carry. He totaled 542 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in 2022. He added 46 catches for 357 yards and two more touchdowns through the air.
Swift gets a chance to play for his hometown now in Philadelphia. He attended high school at St. Joseph’s Prep, less than 10 miles from Lincoln Financial Field. On paper Swift comes in as the starting running back for the Eagles. He is an explosive runner who does a ton of damage in open space. Swift is the best receiving back the Eagles have on their roster. He has soft hands and great run-after-the-catch ability. Swift will get the chance to run behind the best offensive line in football. Combined with the threat of Jalen Hurts running Swift should be in for a career year, granted he can stay healthy.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) May 1, 2023
This off-season the Eagles signed Rashaad Penny to a one-year deal worth $1.35 million. Penny was a first-round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018. When on the field, Penny has been one of the best running backs in all of football. However, staying on the field has been his problem. The most games he has played in one season was 14, which was in his rookie year. Since then he has played in 10 games twice and two seasons with less than five games played. His talent has never been a question; if he can stay healthy he should have a fantastic season.
Over Penny’s five-year career, he has averaged a staggering 5.7 yards per carry. His best season came in 2021 where he played in only 10 games but carried the ball 119 times for 749 yards and six touchdowns with a 6.3 yards per carry average. He was only healthy enough to play in five games in 2022 although he did average 6.1 yards per carry. Penny is an extremely physical runner which might be why he is so often injured. He runs with great pad level and is violent through the hole. He does his best work as an in-between-the-tackles runner. In terms of receiving back, he does not offer much. He has yet to catch more than nine passes in a single season. This could be a result of the Seahawks offense and his injuries. However, his yards-per-catch average is very good.
Due to his inability to stay healthy, it is hard to label him the starting running back for the Eagles as of now. Although, he might be the best pure runner on the entire roster. It is very likely the Eagles choose to limit his carries throughout the regular season to keep him healthy for the playoffs. At this point, it is just a wait-and-see approach for him.
RASHAAD PENNY CANNOT BE STOPPED. 62-YARD TD. #Seahawks
— NFL (@NFL) January 10, 2022
The Eagles would benefit greatly if Kenneth Gainwell could play like “Playoff Kenny G” for the upcoming season. Down the stretch of last season, Gainwell took a step forward. He accounted for 181 yards on 33 carries and one touchdown over the three playoff games. He also added seven catches for 55 yards. Gainwell seemed like he took over the starting role from now Carolina Panther running back Miles Sanders and his snap count in the Super Bowl proved that. Gainwell had 38 snaps to Sanders 26. Sanders did not have a good Super Bowl performance. He fumbled the ball out of bounds on the very first snap and seemed off from there. In fairness to Sanders, there were rumors Sanders might have gotten injured in the play. Sanders could be seen jogging to the locker room, but the Eagles did not announce an injury designation.
Gainwell’s role on the 2023 Eagles should be similar to last season. He will play the receiving back role and get occasional carries to spell the starter. However, Gainwell’s snaps might be more limited this season; with Swift and Penny perceived to be ahead on the depth chart. Swift is a very good pass-catching back and will get the bulk of those opportunities. Gainwell will need to prove to the Eagles that he deserves to be the primary receiving backup to Swift. Regardless, Gainwell provides nice depth for the running back position especially since Swift and Penny have been often injured. Gainwell should be a lock for the roster as an Eagles running back in 2023.
Boston Scott has been an exceptional role player for the Eagles during his career. He does not get as much playing time as other backs, but he takes advantage of opportunities when they come. During his five-year career, he has 282 rushing attempts for 1209 yards and 16 touchdowns. For a 5′-6″, 203-pound running back, he knows how to find the end zone. Scott has never been the featured back, although he provides great depth and is always reliable. He should have no issues making the roster for no other reason than his ability to play special teams. Even if the Eagles just choose to unleash the “Giant Killer” versus their NFC East foe the New York Giants, he should have another great season.
Trey Sermon’s NFL career has not gotten off to a hot start. He was drafted in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He played in nine games for them in his rookie season before being cut. The Eagles claimed him off waivers and he was on the roster for the 2022 season. He appeared in two games where he carried the ball two times for 19 yards.
Sermon is climbing an uphill battle to make the roster as an Eagles running back in 2023. He is clearly behind Swift, Penny, and Gainwell. Sermon will need to have an excellent preseason to prove he deserves a spot on the 53-man roster. For what it is worth, the Eagles chose to keep him on the 53-man roster all last season. Despite not playing much, he was taking up a valuable roster spot. For them to have done that, they must like what he brings to the table.
Kennedy Brooks has the longest odds to make the Eagles roster. He went undrafted in 2022 but signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent. Brooks was waived in August 2022 but signed to the Eagles practice squad the very next day. He was again released in November of 2022. He signed a reserve/futures contract in January of 2023. Brooks played his college career with Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma.
In the three seasons he played, he eclipsed 1000 rushing yards every season. He also totaled 31 rushing touchdowns. He does provide some juice in the passing game having caught over 70 passes in a season twice in college. Brooks comes into the season more or less as a camp body. It is unlikely Brooks makes the Eagles 53-man roster this season. However, with a good camp and preseason, he has a chance to show the team what he is made of. Even if he does not make the Eagles 53-man roster, he is fighting for a spot on all other 31 teams’ rosters and practice squads.
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