Donnel Pumphrey, once a ballyhooed draft pick, fighting for his NFL life

AP Images

Donnel Pumphrey, once a ballyhooed draft pick, fighting for his NFL life

Once the season was over and it was time for Donnel Pumphrey to figure out exactly where it all went wrong, he put on film of his preseason performances and sat there and watched himself.

“I feel like last year I didn’t have that same chip on my shoulder that I had in college,” he said. “And it showed, once I looked back at film.

“I’m just putting that chip back on my shoulder. I’m ready to go. I’m definitely motivated this year.”

He better be.

Pumphrey arrived at training camp last summer as a ballyhooed fourth-round pick out of San Diego State, where he became the all-time leading rusher in NCAA Division 1 history with 6,405 yards. 

But the Eagles never even saw a hint of the speed and elusiveness Pumphrey was known for in college.

He averaged just 1.9 yards per carry in four preseason games — lowest by an Eagle in the preseason in at least 20 years, or as far back as records are available. 

“In the preseason I didn’t show up, whatsoever,” Pumphrey said after a recent OTA practice. “I just have to play better or else my job will not be here.”


Even without LeGarrette Blount, the Eagles have a surplus of backs. Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles have the team made, with Matt Jones, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams and Pumphrey all fighting for jobs. 

“I really honestly am just worried about what I can control,” Pumphrey said. “Just worried about myself right now. And when I get those opportunities got to take advantage of those.”

What happened last year?

Pumphrey was banged up in training camp last year, and he said that affected his ability to perform in the preseason games. He eventually went on injured reserve with what the team said was a torn hamstring suffered in practice.

The reality is that Pumphrey was healthy enough to play a few weeks after he got hurt, but the Eagles knew he wasn’t going to contribute so they stashed him on IR.

“I felt good around October-ish, but we were playing good and all our backs were playing good,” he said. 

“I understood. It was more like a red-shirt year. I learned a lot last year just taking that season off. Plus (recovering from) all those carries I had in college.”

Pumphrey was around the team all year. He was in meetings and film study, he was out watching practice, and he was in Minneapolis for Super Bowl week and on the sidelines for the win over the Patriots.

He did everything but play.

“I attended all the meetings and that made me feel like I was still part of the team,” he said.

“They would still ask me questions in the meeting rooms and I still had to know the gameplay as if I was playing and that helped a lot.” 

Pumphrey played at 175 pounds in college and tried to put on 10 pounds last summer to deal with the rigors of the NFL, but he said he put it on too fast.

He reported this month at 186 pounds but said he gained the weight the right way this time.

“I’m about 186 but more muscle,” he said. “I feel fast. I feel great out there.

“Last year I put on the weight too fast and sometimes the injuries come with that. Last year I reported at about 175-ish but then I got up to 184 fast. I tried to drop to about 180.  

“I really just know what to expect more (this year). I was down in San Diego and got a couple workouts with Sproles and you guys know how he trains, so I just felt a lot better and knew what to expect coming in.”

The odds are not in Pumphrey’s favor. Right now, he’s on the outside looking in.

For him to even be considered for a roster spot, he has to look like a completely different player than a year ago.

“My plan is really just to stay healthy and just try to keep my head down and continue to work,” he said.

“I haven’t been able to play with these guys for a whole year, so I’m just happy to be out there with my teammates.”

Erase Jay Gruden's name from your Eagles coaching wish list

Erase Jay Gruden's name from your Eagles coaching wish list

Another of the most qualified remaining candidates for the Eagles’ offensive coordinator vacancy is off the board.

Jay Gruden, recently fired after six mediocre years as the Redskins’ head coach, is close to joining the Jaguars to fill their offensive coordinator vacancy, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Assuming the deal is completed, Gruden will become the Jaguars’ third offensive coordinator in three years. He replaces former Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, fired last week after just one year in Jacksonville. DeFilippo replaced Nathaniel Hackett, who was fired and spent this past year in the same position with the Packers. DeFilippo was recently hired by Matt Nagy as QBs coach of the Bears.

Ten teams were in the market for an offensive coordinator when the regular season ended.

Of those 10, the Eagles are one of only two still hanging a "Help Wanted" sign on their front door. 

The other is the Vikings, whose offensive coordinator this past year, Kevin Stefanski, was named last week as head coach of the Browns.

Gruden, whose older brother John was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator under Ray Rhodes from 1995 through 1997 and is now head coach of the Raiders, spent 2011 through 2013 as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator before replacing Mike Shanahan as head coach of the Redskins in 2014.

His teams went 38-57 in six years and reached the playoffs only once, losing a wild-card game to the Packers in 2015.

In Jacksonville, Gruden will presumably be working with 2017 Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, who was the Jaguars’ opening-day quarterback this past year but was hurt much of the season and then benched later in the year for rookie Gardner Minshew.

It’s not known whether the Eagles had any formal interest in Gruden, but he was certainly one of the most intriguing remaining candidates for the opening.

The Eagles fired Mike Groh 12 days ago after two years as offensive coordinator one day after head coach Doug Pederson said both would remain on his staff.

Among the candidates the Eagles have been linked with who are now expected to remain in their current position are Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka, Ravens QBs coach James Urban (who spent three years as Bengals WRs coach under Jay Gruden) and USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.

Other qualified candidates who are off the board include Chan Gailey, hired as Dolphins offensive coordinator; LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady, who was hired by the Panthers; Joe Moorhead, who was hired Tuesday as Oregon’s offensive coordinator; and former Eagles offensive coordinator and recently fired Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, who was hired as OC of the Broncos.

Earlier Tuesday, we outlined some of the top remaining candidates, including current Eagles position coaches Duce Staley and Press Taylor.

The Eagles also remain without a wide receivers coach, a secondary coach and a defensive line coach. The team fired receivers coach Carson Walch and d-line coach Phillip Daniels, and secondary coach Cory Undlin accepted the defensive coordinator position with the Lions.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Here's a sneak peak of the 2020 NFL Draft venue ... and it's 100% Las Vegas

Here's a sneak peak of the 2020 NFL Draft venue ... and it's 100% Las Vegas

The blueprint for the 2020 NFL Draft venue has been revealed and it's just what you would expect it to be in Las Vegas.

The draft has become quite a production in recent years, but this has to top all previous attempts if it's executed the way they're saying.

Reportedly, players will be transported to the stage by a boat. Which could be an epic moment for the draftees ... but could also add a significant amount of time to the already long night of events.

The red carpet stage has a more traditional look when it comes to a draft setting, but since it's Vegas, it's go big or go home.

There are currently mixed opinions about it all, but here are some of the funniest:




The draft will be held from April 23-25 where the Eagles currently hold the 21st overall pick.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles