As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer.
Today, we’ll look at running back.
Names to know
Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Matt Jones, Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey, Josh Adams.
What to watch
The Eagles have made it pretty clear that after LeGarrette Blount left in free agency, Ajayi will be the team’s lead back. Now, there are plenty of questions about that because he’s not going to be a lead back in the more traditional sense. This just basically means he’ll get a little more than the other guys and he’ll get the first crack at starting. He should be able to have a good season.
After that, Clement and Sproles are roster locks. (I know some think Sproles isn’t, but he is. Sproles will be on the roster.) After that, there are a few guys fighting for that fourth running back spot. It’s possible the Eagles could keep five, but we’ll go on the idea that there’s just four.
Jones, who signed as a free agent, is in the lead for that position. He hasn’t shown a ton in the spring — other than being huge — but Doug Pederson seems to really like him. And Jones is talented as long as he can hold on to the football, a problem in his young career. Then there’s Smallwood and Pumphrey. Two young draft picks trying to prove themselves. Smallwood has shown flashes during his career but has struggled to stay healthy. Pumphrey was a fourth-rounder last year but was so bad during training camp, he was eventually stashed on IR as a rookie. Adams is an undrafted running back who is a long shot right now; talented in college but behind in the competition after getting hurt this spring.
Aside from the battle to make the roster, there’s another battle for playing time. That battle will likely be decided as the season progresses.
I think the four on the roster will be Ajayi, Clement, Sproles and … Jones. I’m tempted to say Smallwood because I know the Eagles were high on him last season before the injury bug bit him again, but the team seems to have a plan in place for Jones. I think the team might give up on Smallwood and try to see if they can get Pumphrey on the practice squad. We’ll see what Pump can do this summer, but I’m nowhere near a believer yet.