Eagles

An outside-the-box solution with Eagles possibly short a receiver

Eagles

The Eagles might be without Quez Watkins on Sunday against Washington after they were forced to put him on the Reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week.

They need to figure out a solution.

Sure, it could and might just be the most simple solution. The Eagles can continue to play DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor and get more snaps for Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. And they’ll likely elevate John Hightower or someone else from the practice squad.

“Obviously, we have five receivers that we've had that we feel confident in getting them the football, so it's just next man up,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “And we'll see how practice goes this week of who we're going to bring up from the practice squad.”

But I have an outside-the-box solution if Watkins can’t go: Play Kenny Gainwell in the slot.

The Eagles’ fifth-round running back has the smoothest hands in that room. Heck, a lot of times he already looks like a receiver. And dating back to training camp, the Eagles have used him in a variety of ways.

During the season, most of Gainwell’s 243 offense snaps have come in the backfield with just 30 snaps lined up out wide and 7 in the slot, according to ProFootballFocus. But he has the ability to play slot receiver and this week it makes sense.

Because aside from the fact that the Eagles might be without their starting slot receiver, they are also expected to have their full complement of running backs healthy. Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott will all likely be ready to play against Washington on Sunday.

 

The last time all four running backs were healthy was on Nov. 21 against the Saints. In that game, the Eagles dressed Sanders, Howard and Scott, while Gainwell was a healthy scratch. It’s the only time this season Gainwell has been inactive for a game.

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Gainwell, 22, has had some success on the ground and as a receiver this year. He’s rushed for 209 yards and four touchdowns, but he’s caught 28 passes for 238 yards with another score. It’s pretty clear he’s a weapon in the offense, so it should be up to the offensive coaching staff to figure out a way to keep him involved even if it’s not at his natural position.

Just four running backs in Eagles history have more receptions than Gainwell through the first 12 games of their careers: Lee Bouggess (44 in 1970), Junior Tautalatasi (33 in 1986), Miles Sanders (32 in 2019) and LeSean McCoy (30 in 2009).

It comes down to this: Would the Eagles be better off giving snaps to Ward, JJAW or Hightower? Or would they be better off making sure that Gainwell is involved in the game plan?

What I’ve seen from Gainwell in his rookie season is that he’s a player worthy of touches. And I’d try to make sure he gets them. The way the situation is lining up on Sunday, it makes sense to get him some snaps in the slot.