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.”