Executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman says the Eagles are a better football team after free agency and the draft. We’re putting his claim to the test, breaking down the depth chart position by position to examine whether the roster really improved or actually took a step back this offseason.
Up next: running back, where it appears the Eagles are counting on an enormous leap from Miles Sanders.
It isn’t every year a rookie shows the kind of dramatic improvement from September to January like Miles Sanders did in 2019. Early on, he wasn’t seeing or hitting holes with conviction, trying to bounce runs outside and racking up losses in the process. But by the end, Sanders was playing at a Pro Bowl level, demonstrating the patience and physicality to be a north-south runner with home run explosiveness.
Sanders finished with 887 yards rushing and a 4.6 average on the ground, 517 yards receiving and 6 total touchdowns, including playoffs. As the Eagles’ bellcow back, 2,000 yards from scrimmage isn’t out of the question in 2020. This kid has a chance to be special.
For an offense that’s traditionally spread the workload across three and as many as four backs, the lack of depth at the position right now is staggering.
Boston Scott appeared to earn the Darren Sproles role with an impressive performance late last season, which is a positive because the future Hall of Famer finally retired. The Eagles haven’t really done anything to replace Jordan Howard after his departure though, unless you count re-signing Corey Clement. Amazingly, Clement is the only back on the roster besides Sanders and Scott who has touched the ball in an NFL game — which even that hasn’t happened since December 2018.
There may never be another back quite like Sproles, but Scott looked like a decent enough facsimile, if not an upgrade at this point. Over the final five games of 2019, including playoffs, he totaled 398 yards from scrimmage — more than half of that coming through the air — and 4 rushing touchdowns.
So while the name on the back of the jersey may have changed, and even describing Scott as a poor man’s version Sproles might be generous right now, all appearances are the Eagles will continue to have a shifty, change-of-pace back in the offense.
There’s no way the Eagles are going into this season with Clement, Elijah Holyfield and a couple of undrafted rookies competing for the third and fourth running back jobs, right? The addition of a veteran back feels inevitable. It’s likely more a matter of who.
And there are quite a few big names available. Devonta Freeman or Carlos Hyde would bring borderline star power to the mix. Frank Gore is getting up there in years, but is a professional. Or the Eagles could opt for familiarity with somebody like Spencer Ware coming from a similar system, or by bringing back LeSean McCoy or Wendell Smallwood. Point is, there’s going to be another body.
Better or worse?
There are two ways of looking at this. One is the Eagles lost and have so far failed to replace Howard, who produced 525 yards rushing and 7 total touchdowns in 10 games last season. The other way: Howard didn’t play the final seven games due to injury and the Eagles will almost certainly bring in somebody to fill his spot — while leaning more on an improved Sanders.
The second scenario is a projection though. And while the offense was down to two backs in the playoffs, next to nothing has been done to fill the third spot. So even through the lens of the loss to Seattle, it’s tough to say there’s been any measurable improvement.
Granted, that could easily change once the Eagles sign somebody.