Birds Banter With Bama's Blazing RB
Despite his expressed desire to remain in the city in which he was drafted to four years ago, pending free agent Miles Sanders wouldn’t appear to be among the Eagles’ priorities to retain.
For one, the fourth-year running back plays arguably the offense’s most volatile position, one in which decline is almost always around the corner.
The 25-year-old also accounted for just 57 percent of the team’s offense snaps last season, albeit during a career year, but never evolved into the pass-catcher many envisioned when Sanders first arrived as a highly touted rookie.
Given the Eagles’ extensive list of pending free agents, the team is more likely to allocate resources elsewhere, barring a team-friendly agreement.
How might the Eagles go about filling the potential void?
They could opt for the low-cost variety on the open market. In practical terms, however, the NFL Draft would serve as the most effective way to address the position.
At the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, decision-makers from across the league had an opportunity to evaluate – and meet – many of the nation’s top prospects ahead of what’s sure to be a whirlwind lead-up to draft weekend on April 27.
The Eagles reportedly met with a vast contingent of prospects in Indianapolis, including former Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs, an explosive home-run hitter who could instantaneously boost Philadelphia’s backfield.
Jahmyr Gibbs’ rapid-fire answer to citing his top three running backs all-time reflected the 20-year-old’s unwavering confidence as he surveyed a crowd of journalists from his podium.
“Barry Sanders, Adrian Peterson, and I say me,” Gibbs quipped.
A Georgia Tech transfer following 2021, Gibbs finished his junior season – his lone season in Tuscaloosa – with 1,370 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns. He added another 258 as a kick returner.
For someone with a long-standing history of running from out of pistol and shotgun formations, Gibbs was exposed to a large amount of inside and outside zone runs at Alabama, which he liked for its variable cuts and optionality.
Gibbs, who said he models his game after San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey, boasts an intriguing dual-threat skill set – open-field elusiveness, fluid change of direction, and advanced vision.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound runner is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. A decisive Week 5 victory over No. 20 Arkansas resulted in Gibbs’ most efficient rushing outing of the season, rolling up 206 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while adding another 20 through the air as a receiver.
In Alabama’s lopsided win over No. 9 Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl – his final as a collegian – Gibbs showcased his receiving prowess, snaring a pair of receptions for 66 yards. He added 76 rushing yards for good measure.
“I’m one of the most versatile people out there,” he said. “I can slot up anywhere. Slot receiver, running back, I can do a lot. I see myself as a playmaker more than anything.”
Rookie running backs struggle to make the most of their big-play potential when their pass protection is a concern.
While Gibbs is competent there, he has already identified pass protection and moving his feet on initial contact as areas for improvement.
One of the misconceptions that Gibbs will strive to dispel is the position’s waning shelf life and expendability. The multifaceted Gibbs, along with many of his draft-mates, are byproducts of the game’s natural progression.
“I think a lot of running backs didn’t have a long span in NFL because of how the offense was ran back in the day,” Gibbs said. “A lot of powerhouse stuff, a lot of power stuff. So, offense has changed. And it’s going to keep changing. Us being involved more in the passing game is going to allow us to have a longer span over the course of our career.”
Prior to Sunday’s testing, Gibbs was widely considered to be in the first-round conversation, but his 4.36 40-yard dash likely cemented his status.
If the Eagles view Gibbs as a suitable complement to third-year running back Kenny Gainwell, and believe the addition would enhance the offense significantly, they’ll almost assuredly have to select him with the 30th pick.
Wherever his next stop may be, Gibbs will again prioritize ingratiating himself to new teammates, just as he once did as a transfer.
“When I first get there I want to earn the respect of the veterans and all the teammates,” Gibbs said. “So I want to do that first and get that out the way and everything else, I think that’ll come just by itself.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.