Backs For The Future
DiCecco: Despite Sirianni's RBs Praise, Competition To Be Settled This Summer
Despite a rather barren cupboard at running back a few months ago, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni is bullish on the team’s depth there following a pair of shrewd offseason moves.
In mid-March, the Eagles ventured into free agency with only Kenny Gainwell, Trey Sermon, and Kennedy Brooks rounding out the depth chart.
With the impending contract expiration of starter Miles Sanders and crucial reserve Boston Scott, the positional landscape inspired little optimism, barring a hefty swing on a blue-chip draft prospect.
The dawn of free agency yielded the talented-but-oft-injured Rashaad Penny, signed to a team-friendly one-year prove it deal. Scott also returned after briefly testing the free-agent waters.
Then there was the Howie Roseman masterstroke on draft weekend, the acquisition of 24-year-old D’Andre Swift from the Lions in exchange for a 2025 fourth-round pick and a swap of seventh-rounders in ’23.
When healthy, the Philadelphia native has proven to be among the class of his position. The Penny-Swift pairing conceivably arms the Eagles with perhaps the league’s most lethal 1-2 punch.
While there also figure to be roles for both Gainwell and Scott in what’s now a crowded backfield, Sirianni on Thursday was adamant in factoring in both Sermon and Brooks to the equation.
“We have Trey, too, who we’re really excited about, and Kennedy Brooks is doing a nice job,” Sirianni said. “Man, we have a really deep room there.
“You’re excited about the competition that we’re going to have there. Backs get a little bit more chance to shine when the pads come on. Now, they’re still out there doing some things, and Kenny and D’Andre have done a really nice job in the receiving area, and so has Boston. They all have. But really, Kenny and D’Andre have really done a nice job there.”
Swift – and Penny, for now – spearhead the revamped group as the calendar rapidly advances to training camp to be sure, but configuring a murky depth chart brimming with talent suddenly becomes a welcomed conundrum.
I remain tentatively optimistic about the Penny acquisition due to his long-standing injury history – he’s missed 37 games in four seasons – and modest guaranteed sum.
The operative phrase surrounding Penny has always been “when healthy,” but the 2018 first-round pick has been remarkably productive when available.
An intriguing talent like Sermon, however, could potentially spell trouble for the snake-bitten Penny should Penny miss time during a period where reps are invaluable.
It’s worth mentioning that Sermon, 24, carries a third-round pedigree, sports a bigger build, and has two years remaining on his rookie deal.
As for Brooks, an undrafted signee last spring following a decorated career at Oklahoma, the 24-year-old will get his opportunities in the preseason but faces the steepest climb of any reserve.
Reps figure to be at a premium in camp, which presumably impedes his likelihood of catching eyes of the coaching staff.
Of course, a potential depth chart omitting Penny would mean that Gainwell – who came on strong down the stretch, collecting 236 all-purpose yards and a touchdown in the playoffs – parlayed enough late-season momentum into carving out a more sizable workload while operating in concert with Swift.
Realistically, though, the depth chart remains as anticipated, and the mention was merely Sirianni’s way of providing motivational fuel to engage those players in limbo before training camp begins.
“Some of those competitions sort itself out when they get the pads on, especially at that position,” Sirianni continued. “But man, we’re deep there. It’s a good problem to have as a coach. It’s just a really good problem.
“We’re really deep at that spot. It’s going to be great battles to who makes this football team, and they’re all going to be able to contribute in some sort of way.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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