May 7, 2021   3 MIN READ

Birds Claim Former Lions RB Johnson Off Waivers


The competition at running back for the Eagles has picked up lately.

On Friday, the Eagles claimed former Lions running back Kerryon Johnson off waivers, adding the fourth-year running back to a group that last week added a new face when the team drafted former Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell.

Johnson is the third ball carrier added this season, with the Eagles bringing back veteran Jordan Howard on a 1-year free agent deal and using a fifth-round pick on Gainwell, a small-but-speedy halfback who’s also an excellent pass catcher.

Third-year pro Miles Sanders enters 2021 as the top back on the depth chart but needs a strong season after having an inconsistent 2020, with just 1,064 total yards and six touchdowns, down from his 1,327-yard rookie season. Sanders also played just 12 games.

But the Eagles really needed to address depth. Howard and Johnson, two veterans, can step into the No. 1 role if Sanders has to sit. It’s possible that the Eagles battle Howard against Johnson for the No. 2 spot behind Sanders and only one makes the team.

Rounding out the stable of ball carriers for the Eagles are Boston Scott, who’s best served as a changeup back, along with Justin Huntley and Elijah Holyfield. The team claimed Huntley off waivers after the roster cutdown but barely played him. Holyfield, a power runner who lacks speed, spent the entire year on the practice squad despite the team’s need for more bulk.

Johnson (5-11, 212 pounds) averaged 4.3 yards per carry in his three seasons with the Lions, who drafted him in the second round (43rd overall) in 2018, and has 11 career touchdowns.

Johnson rushed for 641 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie, adding 213 receiving yards, but played just eight games in 2019 because of a knee injury. Last year, he fell down the depth chart after the team drafted De’Andre Swift in the first round. Johnson managed just 181 rushing yards and 368 total yards, leading the Lions to waive him Thursday.

Johnson’s list of injuries is long and goes back to high school but he’s shown flashes of potential and promise. In just his third game as a rookie, Johnson rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries against the Patriots on a Sunday night, spearheading a 26-10 win. But the effort gained more attention because he broke the team’s 70-game streak without a 100-yard rusher.

– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for

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