Inside The Birds: Competition Brewing At Running Back
With the recent addition of former Lions running back Kerryon Johnson, the Eagles have added some critical depth to their backfield.
On the latest edition of Inside the Birds, Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan break down the addition of Johnson and what it could mean for the Eagles’ personnel decisions in August.
Also, the guys examine the undrafted free agent class and which ones could make the 53-man roster.
Geoff Mosher: “It’s an interesting addition. There’s a lot to go through here because he’s a really talented player when healthy, but he not only has some injuries that he’s dealt with in the NFL, I looked back in college and, man, we talk about Landon Dickerson, this kid has some injury history himself. So that’s why he is where he is, in this position where he was already replaced by De’Andre Swift and they brought in another running back in Jamaal Williams.”
Adam Caplan: “Yeah, Jamal Williams basically took his job, they paid him pretty good coin to back up Swift and it was pretty much over for him. I was surprised that the Eagles claimed him, but when I checked on it I totally get it. Kerryon Johnson is a phenomenal pass protector – that’s really what he became, not particularly a third-down back, but when he’s in on third down he blocks well. The three things I was given is: he scans well, he identifies well, and uses good technique to block. So he knows what he’s doing. That’s what you’re looking for in a potential third-down back or in this case he would be a third-down back if he makes the team, but he’s not gonna be their primary, but a guy that can do that…He gives them some experience, he has started games, he’s got size. By the way, he catches the ball very well. He’s a vision, set-up-the-blocks and hit-it-up-in-there kind of guy. He’s not fast. But he’s a talented guy, former second-round pick.”
Caplan: “Miles Sanders is the starter. There’s no one competing for it.”
Mosher: “By the way, a lot of people are interpreting [the Johnson signing] as some kind of sign that the team is not high on Miles Sanders.”
Caplan: “That’s total nonsense. Now there is one factor, though, and it’s that Sanders needs to improve. He and Boston Scott, I’m told, are not great pass protectors, Sanders improved with it, but he’s still not where he needs to be. The scanning part of it, sometimes he doesn’t pick up the right guy. It’s just something as you get older as a running back you start figuring it out but he’s not there yet.”
Caplan: “Gainwell will not be your typical third-down back, that won’t be his role. He’s going to be a specialty back in terms of the way they use him. He could see time on third down but he could come in on base downs, he could come in on first down. Don’t look at him as a third-down back, that’s absolutely not his role. He could do it and he will but he’s going to be a jack of all trades, slot receiver, X receiver. If you look at what he did in college for that one-year production, which was huge, they put so much on him, the Memphis coaches, and he stood up to it. He was incredible. That’s what makes him special as a talent and we’ll see what happens. He needs to perform in training camp to show that he deserves to be on the team, but I would say Howard or Scott are gone, that’s the way I see it in May.”
Caplan: “Jamie Newman, 6-foot-2, 234 pounds, big guy. Hand size is 9 ¾, arms aren’t long, not that it matters. Here’s the good stuff: competitive, good-enough arm, can move, athletic enough. Certainly has upside and is good enough to be developed in the practice squad. Negatives are very obvious; it shows up on tape. Tends to hold on the ball too long, stares down targets, half-field reader, RPOs and college, which is fine. He played at Wake Forest and transferred, this hurt him – starting, not deciding not to play because he transferred and opted out. Some people think he transferred because he didn’t think he’d go win the job, and then you opt out, I mean that’s his personal choice, but I do believe that somehow that was held against him by some teams. This kid’s got enough talent to be drafted. I understand he played at Wake Forest, the numbers were up and down, the accuracy is a problem for this guy. Too many throws you got to hit, he missed. I think some scouts were a little bit hard on him for opting out, but again this was his personal choice.”
Caplan: “Here’s the book on this kid: While he’s got good size, he has inconsistent hands, does not run into his 40 time but is very competitive. Works hard, does things after practice to help his overall game. Good at slants and routes that make him go get the football, does not throttle down, which is typical of big receivers. He’s got upside, could have been drafted, could have made the case for sixth or seventh round. He’s got talent, not a consistent player. He’s better for a practice squad where you can develop him there. He’s got a chance to make the team because the Eagles are so inexperienced at receiver, and again, only three receivers are definitely making it so after that, why can’t a kid like Grimes challenge for a fifth receiver job?”
Mosher: “I suppose he could, especially if he can contribute on special teams. I think people are a little overreaching on the idea that because he’s got this great size he can challenge and play the X that he’s just going to get out there and make the team and be their X receiver.”
Caplan: “He has versatility to play Y tight end, F, slot because he runs better than you think. Got hurt his first game last year with an MCL sprain, was limited to seven catches and only played three games. Good hands, solid athlete, absolutely will vie for that third tight end job in training camp. He should have been drafted. He would have been drafted had he played a full season, he would have been a fifth- or sixth-round pick, played four years. Several teams were involved in trying to sign him, the Eagles have a relationship with the agent that helps. Good run after the catch because he’s a pretty good athlete. Way better than average blocker, does a lot, goes in line or on the move. This is a really good free-agent signing and he might wind up making up for that awful mistake with Noah Togiai.”
– Justin Morganstein (@jmotweets_) is a staff contributor to InsideTheBirds.com
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