Over the next week or so at the Metro, we will get you prepared for this year’s edition of Philadelphia Eagles training camp. Unlike previous summers, the Eagles will hit the practice field at the NovaCare Complex as defending Super Bowl champions.
How will they handle the pressure of being the hunted and not the underdogs? Only time will tell.
However, before we can fast forward to Week 1 of the regular season, we have to take a look at each position group on the roster. Some positions have more questions than others, while others are deep with immense talent.
In part 1 of our series, we looked at the Eagles quarterback room, which is in good hands for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, in our next installment, we will preview the running back position, which has some questions to answer this season.
1. Jay Ajayi – Last season, Jay Ajayi was acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. It was a low-risk, high reward move by Eagles executive vice president Howie Roseman.
Before the acquisition of Ajayi, the Eagles’ backfield consisted of LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood. While on paper that was a solid running back rotation, none of those guys screamed feature back.
In three seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Ajayi showed that he could carry a heavy workload as their feature back.
However, with the Eagles, Ajayi did not have to play that role since their running back by committee was clicking on all cylinders.
In seven regular-season games with Philadelphia, he had 408 rushing yards on 70 carries and a touchdown.
Fast forward to training camp and Ajayi is looking to establish himself as the lead guy in a contract year. If Ajayi can stay healthy and become a 1,000 yard back like he was in 2016, then both parties will be in good shape.
2. Darren Sproles – Last season was a complete wash for Darren Sproles as he missed most of it due to injuries. In Week 3 against the New York Giants, Sproles suffered a torn ACL and a broken arm.
With Sproles on the shelf, the Eagles’ offense and special teams took a big hit. However, they were able to get by and ultimately win Super Bowl 52.
Heading into this season, Philadelphia is excited to have Sproles back, who they re-signed to a one-year deal.
The 35-year-old running back announced on his blog late last week that he will be retiring after the 2018 season. His plan was to hang up his cleats last season, but he did not want to go out on injuries.
Even though he is older, Sproles is still a matchup problem for opposing defenses and always has the ability to take a punt return back for a touchdown.
3. Corey Clement – The undrafted free agent was a great find by the Eagles’ front office brass last year. Corey Clement became a fan favorite last summer and continuously improved each game.
Last season, Clement was the Eagles’ change of pace back and did a tremendous job.
He racked up 321 rushing yards, 123 receiving yards, and six total touchdowns. Not to mention, he also had 100 receiving yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl 52.
With no more Blount, who signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency, Clement can easily slide in as the backup to Ajayi.
4. Donnel Pumphrey – After missing his entire rookie season with a torn hamstring, Donnel Pumphrey needs to show some sort of improvement in training camp to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster this season.
The former San Diego State Aztec had an amazing college career, but did not replicate that same success in the last year’s preseason.
For Pumphrey to have a chance to be on the team, he needs to do everything that Sproles does for the Eagles’ offense. This means being a viable option on special teams, but also show that he can effectively catch the ball out of the backfield.
If Pumphrey can do those things this summer, then he will survive the running back cut down.
Other running backs to keep your eye on this summer are: Matt Jones, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams (UDFA).