It appears the Eagle are trying to not only replicate the success they’ve had in recent years with running back, slot receiver and punt returner Darren Sproles — they are arremtping to double down on it.
After drafting Donnell Pumphrey in the fourth round — a player with a similar body-type (small) and skill set (fast) to Sproles — the team has been practicing with two running backs on the field at the same time. And according to the 5-foot-8 Pumphrey, the duo could be lethal playing together.
“So far I am loving the offense,” Pumphrey, who was a workhorse at San Diego State compiling the most carries of all time over four years as an Aztec said. “The two running back sets, our little pony set with me and Sproles, it helps the offense a lot. We are both versatile-type backs and we can make guys miss.”
An outside observer, tight end Brent Celek, surmises that defense could have a lot of trouble figuring out how to defend the two small running backs.
“You put him and Pumphrey on the field together, how is a defense going to react?” Celek said.
“Just with our size,” Pumphrey continued Tuesday, following a solid practice in the rain at Eagles’ OTAs. “We are able to get behind those big linemen and get to the next level and make guys miss out in space.
“They’ve been working me from the slot a lot and moving me around as a running back in the two running back set. I look forward to catching the ball and showing I can catch it.”
Pumphrey didn’t do much work on special teams in college, but that’s because the Aztecs wanted preserve his body for his mighty workload running the football. He says he practiced a lot of it at school, which explains why he looks so comfortable returning punts in practice.
It’s his ability as a football player to do whatever he’s called upon to do that can give him a lot of value in the NFL. Sproles has said the 2017 would be his last, so perhaps Pumphrey is his logical successor.
“Our two running back set, I am going to have to show I can move around and do a lot of different things,” Pumphrey said. “This will be Sproles last year I want to stay under his wing and learn.”
Pumphrey will need to both continue to learn and perform on the field, as he’ll be competing with Sproles, LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Byron Marshall and Corey Clement for a spot on the 53-man roster at running back.
“You can tell the game is way faster,” Pumphrey said. “The way the linebackers are flowing, these NFL linebackers are fast, it just means I have to pick my game up.”