RBs Leave it on the Line in Eagles Preseason Finale
There is plenty of talent in the Philadelphia Eagles running back room, but the players held out of the preseason finale on Thursday night said a lot about what those inside the organization might be thinking heading into the regular season.
Second-year pro Wendell Smallwood joined veterans Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement on the sidelines, putting the backend position battles in the spotlight one last time.
Undrafted rookie Josh Adams ran 13 times for just 21 yards and had two catches for three yards. Veteran Matt Jones ran nine times for 54 yards, catching four balls for 24 yards and second-year man Donnel Pumphrey showed some flashed with three catches for 39 yards, each showed different skills in attempting to make the 53-man roster.
Adams probably had the most complete preseason of the group, Jones might have the most raw talent and Pumphrey has the speed and big-play ability the teams are looking for - however, all three have battles minor injuries this preseason.
“I thought both of them ran extremely hard," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said when asked about Adams and Jones.
"Josh had the first half and did some good things."
"And then Matt in the second half just kind of took over, I think some offensive line play, we tightened some things up and Stout [offensive line/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland] made some adjustments and all that. But I thought Matt came in and really improved; one, as camp progressed and really had a nice game. To obviously score that game winner was key for him.”
Of the three, if you are looking at the full body of work, it would appear that Adams might have the best chance to stick.
"He's done some nice things," Pederson said about Adams. "He kind of came in -- he missed the off-season a little bit with an injury and sort of was kind of playing a little catch up. And then came into camp and he was ready to go and then he had a little setback again and got healthy from that. He really has done a nice job for a young player. We've asked a lot of him, really. And again, without really making a fair evaluation after watching the tape, watching the full body of work because he's also played some special teams, we've got to factor that in, and see where he's at and see where he is now in these next couple of days based on that."
Now, it comes down to how many running backs the Eagles decide to carry into the regular season with the 53-man roster cuts due this Saturday.
Its likely that of Adams, Jones and Pumphrey, who appeared in just one game all preseason, two or all three, could be left off the roster if Philadelphia only retains four running backs.
Of the group, Adams future holds the most drama. He is an undrafted rookie free-agent up against a talented group with Jones, a former third-round pick and starter with the Washington Redskins and Pumphrey, who was a 2017 fourth-round pick of the Eagles.
“I wanted to just go out there and play," Adams said. "It was a blessing to be a part of this process and experience this with the other guys on the team. I really wanted to make a bigger impact on special teams. I felt like I could have done better in that area. In that sense, I felt like I should have done more. All in all, I felt like it was a great learning experience for me [and] I had a lot of fun. I just tried to go out there and let it loose.”
The process will end for some of these guys by Saturday when the Eagles must have their 53-man roster finalized.