Philadelphia Eagles News

Eagles keeping a handle on a strong RB room

The door is never closed with the Philadelphia Eagles and the latest example is the return of running Corey Clement, who agreed to terms on a one-year deal Wednesday six weeks after the team did not tender him as a restricted free agent. It's been a dizzying turn of events for Clement, who has become accustomed to that NFL life since he joined the Eagles in 2017, defied the odds as an undrafted rookie to make the team and play a starring role in the Super Bowl LII victory.

This story isn't about the ups and downs for Clement – that comes later today after Clement meets the media – but rather a discussion about the running back room, which as recently as 13 months ago was a daily question for Eagles fans and the media. As in, who exactly were the Eagles planning to use in the backfield for the 2019 season? At that time, in mid-March, when General Manager Howie Roseman stepped in front of reporters at the NFL's Annual Meeting, the Eagles had Clement and Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood and an unknown named Boston Scott on the roster at running back.

Then came the positional makeover.

Late in that month, March of 2018, the Eagles traded for running back Jordan Howard from Chicago for a sixth-round draft pick in 2020. Interestingly, the Eagles wheeled and dealed enough last weekend to re-acquire the pick, No. 200 overall, and selected wide receiver Quez Watkins from Southern Mississippi.

So, the Eagles traded a draft pick to acquire Howard, who played well for half a season in 2019, and then traded on Saturday to get the pick back and selected Watkins. But I digress …

Anyway, the Eagles started the overhaul of the running back position with the acquisition of Howard, and then a month later they struck gold in the second round of the 2019 draft with the selection of Penn State's Miles Sanders. Darren Sproles announced he was returning for a final season.

Suddenly, the Eagles had a rebuilt backfield and headed into the season with Howard, Sanders, Clement, and Sproles on the 53-man roster. But as we saw during the season, the grand plans didn't last. Clement suffered a shoulder injury in Week 2, Sproles carried just 17 times before an injury, then Howard went down, and the Eagles rode the talents of Sanders and Scott, promoted from the practice squad, to win the NFC East.

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Here we are as the calendar turns to May and the Eagles feel they are in an enviable position at running back, which not too many years ago was one of the most difficult positions to fill in the league but now, well, the Eagles are showing that it may very well be the most replaceable. That's not to suggest that running backs are not extremely valuable – Sanders reminded us in 2019 just how an explosive back can lift an offense – but it is a statement in that there are so many good ones out there that they're relatively easier to find and plug in, especially when a team like the Eagles has a great positional coach like the Eagles have in Duce Staley.

The Eagles are now playing from a position of strength at running back. Sanders and Scott, who formed such a diverse and potent 1-2 punch in the backfield as the Eagles won four straight games in December to capture the NFC East, return. Clement, whose career has been beset by one injury after another, is healthy now and looking forward to contributing to the offense. The Eagles claimed promising power back Elijah Holyfield off waivers last season from Carolina and look forward to working him into the mix. They feel like their post-draft haul of 13 players, including running backs Michael Warren and Adrian Killins, shows promise as well.

With the NFL in a buyer's market in this post-draft period, the Eagles are keeping their eyes open for running backs who either are available or who might become available. Maybe they decide they want to bring a veteran into the running back room, and if they do, there are going to be options. There are going to be opportunities to add, for example, a back who can run between the tackles and gain first downs and move the chains and punch the ball into the end zone as Howard did so well last season. The Eagles don't have a proven "big back" on the roster at the moment.

But, as we've seen that can change quickly. The Eagles have done an expert job reinventing the running back room and, let's be honest, it's a position in progress. That's the way it is in the NFL at a spot that has evolved so much on the field and in the transactions column through the years.

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