Philadelphia Eagles News

Who Will Emerge As The Fourth Running Back?

Get an up-close look at the ballcarriers in 2018 training camp.

With two preseason games under the Eagles' belt, certain roster battles are heating up. Some positions have a single starting role up for grabs while others only have one or two roster spots left.

A position in which the Eagles have particular talent is running back. By looking at the depth chart and the players' body of work, it seems clear that Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, and Corey Clement hold the top three running back slots.

So, if the Eagles carry four running backs on their roster to start Week 1, that means four backs are competing for one job: Josh Adams, Matt Jones, Donnel Pumphrey, and Wendell Smallwood. None of the four stand out as a clear favorite at the moment. Here's what each player is thinking as the vital third preseason game approaches.

JOSH ADAMS

Adams was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame this past offseason. He returned to practice Tuesday after missing the preseason game in New England. Against Pittsburgh, Adams rushed six times for 30 yards and caught two passes for 11 yards.

  • "I'm focusing on just playing ball. I'm blessed to be here. Like I said before, every opportunity I get is a blessing and that's their job (to decide who makes the team), whatever they decide, but my thing is just enjoying my time now, taking each day, and playing like it's my last and trying to have fun with it."
  • "Football is a lot of fun. It's my dream and something I love to do. So everyday I'm blessed to come out here and play, just focusing on what God has me here for, just making decisions and all that, but 53, that's upstairs. That's their decision with the coaches and all that. My decision is to come out here and play football."
  • "Games, practices, like I said before, every opportunity I have to get out here I try to do that to the best of my abilities so I'm taking advantage of all opportunities whether it's in the film room or on the practice field. Obviously, I want to be out there, but again, I have to be smart about everything."
  • "Just off the field, just being smarter with the playbook, keying in, and making sure I'm ready for when I get out there. Just trying to get all the details right and making sure I'm prepared, that's where I think I've grown the most. Obviously, I'm trying to grow in all areas with my play including on the field so each and every day I try to work on something different and something new."

MATT JONES

Jones, a free agent who spent the last three seasons with Washington and Indianapolis, was featured in six straight plays to start the second half in New England. He ran for 12 yards on three consecutive rushes before he was targeted on a short incompletion, hauled in a 6-yard reception, and then dropped a pass that was picked off by a Patriots defender.

In total, Jones had six rushes for 19 yards and caught six passes on nine targets for 32 yards against New England. He did not play in Week 1 of the preseason.

  • "I just gotta get better and focus in on me. I feel like I had a great beginning of camp. And then definitely against the Patriots I could have played way better. It's a big challenge for me playing a lot of special teams and a lot of offense, getting a lot of snaps here and there, getting my body back into it. I'm looking forward to the game this week."
  • "It's just focusing. I know I can do everything. I know I can catch the ball, just focus in when I'm tired. I just can't let that monster get on my back and get control of me. I just know what I need to focus on and it's just a lack of focus that needs to be tuned up and it will be."
  • "Everybody is competing in that room obviously to be the best. But I don't even look at it that way, I just see it as everybody competing and everybody getting better. And just for myself, I just keep going and keep driving and keep working, that's it."

DONNEL PUMPHREY

Pumphrey, a fourth-round pick by the Eagles in 2016, has missed the last seven practices as well as the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury. He will miss Thursday's game in Cleveland as well. But Pumphrey is back to running with the trainers and plans to play the final preseason game against the Jets on August 30.

  • "I'm just focusing on myself and what I can control which is rehab and just getting back to my normal self and I feel 100 percent. I was able to run today. I've been running for about a week now. The goal was to push for the third game, but they don't want me to play this week. They don't want me to risk that so I'm just doing what I'm able to do."
  • "I just have to play like myself. I can't really go out there and do the most, I just need to go out there and be myself and do what got me here and I'll be fine."
  • "I'm super involved with the game plan and all that. I attend every meeting. They make me feel like I'm still part of the team so the only thing I'm really not participating in is practice."

WENDELL SMALLWOOD

Smallwood is the only one of the four backs who played in both preseason games. Against Pittsburgh, he ran for 21 yards on six carries but against New England he gained just 1 yard on three carries.

  • "It's just been a grind. I've been showing up every day and getting better. I'm not declining. The games haven't gone how I wanted them to but I think as far as me as a player in practice and showing what I can do I've been good, and I've been able to stay on the field so it's been good."
  • "I definitely think I've gotten much better in the film room and on and off the field I've kind of locked into the system in what we do here and how to do it. I think I've got it down. I just can't get complacent and think I know it all because once I do, I mess up."
  • "I think I'm kind of a mixed guy, there's nothing I can't do and you can't put me in a box. I think I can do everything. Some guys can do certain things and that's what they do but I think when I'm out there you can't say, 'Oh, he can't do this, he can't do that.'"
  • "I think special teams is huge for every running back on this team. In special teams, you have to be able to help the team in another way if you're not on the field and you're not going to be the main guy, you better be able to help on special teams. You better be able to help this team make plays not only on offense but on special teams also."

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