September 02, 2022
During the offseason, we took close looks at Philadelphia Eagles players of interest who are currently on the roster, but maybe we don't know a lot about them just yet. Today we'll look at newly acquired running back Trey Sermon.
Previously published player reviews
Zech McPhearson | Jack Anderson | A.J. Brown | Jason Huntley
Andre Dillard | Quez Watkins | Le'Raven Clark | Sua Opeta
Sermon was a 2021 third-round pick of the Niners — and a player they traded up for, no less — who they waived after just one season with the team. He made the Niners' initial 53-man roster, but was let go a day later. The Eagles had an open roster spot after the trade of Jalen Reagor, and claimed Sermon.
Sermon played at Oklahoma and Ohio State in college. His paths crossed with Jalen Hurts for a season at Oklahoma in 2019. He is best known for a two-game stretch in 2020 when he gained 331 yards against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game, followed by a 193-yard effort against Clemson in the College Football Playoffs.
In his rookie season in San Francisco, Sermon only played 107 snaps. He carried 41 times for 167 yards (4.1 YPC) and one TD. He had three catches for 26 yards. I cut up video of all of Sermon's touches on the season, shown below. (You may have to click "Watch on YouTube" to see it.)
If you watched that in full, you may have been underwhelmed.
One of the common themes when watching Sermon's runs (not shown in the video above) was the commentators' harping on his need to be more of a one-cut, north-south runner. They often interjected that analysis when Sermon entered the game, as opposed to as a criticism after an indecisive run or something. Putting my media hat on here for a moment, it felt a lot like that's what the commentators were being told by the Niners' staff in pre-game production meetings.
That concern with Sermon's game also showed up in his college scouting reports. For example, Lance Zierlein of NFL.com:
Great-looking running back at a quick glance, but one who suffers from inconsistency in creativity and decisiveness. The regular-season tape at Ohio State was fairly disappointing relative to the talent he showed at Oklahoma, but his monster postseason should quell some concerns. At both schools, the interior vision and decision-making was suspect and would run him into some traffic. He does have potential as an outside-zone back, where he has more time and space to utilize his skills. He has size and open-field speed and will step up and handle his business in pass protection, as well as catch it out of the backfield. So, while Sermon's skill level as a runner is somewhat average, his potential as a three-down backup with upside should create middle-round interest.
It has been assumed by some (self included) that if the Eagles were to add a running back, it would likely be a power runner. While Sermon has good size at 6'0, 215, his game more closely mirrors Miles Sanders', than, say, Jordan Howard's. The Eagles are going to have to work with Sermon on being the type of runner that the Niners wanted him to be. To be determined if the Eagles will have more patience developing him than the Niners did.
Sermon does have some intriguing traits. His long speed isn't great, but as you can see from his 10-yard split and his 3-cone times, he has some really nice short area explosiveness.
That the Niners were so quick to give up on this player is odd. It is unknown if they simply did not like his personality, but it's rare to just cut bait with any third-round pick after one mildly disappointing season.
Because Sermon doesn't add a power element that is obviously superior to the Eagles' current backs, he likely won't see much action early on. Sanders will be "the guy," with Boston Scott backing him up and Kenny Gainwell likely to get some passing down looks. I imagine Sermon will be inactive on gameday while he learns the offense. If the Eagles suffer injuries at running back down the road (as they typically do), we could see Sermon at that time.
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