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August 09, 2023

Eagles training camp game ball: Kenny Gainwell is playing like a feature back

Continuing with PhillyVoice's 'game ball' training camp series, Kenny Gainwell and Haason Reddick had strong performances at Eagles practice on Wednesday morning.

Eagles NFL
8.6.23_EaglesPractice_Kenny-Gainwell-1591.jpg Colleen Claggett/For PhillyVoice

Kenneth Gainwell #14 of the Philadelphia Eagles performs a drill during practice at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. on August 6, 2023.

In addition to tracking Jalen Hurts' training camp stats in our "Hurts Watch" series and Jimmy Kempski's daily practice notes, we've been giving out a "game ball" to an offensive and defensive player after every Eagles training camp practice here at PhillyVoice. On Wednesday morning, we received a greater sense of who RB1 will be on offense while one of football's fiercest pass rushers looked to be in midseason form.

Here's more on how Kenny Gainwell and Haason Reddick performed in the latest Eagles camp practice, this one coming at Lincoln Financial Field...

Offensive game ball: RB Kenny Gainwell

As training camp began, it was unclear how the Eagles were going to break down their running back usage. There’s talent with their first four RBs, but no one screams “bell-cow back.” The first week of camp saw the Eagles give Kenny Gainwell, D’Andre Swift, Boston Scott and Rashaad Penny all time with the first-team offense.

With the Eagles approaching their first preseason game on Saturday down in Baltimore, we’re getting some clarity about the RB rotation.

Swift has emerged as the pass-catching back who’ll be on the field on third down and two-minute situations similar to the role Gainwell occupied last year. When it comes to Gainwell, however, it looks like he’s being promoted to a “feature” back spot.

Gainwell has increasingly been the team’s early down back where he’s getting touches as a runner. I thought that might be where Penny finds himself, but Gainwell has undoubtedly had a stronger camp. He’s gotten the vast majority of first-team carries and excelled there on Wednesday.

The Eagles made use of Gainwell in short-yardage, goal-to-goal situations in the red zone, where he scored three "touchdowns," at least whatever you can call a touchdown when there's no live tackling in practice. In between the 20s, Gainwell showed great burst hitting the holes the Eagles' elite offensive linemen made, picking up sizable gains and even showing off a couple of nice juke moves. 

As of right now, here's my guess at the Eagles' RB depth chart. Maybe it's not the one the team unveils, but I believe this will be how the touches and snaps shake out:

1. Kenny Gainwell

2. D'Andre Swift

3. Boston Scott

4. Rashaad Penny 

Defensive game ball: LB Haason Reddick 

Reddick came into camp discussing how he wanted to top his elite 2022 campaign, aiming for 20 sacks this fall. A groin injury kept the edge rusher limited going into the summer, but he’s ramping up things as of late and shined on Wednesday at the Linc, where he's been dominating since his Temple days.

In one intriguing formation that had Reddick lined up on the edge opposite Jordan Mailata with Fletcher Cox lining up as the right defensive end, Reddick blew by Mailata for a “sack.” He made some noise in the run game, too.

What stands out to me about Reddick is the way he’s diversified his pass-rushing moves as his pro career has progressed. Speed rushes, bull rushes and great hands should keep Reddick in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation in 2023.

Defensive coordinator Sean Desai moved Reddick around in practice, where he even bested the league’s No. 1 offensive tackle in Lane Johnson on one rep. Few people on the planet can say they’ve accomplished that.

The Eagles continue to be stacked with pass rushers and Birds fans should be excited about the well-known holdovers and rookie Nolan Smith utilized in a Reddick-lite role, but there is no doubt who’s the top dog on the team at hunting down QBs.

The Eagles will be back practicing on Thursday morning. Stay tuned to PhillyVoice for all your Eagles coverage...

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