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August 21, 2022

Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell showcase Eagles running back depth in preseason

As Miles Sanders continues to deal with a lingering hamstring injury, the starting running back torch was passed to Boston Scott on Sunday in Cleveland. With the vast majority of Eagles' first-teamers not even suiting up, Sanders likely wouldn't have played, but it was a great opportunity for both Scott and second-year back Kenny Gainwell to make themselves stand out.

They seized that chance.

The Eagles' early gameplan in their 21-20 win against the Browns looked eerily similar to what worked for them down the stretch in 2021: pounding the rock. With a second-team offensive line that's better than some teams' starting lines, the Birds' coaching staff queued up run after run to wear down the Cleveland defense. 

Scott saddled up for the first drive and Gainwell took the reins for the second drive. Both resulted in rushing touchdowns (one for each runner), as the Eagles completely controlled the time of possession. Here's how the two backs and the Eagles performed:

 StatsFirst Drive  Second Drive
 RBScott Gainwell 
Attempts 10 11 
Rush Yards 3346 
Time of Possession 7:26 7:35 
TD 1-yard run 2-yard run 

BoSco 💪

Scott was used in frequent short yardage and goal-to-go situations against the Browns. Despite his short standing at 5'6", he's strong at 203 pounds with a low center of gravity. That's led to the Eagles using him to punch it in over the last several years, always popping up as a presence in both the Doug Pederson and Nick Sirianni eras. Call him "Mighty Mouse" or "Muscle Hamster" or whatever Eagles fans want, but he had seven rushing touchdowns on just 87 attempts last season. The dude is a back-of-the-roster player who can shine when thrown into the mix. 

Scott gets bonus points for jumping the pile for his touchdown too:

A running bit I've done over the years is inventing the stat "Juice Above Replacement" (JAR), a parody of baseball's imperfect, statistically driven WAR metric. JAR is about changing the energy of the team, coming up in clutch situations, and maintaining positive vibes when a player is out there. Scott is always among the league leaders in JAR. 

Kenny G 🎷

Gainwell had a promising rookie campaign in 2021. A fifth-round pick out of Memphis, Gainwell had six touchdowns on 101 touches, working as a factor in the passing game too with 33 catches. A sophomore jump has been expected for Gainwell this season, but he hasn't set the world on fire this summer (consensus has been that he's been bad in camp, that feels too strong to me though). An encouraging preseason game would go a long way towards building up the coaching staff's (and the fan base's) belief in him. 

He had some legit burst in Cleveland. Here's Gainwell ripping off a 16-yard run on third down:

Then he got his own chance to pound it in on the goal line, just like Scott did the previous drive: 

There will be opportunities for the Eagles to add another back sometime before Week 1 (or possibly midseason if the team is cruising, akin to 2017's Jay Ajayi trade). Maybe they swing a trade. Maybe Howie Roseman calls Jordan Howard's agent, who the general manager musty have on speed dial at this point. I'm of the mindset that the Eagles should carry four running backs, bringing in one that's more of a bruiser in the Howard mold would be a great compliment to the Sanders/Gainwell/Scott trio. No executive in sports loves making deals more than Roseman! 

In the event that the Birds roll into the season with just those three, however, this team should still be able to punish defenses on the ground with the combination of this o-line and then Scott and Gainwell spelling Sanders. Even if the Eagles throw more in 2022 than they did in 2021, they'll still rely on the big boys up front and whomever they're handing the ball off to to kill the clock and bring home a W. Scott and Gainwell did that last year and will be up for the task again this fall. 

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