Options the Eagles Could Consider at Running Back Following Ajayi Injury

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By Paul Bowman, Eagledelphia Managing Editor

With Jay Ajayi out for the season and Darren Sproles and Corey Clement missing games due to injury, the Eagles only healthy backs are Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams. While Smallwood has impressed, Adams has not, and with Smallwood’s injury history, it would be a dangerous move to go into games with him as the lead back with an undrafted rookie as the only backup. Here are some running backs that the Eagles could look to add following the Fletcher Cox restructure:

Donnel Pumphrey

Sticking with someone who knows the system and who the Eagles have invested in already, the Eagles may choose to re-sign Pumphrey who was a fourth-round pick of the birds. He failed to impress in the preseason last year before suffering a mysterious injury that put him on IR.

He impressed early in training camp this year before an injury kept him out of practice and all but the final preseason game. He was ultimately cut and signed with the Detroit Lions before his release three weeks later.

Matt Jones

Another option that was in training camp this season in Matt Jones. Jones played parts of two seasons with the Redskins and five games with the Colts last season. While he is a tough runner who totaled 964 yards (averaging 3.9 yards per carry), he scored only one touchdown and fumbled eight times on 248 carries.

Jones showed how good he can be in this year’s final preseason game against the Jets by racking up 54 yards on nine attempts and another 24 yards on four catches. Over the second and third games, he showed how bad he can be, gaining only 31 yards on nine carries, dropping multiple passes and fumbling the ball.

Le’Veon Bell

Rumors have been circulating for weeks that the Eagles are interested in trading for Bell. A second round pick of the Steelers, Bell has racked up 5336 yards rushing, 2660 yards receiving, and 42 touchdowns with across 62 games with the Steelers.

There is no denying Bell has talent, but his contract dispute has highlighted his character issues beyond the multiple suspensions he has already served. While the Eagles were rumored to have interest in him, he may not be a good fit as the Eagles are not in a position to pay him and an extension (or rather lack thereof) is why he is sitting out the season right now. Bell reportedly wants to stay in Pittsburgh and that may have changed the Eagles’ mind as when they restructured Fletcher Cox’s contract today, it was also reported they did not plan to make a move for Bell.

Of course, reports can always be incorrect, so there is still a chance the Eagles go for Bell.

David Johnson

Johnson is a feature back for an Arizona Cardinals team that was the last team to win a game this season. The Cardinals are not going anywhere this season and could look to cash in on Johnson. In 38 games, Johnson has racked up 2085 rushing yards, 1523 receiving yards, and 37 touchdowns.

Johnson missed nearly all of last season after dislocating his wrist in week one, but in 2016, his sophomore season, he lead the league in yards from scrimmage with 2118. While he is only on pace for 1159 yards this year, he is still a game changer and is tightly covered as the only major offensive weapon on the Cardinals not named Larry Fitzgerald.

That said, Johnson is likely to cost quite a bit. This is no longer a contract year for Johnson as the Cardinals signed him to an extension this September that could keep him a Cardinal through the 2021 season. Three and a half seasons of Johnson wouldn’t be cheap on its own, but the Cardinals believe they just drafted their franchise QB in Josh Rosen. Even if they have no chance at the playoffs this season, Arizona may be reluctant to deal such an impact player who takes pressure off of Rosen.

LeSean McCoy

Eagles fans know McCoy well. A second-round pick in the2009 draft of the Eagles, McCoy spent six seasons in Philadelphia. In 2013, he led the league in rush yards (1607) and yards from scrimmage (2146) for the Eagles. He also led the league with 20 touchdowns in 2011 for the birds.

Chip Kelly traded McCoy to the Bills in the offseason following the 2014 season in exchange for Kiko Alonso. While McCoy has had two good seasons for the Bills, he has suffered quite a few injuries (including sitting out week three this year) and has only 55 touches through four games this season. He is averaging 4.3 yards per touch, so he is still able to get some yardage despite his lack of opportunities.

McCoy has also had quite a few off the field issues since his move to Buffalo, so that is of concern, but he does have familiarity with Doug Pederson as well as Jason Peters, Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce. The fact that he is familiar with the lineman is especially good because McCoy’s style of running is to wait behind his blockers for a lane to open up. The cost for McCoy may be high just like David Johnson, however. McCoy is under contract for the 2019 season, so he is more than just a fill in piece and the Bills also have a player they believe to be their franchise QB in Josh Allen, meaning that Buffalo may raise the asking price for McCoy even if they are not likely to make the playoffs this season.

Update: The Eagles have reportedly called the Bills to ask about McCoy. The report comes from Josh Reed, the Sports Director of WIVB, a CBS-affiliate in the Buffalo area.

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