Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles (L) and running back Ryan Mathews celebrate after Mathews scored a touchdown on a three-yard run during the third quarter against the Chicago Bears on September 19 at Soldier Field in Chicago. File Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo
May 1 (UPI) -- Coach Doug Pederson won't say it, but the Philadelphia Eagles are looking at another group rushing attack in 2017.
The Eagles used their fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to snag San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey. It also currently has Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews, Wendell Smallwood, Terrell Watson and Byron Marshall on its depth chart at the position.
"I don't want to say running back-by-committee," Pederson told reporters, via Philly.com. "But at the same time, I think we have enough to get the job done, especially with our offensive line and tight ends, too."
The Eagles wanted to trade up to draft former Florida State star Dalvin Cook, but were unsuccessful in pulling off a deal, according to Philly.com.
While Mathews leads its current pack with the most career carries [1,184], he has also had durability issues throughout his seven-year NFL tenure. Mathews also averaged 4.3 yards per carry last season, second to Sproles' 4.9.
"There was a run on those guys, at the same token we were really excited to make sure we got Pumphrey," Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman told reporters after the draft.
"And then we like the players that are in the building. We got Ryan, Darren, and Wendell. Byron Marshall is a guy that can cross train and play receiver and running back as well. So we've got some talent at the position and we are excited to see them."
The current crew has some size issues, as both Sproles and Pumphrey stand at under 5-feet, 9-inches. Pumphrey holds Sproles-like toughness. He left San Diego State on the heels of back-to-back 300-plus carry seasons. He is also the NCAA FBS all-time leading rusher with 6,290 yards.
Pumphrey comes in at 176 pounds, while Sproles is listed at 190 pounds. Pumphrey could also be looked at as Sproles' heir apparent as he has said that this season will be his last in the NFL.
"I really get to learn from the best to ever do it as a third down change of pace back @DarrenSproles ! Blessed. I couldn't be any happier," Pumphrey tweeted Monday morning.
While Pumphrey, Watson or Marshall would be considered severe longshots to take over the Eagles' starting running back role, it is also unlikely they give the entire load to Sproles, Smallwood or Mathews.
Mathews turned 30 on Monday. He led the Eagles last season with 155 carries, 661 rushing yards, and scored a career-high eight rushing touchdowns. He totaled 168 touches and also scored a receiving touchdown. Mathews is also playing on the final year of a three-year, $11 million pact. Sproles netted 146 touches, producing a team-high 865 yards from scrimmage and four scores.
On Monday, Philly Voice reported that Mathews would likely be released. That would leave the Eagles with three of its best backs standing 5-feet, 10-inches or shorter.
"Ryan Mathews is on this team," Roseman told reporters Saturday. "Can I tell you anyone that is going to be on this team in September, when we are here in April? All that stuff, we will work it out."
While the Eagles missed out on first-round talents in Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, it also missed out on value picks in Joe Mixon and Cook. Fournette would have been bigger than all of its backs, at 6-foot and 240 pounds. Mixon stands at 6-foot, one-inches and 226 pounds. Cook and McCaffrey are also heavier than 200 pounds and stand taller than 5-feet, 10-inches.
The Eagles will plug in its rushing crew for OTAs beginning on May 23. It starts mandatory minicamp on June 13. Its first preseason contest is at 8 p.m. Aug. 10 against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.