PHILADELPHIA – There are bigger names in the Eagles’ backfield but are there bigger playmakers than third-year back Kenny Gainwell?
Because of his size — 5-foot-8 and 201 pounds — and natural receiving ability, Gainwell is often pigeonholed as the third-down/hurry-up back but the Memphis product should be in the conversation with trade pickup D’Andre Swift and free-agent signing Rashaad Penny as a potential centerpiece for a running back-by-committee approach.
Serving as the complement to what was a 1,269-yard runner last season in Sanders, Gainwell actually struggled a bit for much of his sophomore season before things started to click late. Over the final three regular-season games, Gainwell was given 12 carries for 57 yards and added seven receptions for 65 yards, not overwhelming numbers but you could see the juice he was adding to the offense.
Once the playoffs arrived, Sanders seemed to take a step back, perhaps due to a heavy workload coupled with a balky knee and then a hand injury suffered on the first offensive play of the Super Bowl, and Gainwell took advantage in the form of 26 carries for 160 yards and a touchdown in the wins over the New York Giants and San Francisco, before adding another seven attempts for 21 yards and four catches for 20 yards in Super Bowl LVII against Kansas City.
Gainwell is used to competition sating back to what was a talented backfield at Memphis, which included current Dallas star Tony Pollard, and is excited to welcome the newcomers to the RB room.
“Man, I’m very excited to have these guys in the room,” he said earlier this week. “They give a lot of competition and to have new competition in the room and new guys, It’s great to have.
“Nothing different you know, just to go off of everything, just to be stronger, be faster, be a smarter player, help out team go back to the goal that we had got to last year. Continue to do whatever my role is and just be excited just to have extra guys in the room.”
Gainwell isn’t taking a step back even if he’s not the expected outcome as RB1.
“I’m expecting a very high role, you know, just gonna continue to improve my game still on top of everything that I have done,” he said, “but I’m expecting a high role this year.”
Iron sharpens iron is the cliche in the NFL and Gainwell plans to play his part in that equation.
“I’ve been in this position before and it’s just nothing,” he said. “But just having [a similar back like] D’Andre here at the same time, that’s gonna help make me better and him better. We can both come in after practice and talk about what we did wrong what we did right and put our brains together and work.”