Well, a lot has changed over the past year for Eagles’ running back Donnel Pumphrey. This time last year Pumphrey was fresh off being selected in the 4th round, 132nd overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. The team was bringing in the leading rusher in FBS history and while his role was yet to be determined at this point last year, he was still being looked at as an impactful offensive weapon. Now? well, it is not clear if he even has a spot on the 53-man roster. The Eagles currently have a crowded backfield with Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and veteran Darren Sproles locked. That leaves only one likely spot for Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams (UDFA), or Matt Jones. Does Pumphery stand a chance, let’s take a look.
Who is Pumphrey?
Donnel Pumphrey has been compared to Darren Sproles constantly since his time at San Diego State. This is due to his small stature, standing only 5′-9″ and 176lbs. Here is a little difference between the two, Sproles is 3″ shorter and weighs 14lbs more. Looking at these two running backs they are built very differently. Sproles is small but has some of the strongest legs allowing him to be explosive and take on big hits from defenders. Pumphrey, on the other hand, is built more like a cornerback than a running back. Yes, Donnel still has time to add weight but his frame doesn’t appear to have much room to grow. In conclusion, Pumphrey is not Sproles 2.0.
However, Pumphrey can still make an impact. He left San Diego State University as the leading rusher in FBS history. Donnel capped off his college career with 2133 yards rushing as a senior, including 17 touchdowns. He added 27 catches for 231 yards with 0 touchdowns. Pumphrey was not used in the in the return game for SDSU as he was too valuable on offense to risk as a returner, this may change for Pumphrey as an Eagle.
What Have We Seen:
Pumphrey played sparingly in the 2017 preseason prior to being placed on the season-ending IR. In his preseason appearances, Pumphrey looked overmatched in the running game (1.9 yards/rush) and stymied on the receiving end (13 catches, 5.5 yards/catch). Unlike college, where we did see Pumphrey often was as a punt returner. He was out to return 16 punts where he returned 13 (5.0 yards/return) and fair caught 3. This is where Donnel will need to make his presence felt this training camp and preseason. The Eagles have no true punt returner on the roster outside of Darren Sproles. My belief is that the Eagles will look to preserve Sproles over the long season and try to use him in the return game sparingly, thus opening the door for Pumphrey.
Why DP is the 2018 #4 Running Back
First, as stated above, the Eagles are looking for a punt returner. Pumphrey is the only one of the four fighting for that last spot that has experience as a punt returner. This should help give him a head start over Adams and Jones. Smallwood has shown the ability as a kickoff returner, however, Corey Clement quickly took over that role last season and should continue in that role in 2018. Josh Adams seems to be the biggest competition as many see him as the next Corey Clement. Adams has however been plagued by injuries throughout his football career and that is the reason he went undrafted from once being seen as a 2nd-3rd round pick. Pumphrey offers more explosiveness and versatility in the passing game and return game than Adams and that ultimately is why I believe we will see Donnel Pumphrey on the 53-man roster in under 100 days!
— The Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl 52 —