Eagles Sign Ex-Lions RB, Possible Replacement for Miles Sanders


Kerryon Johnson during a game.

Miles Sanders has been one of the most electrifying running backs in football since 2019. The only thing holding him back from elite status was a lack of consistent carries.

So it only makes sense that the Eagles would eat into Sanders’ touches yet again. (Yes, that was sarcasm). Philadelphia signed Kerryon Johnson off waivers on Friday, according to a Twitter announcement. The Detroit Lions waived the former second-round pick earlier this week after three injury-riddled seasons. The Eagles suddenly have a crowded backfield featuring Sanders and Johnson, plus fifth-round pick Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard.

It’s a low-risk move for the Eagles since Johnson’s $1.37 million base salary isn’t guaranteed if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster. And there’s a very good chance he never sees the field for Philly in the regular season. Gainwell has considerable hype and Sanders’ stats speak for themselves — aside from what appears to be a complete lack of confidence from the Eagles’ front office.

Finances aside, it could cloud how Sanders views his future in Philly. The Eagles pride themselves on competition at every position — and that’s a good philosophy in today’s NFL — but it cost them a franchise quarterback last year. Carson Wentz had “hurt feelings” after the team drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round. Wentz is gone and Hurts is the presumed starter for 2021. Will Sanders be looking over his shoulder next?

“As far as bringing another running back in, I trust Howie [Roseman] and those people to do what’s best for the team,” Sanders told reporters at training camp last year. “They announced that I was the guy but having any kind of veteran back in here, for me to pick their brain, that would help him out, too. I didn’t really care if anybody else was coming in. At the end of the day, I trust Howie and his staff.”

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Johnson Flashed Potential in Three Seasons

The move to add Johnson certainly gives the Eagles amazing depth at running back. The only real knock on the 23-year-old — the Alabama native will turn just 24 on June 24 — has been major health concerns.

He sprained a left knee in 2018 and missed six games, then hit injured reserve in 2019 after sitting out eight games following a meniscus tear in his right knee. Johnson played in 16 games last year while wearing a knee brace.

“I’m the knee brace guy, everybody jokes about. You know, it feels great,” Johnson told reporters in 2020, via Michigan Live. “I like having a knee brace on. It helps me out a lot. Gives me a little peace of mind, as well.”

Primary Pass-Catching Back in Detroit

Johnson was no slouch in Detroit where he rushed for 1,225 yards and eight touchdowns over three seasons. His main role was as a pass-catcher out of the backfield: 61 receptions for 527 yards and three scores.

He was primed to be the Lions’ starting running back in 2020 before eventually losing the job to rookie De’Andre Swift, a second-round pick from Philly. It didn’t help that the team added future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Peterson for depth early in the year.

Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell complimented Johnson’s willingness to take a back seat. He never sulked, instead he embraced his new role and mentored Swift in the process.

“He’s been all team, all in, willing to do whatever we’ve asked him to do,” Bevell told reporters, via Detroit Free Press. “We told him that we were going to make the switch, and he handled it great. It’s still important to him. He wants to be out there and I think it showed in his play.”