Howie Roseman was just 10 years-old, still presumably running around on his elementary school playground the last time the Eagles took a running back in the first round of the NFL Draft. That was Keith Byars, who was taken 10th overall in 1986.
Now the team’s executive vice president of football operations, Roseman has the opportunity to fill the glaring need for a reliable runner when the draft begins in about a month. Except he doesn’t see the position as the glaring need that many who root for and cover the team do. Roseman also didn’t sound like a man who was going to spend one of his three early-round picks on one, either, when he met with reporters at the NFL owner’s meetings in Phoenix on Monday.
Instead, Roseman sang the praises of the backs taking up roster spots on the Eagles at the moment – Corey Clement, Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, and Boston Scott.
“You talk about Corey, a guy who was a huge part of our Super Bowl winning team and our Super Bowl win,” Roseman told reporters. “Josh Adams showed in flashes what he can. Obviously those guys coming off offseason injuries and a big part of that is getting them back and getting them back as part of the program. For Josh, that jump from year one to year two is big; Corey from year two to year three.
“You also have to talk about Wendell. When Wendell’s been called upon to play he’s been a solid player and has played well for us. Boston Scott has all the tools in his body, traits to develop. There are young players there, but at the same time we’re always looking to improve the team. We had three running backs who played in the Super Bowl (LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Clement) were guys we all acquired after the 2017 draft, so the talent acquisition period continues to go. We want to have the best possible team. We’ll look into everything, that’s our job, but at the same time we have to grow and develop our younger players.”
Roseman alluded to the fact that perhaps the Eagles were interested in signing one of the three prime free agents who were available – Le’Veon Bell, Mark Ingram, and Tevin Coleman – before they opted to sign elsewhere.
“You have to be versatile and open to every opportunity that comes in front of you, so when you have a plan, you can have a plan A, but when that goes a different way or people get a different amount of money or you have other opportunities that (are presented) you have to be flexible enough to say I know what I thought on March 13 (when free agency began), but this really helps our football team and this improves our football team.
“The other thing that’s really important is we don’t play for six months so we have an opportunity to continue to improve the football team and we will do whatever we can to improve our football team.”
Roseman can say what he wants about the current crop of runners on his roster, but even the most non-savvy football fan can see it doesn’t look like enough.
Smallwood is the team’s top returning runner, but he still has yet to top 1,000 rushing yards in a career that began as a fifth-round draft pick three years ago.
Clement has just 580 rushing yards in two seasons and Adams hasn’t shown the ability to stay healthy, dating back even to his days at Notre Dame and Central Bucks South High School, where he tore an ACL. Scott, who was signed late in the season off the practice squad of the New Orleans Saints, has yet to record a carry in an NFL game.
Roseman may have known on March 13 that he needed to add a running back, but the team’s philosophy remains, he said, to build both the offensive and defensive lines. So the Eagles threw a lot of money to re-sign Brandon Graham and brought back Vinny Curry. They also restructured the contract of left tackle Jason Peters to bring him back.
Roseman has three early picks in the upcoming draft – Nos. 25, 53 and 57.
He was asked if he could be compelled to use one of those selections on a running back.
“I just go back to our history over the last couple of years, we’ve been fortunate to win a lot of games with the running backs we have on this roster, and have opportunities also to acquire backs, not only before the draft but after the draft process,” said Roseman. “So we’re going to continue to look at every position, ways to improve our football team. We want to be as good as possible at every position, but it will not put us in a position at any spot where we’re forcing something in the draft because that’s where you make mistakes.”
So it doesn’t seem like there is another Byars in the Eagles’ future and the so-called experts who have the team taking Alabama’s Josh Jacobs in their mock drafts may have swung and missed.