Okay, back to the Eagles grind…
Dave Spadaro at PE.com is pimping rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey in a big way—Pumphrey has been told “since Pop Warner days” that he is too small to play running back. An FBS-record 6,405 rushing yards and 67 touchdowns later in four seasons at San Diego State, Pumphrey is in the NFL with the Eagles, looking to make his mark in the offense.
“He’s somebody who can do a lot of things with the ball in his hands,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Let’s see how quickly he picks up the offense and in what ways we can use him. I could see him moving around the offensive formation quite a bit.”
Pumphrey is 5-6 and weighs in at 170 pounds soaking wet.
“I was probably the smallest running back in college football history, maybe,” Pumphrey said, discussing the “too small” label. “I’ve been told that my whole life. I continue to play with a chip on my shoulder and every time I take the field I play like I’m a big back. My dad and all my coaches saw it in me that I could make it to the next level. It’s really all about believing in yourself. That’s what has gotten me this far, so I’m going to continue doing that. I play with a big heart and that’s really what I’m all about.”
In this weekend’s Rookie Camp, Pumphrey showed some versatility. He ran pass routes out of the slot. He ran some routes from the backfield. The Eagles will give him some reps on jet sweeps and in the screen game and, yeah, he’ll also get a long look in a more traditional backfield role. —by Dave Spadaro, who was THERE…
The scouts say Pumphrey is the next Darren Sproles—that would be great in every aspect, not just running the ball out of formation but catching swing passes and returning punts, too. Some scouts call him the next Tyreek Hill, who was a game-breaking player at the line of scrimmage and in the return game for Kansas City last season. But I must note that Hill has at least 4 inches in height and 15 pounds in muscle weight on Pumphrey. That’s not exactly a straight-up comparison.
“I’m a small running back, so most of the time linebackers can’t see where I’m coming from. I try to get behind my offensive linemen, so by the time I burst out of there, it’s too late (for the defense). I definitely feel like it’s an advantage being my size,” Pumphrey said. “He (Pederson) had me running routes from the slot today and even from the running back spot. It was great being versatile. That’s what’s going to help me at the next level, being the most versatile back.”
“I’m always the most confident player on the field,” Pumphrey said. “That’s the way I play. It doesn’t matter about my size or any of that. I’m out there making plays, no matter what level I’m playing. This is just the next challenge for me.”
One thing I notice about smaller guys like Pumphrey talking a big game before they have even played a down in the NFL is they change their tune rather rapidly after getting smacked in the face by an Undertaker hit in a preseason game. The real test of Pumphrey’s “little big man syndrome” will be after that first big hit.
But I like his panache. We shall see where this goes in due time. Frankly, I’m done with the dish on these jitterbug phenoms, but I wish him and us the best. As Captain Palmy says in Sarasota, give me the 6-1, 220 clone of Jamaal Lewis—and throw in the thick ankles! Until then, we’ll savor the improved gas mileage on a hybrid smart car like Pumphrey.
Meanwhile red-shirt rookie cornerback Sidney Jones, who is the forlorn-looking observer on the sideline in most of your rookie camp photo shots, is not a happy camper:
“It’s very testing, especially today in the defensive meeting rooms after practice, just watching the film, it was kind of burning me inside not being able to play and everybody is being coached up and I’m not being coached up, and I just have to watch the other guys do their stuff,” he said. “It’s hard but it’s a process.”
The next big date is May 21, when the walking boot is scheduled to come off Jones’ surgically-repaired foot and heel. Rehab is expected to intensify at that point, bringing him closer to a goal that still feels pretty far out of reach.
“It’s very frustrating. But you just take the mental reps and get better in that way, control what you can control and everything will just fall in place,” he said. “When I get back out there, it’s going to be special.”
Take all the time you need, Sidney—what’s the rush? Too many guys have blown their Achilles injury comebacks by rushing the process. Sometimes they end up blowing out the opposite leg, knee or heel due to overcompensation.
Relax—enjoy your red-shirt season while you can. You’re getting paid well to rehab. Don’t rush the process. Savor the knowledge that there is zero percent chance that the first Eagles cornerback to get burned deep in 2017 will be you.