Which Eagles Running Back Will Lead Philadelphia’s Backfield in 2023?

With Miles Sanders departing in free agency and new faces in Philadelphia, which Eagles running back will lead the team in the backfield in 2023?

There will be a new running back at the top of the Philadelphia Eagles depth chart next season. Following the departure of Miles Sanders in free agency, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman added two notable players to Philadelphia’s backfield in Rashaad Penny and D’Andre Swift.

Kenneth Gainwell is heading into his third season in the NFL and took a massive step forward in the playoffs last season. Yet, the question still remains — who will win the RB1 job in Philadelphia?

Rashaad Penny Must Seize the Opportunity in Philadelphia

After Philadelphia traded for Swift during the 2023 NFL Draft, everyone’s handed him the RB1 job for the Eagles. However, there’s a strong chance that Penny receives the first shot at the job in training camp.

It’s no secret that Penny has struggled to stay healthy during his career. Although when he’s on the field, Penny is arguably one of the most productive running backs in the NFL.

MORE: 2024 FREE NFL Mock Draft Simulator (With Trades)

In 11 starts over the last two seasons, Penny has rushed for 1,036 yards and eight touchdowns on just 151 attempts. That’s an absurd average of 6.8 yards per carry as a starter since 2021.

At 27 years old and after signing a near-veteran minimum contract with the Eagles, Penny must capitalize on this opportunity. Given the talent on Philadelphia’s offense, Penny should be able to continue producing at an elite level — if he can stay healthy.

D’Andre Swift Could Be a Game-Changer for the Eagles

While Penny is the better runner, Swift offers infinitely more upside as a receiver out of the backfield. Philadelphia has lacked that threat in recent years, and Swift could add a whole new element to head coach Nick Sirianni’s offense.

Since Sirianni’s arrival in 2021, Kenneth Gainwell has the season-high in receptions for an Eagles RB with just 33. With a career-low 46 receptions for a season, it’s clear that Swift will be a versatile weapon in Philadelphia’s offense. Still, it’s fair to question if he’ll truly be their RB1.

During his time with the Detroit Lions, Swift was often removed from the game in short-yardage or goal-line situations. His injury history is certainly concerning as well.

Swift is viewed similarly to Penny; They’re both promising running backs that have just struggled to stay healthy. But given their low acquisition cost, Philadelphia is clearly comfortable taking a chance on the potential dynamic duo.

Kenneth Gainwell Could Build on His Impressive Playoff Run

While many were expecting Gainwell to take a massive step forward in his second season, he never quite did. During the regular season, he rushed for just 240 yards as a clear reserve back.

But then the Eagles went on their Super Bowl run, and Gainwell was suddenly a major contributor. In three postseason games, Gainwell rushed for 181 yards on 33 attempts, leading Philadelphia in rushing yards during the playoffs — ahead of both Jalen Hurts and Sanders.

While it’s tough to expect Gainwell to cement himself as Philadelphia’s RB1, he could have the upper hand, given he has two more years of experience in the Eagles’ system over both Penny and Swift.

Health will certainly be a factor in this battle for the RB1 job in Philadelphia. Gainwell clearly has the edge in that category, having played in 37 games over the last two seasons and has yet to miss a single game in his NFL career.

Who Will Win the RB1 Job in Philadelphia?

Sirianni has shown that he isn’t afraid to use a committee at running back. Yet, over the last two seasons, it was clear Sanders was the leader of that committee.

If all three running backs are healthy, I truly believe Penny will be the RB1 in Philadelphia. His physical, yet explosive running style should help him dominate the first two downs.

MORE: Comparing 2023 Eagles Defense to Their 2022 Defense — Did They Fill All Their Needs?

On third down, we’ll likely see Sirianni deploy a plethora of looks in the backfield. Gainwell and Swift are clearly more dangerous in the passing game than Penny is, and both can be used in the slot as well.

Regardless of who Philadelphia’s RB1 is next season, Sirianni will continue to use a running-back-by-committee approach. The potential of this trio operating in the backfield next to Hurts could be special moving forward.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles