Philadelphia Eagles 2020 training camp preview: Elijah Holyfield

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

Does Elijah Holyfield compliment the Philadelphia Eagles backfield rotation?

Running back Elijah Holyfield signed with the Philadelphia Eagles this past New Year’s Eve. Originally signed by Carolina an undrafted free agent out of Georgia, Holyfield joined the Panthers after the conclusion of the 2019 NFL Draft. He wouldn’t make the final 53-man roster, but he would remain with the team as part of their practice squad until his contract expired.

This past offseason, the Eagles decided not to re-sign running back Jordan Howard, who ran for 529 yards and six touchdowns in his first (and now only) season with the team. Someone will need to step up and replace his production in 2020. One potential candidate to do so will be Holyfield, who will be looking to make his NFL debut come the regular season.

Elijah Holyfield’s road to the Philadelphia Eagles’ active roster won’t be easy

Last season, the Eagles had the eleventh best rushing attack in the NFL. It might have come as a surprise as the “Birds” didn’t have a 1,000-yard running back on their roster in 2019. Still, a closer examination shows that they were able to run the ball effectively due to sharing the load at the position. Their leading rusher was rookie Miles Sanders, who finished the season with 818 yards and three touchdowns on 179 carries. Quarterback Carson Wentz and Howard were second and third on the team in rushing attempts. Boston Scott pitched in with 245 yards and five touchdowns on 61 carries.

Sanders may see his workload increase in 2020, but regardless of how many carries he gets, he possesses value as a receiving threat, which will make it difficult for the Eagles to decrease his number of touches. On the other hand, Philly may give Scott more opportunities at the beginning of the season based on his Week 17 lights-out performance against the New York Giants. In that one, he posted a career-high 138 yards from scrimmage and scored three times. The Eagles brass likely wants to know if Scott’s playmaking skills can carry over in 2020.

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What value does Elijah Holyfield bring to the Philadelphia Eagles backfield?

Since Holyfield didn’t play a single snap in 2019, it may be helpful to look back at his college production. In his three years with Georgia, he ran the ball 215 times for 1,340  yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per rush. Bulldogs fans probably remember Holyfield because of this play against the LSU Tigers in 2018:

That clip shows Holyfield running with power and trucking his way to the first-down marker. Although shifty running backs might come in handy when it comes to getting yards in chunks, some situations call for brute strength. That’s where Holyfield can contribute for the Eagles.

The fact that he’s had a light workload since his days with the Bulldogs should incentivize Philadelphia to feed him the ball whenever they need to wear opposing defenses down. He should be fresh with plenty of tread on the tires.

On the other hand, there is one thing that may hinder Holyfield’s chances to see the field often in 2020. As powerful as he is when running the ball, his pass-catching prowess leaves much to be desired. Back with Georgia, he caught just seven passes in three seasons. That’s all. He wasn’t a natural receiver out of the backfield. To make matters worse, he didn’t put in a good performance at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine either.

Holyfield might not be able to catch the ball out of the backfield, but his 4.8-second 40-yard dash time will motivate his new team to give the sophomore a decent amount of opportunities to show that he deserves to be part of the Eagles running back rotation, but right now, Sanders may be the favorite to be on the field in obvious pass situations.

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If Holyfield showcases his strength as a running back, he can carve a nice niche for himself, but he’ll face stiff competition from Michael Warren and Adrian Killins Jr, who joined the Eagles as undrafted free agents this year. They’ll also be looking to make the roster. If Sanders and Scott run the ball effectively, Holyfield’s snap count could be limited, but as it stands now, Holyfield will have a few chances to show he deserves a spot on this Eagles roster.