Philadelphia Eagles: Could Jason Huntley be another Nyheim Hines?

Jason Huntley #32, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Jason Huntley #32, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

11 snaps. That’s how many reps running back Jason Huntley received through the first 16 weeks of the Philadelphia Eagles‘ 2020 season. Finally, in a meaningless week 17 game, he played 20 offensive snaps but only had three touches. All season long, the Eagles used Boston Scott and Corey Clement as their secondary backs behind Miles Sanders. Why is that?

Boston Scott became a fan favorite after his performance in the 2019-2020 regular-season finale. He’s built quite the reputation as the ‘Giant Slayer’. The Birds have a good idea of what type of running back Scott is now that he’s played a full 16-game season, and it’s fair to say that he should probably be slotted as a solid third-stringer.

On the other hand, Corey Clement shouldn’t be brought back. Following multiple injuries over the course of the past few seasons, he hasn’t been the same player that he was in the 2017 season. In all fairness, he wasn’t used as a receiver enough (like he was in both 2017 and 2018). It’s still pretty clear that he’s lost a step. It doesn’t make sense why he was taking snaps instead of Huntley.

Okay, Philadelphia Eagles fans, here’s a quick history lesson.

The Detroit Lions drafted Huntley in Round 5 but already had a crowded backfield. One week before the season opener, they waived him, which was probably done in an attempt to sneak him through waivers and get him on the practice squad, but Philly claimed him before that could happen.

Despite the effort, they never used him. This was something we saw more than once with the Eagles. Think back to 2019 and their decision to play Mack Hollins over Greg Ward when it was clear that wasn’t working and Ward was, without question, the better player.

Will we see more of the same with Huntley? It’s possible, but it’s also too early to tell. What we can agree on, at least, is he deserved more opportunities than he was given in 2020. Hopefully, there will be a 2021 preseason so that he can get reps and possibly earn more playing time in the regular season. While there is a need for a bulldozer at running back, Huntley could still contribute in a smaller role. Maybe the Birds will use him as a gadget player?

Will the Philadelphia Eagles’ new head coach utilize Huntley?

In a previous article, we talked a lot about Huntley’s potential as well as how he compares to Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines. Ironically, the Eagles’ new head coach, Nick Sirianni, began coaching with the Colts the same year that they drafted Hines.

In his first three NFL seasons, Hines has tallied 2,120 scrimmage yards on 396 total touches (5.4 yards per touch). He’s been especially impactful as a receiver with 1,134 yards after the catch (YAC) in those seasons. His value as a return man must be noted as well: 581 punt return yards (14.9 yards per return) and two touchdowns over the span of the last two years.

Huntley was also a weapon in the passing game and as a return man during his college career. Not only are Hines and Huntley both Swiss Army knives but they are also comparable in other categories. To reference our previous article, the similarities are striking.

Hines was a fourth-round pick while Huntley was a fifth-rounder. In terms of size, Hines is listed at five-foot-nine and 196 pounds. Huntley is five-foot-nine and 193 pounds. Before the draft, Hines ran a 4.38 forty-yard dash. Huntley ran a 4.37. Are we sure these two guys aren’t the same player?

At New Mexico State, Huntley didn’t put up 20 touchdowns and average 7.1 yards per rush in his senior year by accident. He’s a talented running back with a lot of potential for the NFL level. The way that Sirianni and Frank Reich used Nyheim Hines could be a blueprint for how the Philadelphia Eagles use Huntley next season.

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It’s possible that we could see Huntley utilized on reverses, end-arounds, screen passes, and jet sweeps. We might even see him in the slot in addition to playing more at running back. Sirianni likes to get his playmakers the ball in the open field as we’ve talked about before. When he was still coaching in San Diego, running back Danny Woodhead was his leading receiver in 2015. Let’s hope that Huntley sticks around and has a role next season because it would be a mistake for Philly to let go of him without evaluating a reasonable sample size.