Kenny Gainwell got an early indication that Sunday’s game against the Titans was going to go pretty well for him.
He got his first touch of the game on the first drive of the game and made it count.
Gainwell caught a pass from Jalen Hurts in the middle of the field, pulled off a nifty spin move and picked up 14 yards to help the Eagles score their first touchdown in the 35-10 blowout.
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“I wanted him to be closer so it could be better,” Gainwell said with a chuckle on Thursday. “I wanted to hit another move on him but the spin move came out. It felt good though to go out there and do what I used to do.”
Usage and production for the 23-year-old second-year running back has been up and down this season and he’s had to wait his turn.
But the last few weeks, the Eagles are turning to Gainwell a little more and the former fifth-round pick is starting to find his rhythm.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” Gainwell said. “Just having the opportunity to show my talents and what I can do on the field, it’s just getting into the flow.”
Against the Commanders and Colts in Weeks 10 and 11, Gainwell got a total of just three offensive touches for 12 yards. In the last two games against the Packers and Titans, Gainwell has 15 touches for 99 yards.
While Gainwell would obviously love to be used more in the offense — who wouldn’t? — he’s taken head coach Nick Sirianni’s philosophy about roles seriously. Because Miles Sanders has stayed healthy and because the Eagles have a ton of weapons on offense, there just aren’t a lot of touches left for Gainwell.
So he just has to make the most of the ones he gets.
“You just gotta go day by day. You gotta understand that it’s going to be like that,” Gainwell said. “It’s no hard feelings, especially if you’re 11-1. It helps to be winning. You can’t be mad about it. The only thing you can do is create opportunity for yourself and work hard every day and put it on film.”
Gainwell this season has played 27% of the Eagles’ offensive snaps but he’s gotten those snaps in a lot of crucial situations. Because of his ability as a receiver, Gainwell is the Eagles’ 2-minute drill back and he also gets a ton of reps on third downs.
You don’t get those reps if the coaching staff doesn’t trust you.
And even though he’s just 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, Gainwell works hard to be the best pass protecting back he can be. To be fair, he still has a ways to go, but he’s putting in the work.
“You might think a guy my size is not fit to do that but I’m a tough-nosed guy,” Gainwell said. “It’s just me setting myself up to attack the guy that’s bigger than me. Basically inside-out, just take him out with all the force I have.”
In Year 2, Gainwell’s role with the Eagles hasn’t changed all that much. Some expected him to take a huge jump in Year 2 but we haven’t seen that on the stat sheet, which isn’t too surprising given the amount of weapons on the Eagles’ roster.
And we might be seeing more touches go Gainwell’s way recently because the Eagles have been without star tight end Dallas Goedert.
Through 12 games, Gainwell has 278 scrimmage yards and is on pace to finish his second season with significantly fewer yards than he had as a rookie. But Gainwell also already has four rushing touchdowns and is just happy to play a role on the best team in the NFL.
For now, he’s getting his opportunities to touch the football and he’s loving it. But he’s also not going to pout if those touches dry up soon either.
“Man, you gotta be ready,” Gainwell said. “Take from practice to the field, practice to the field. How you practice every day, that’s how you get ready for game day. So I’m just making sure I practice hard.”
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