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Nick Sirianni defends playing Kenny Gainwell ahead of Boston Scott and Rashaad Penny

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Want to see more Boston Scott? More Rashaad Penny? Less Kenny Gainwell?

Don’t hold your breath.

Nick Sirianni said Gainwell, who has the lowest rushing average after eight games by an Eagles running back in 25 years, will remain the Eagles’ No. 2 running back.

Not open for debate.

“He's the No. 2,” Sirianni said. “He’s our No. 2 because we believe it right now. He's the second best running back on our team.”

Although the numbers are a little deceiving because he often runs into a loaded box late in games when the Eagles are running clock, Gainwell’s 3.0 rushing average is 2nd-lowest in the NFL among backs with at least 50 carries (Cam Akers is at 2.7).

It’s also lowest by any Eagles back with 50 carries after eight games since Charlie Garner was at 2.7 eight games into the 1998 season.

Gainwell has only averaged 4.0 yards once this year – he was 2-for-12 against the Jets. 

This is a guy who averaged 4.4 yards per carry in his first two seasons and ran for 112 yards in the playoff win last year over the Giants with a 9.3 average, highest ever in the postseason by an Eagles running back.

Gainwell had a costly fumble at the 5-yard-line in the win over Washington Sunday and netted minus-two yards on two carries, although he did catch five passes for 30 yards.

D’Andre Swift has been the Eagles’ lead back and has 571 yards, 4th-most in the NFL, as well as 28 receptions.

But Boston Scott, now in his sixth year with the Eagles, has just eight carries all year. And Rashaad Penny, who still owns the highest rushing average in NFL history by a running back, has only three carries all year. Scott and Penny got 11 of their 13 carries in Week 2 against the Vikings, a game Gainwell missed with a rib injury.

Why so intent on sticking with Gainwell?

“That's based off games, that's based off past games, that's based off practice, that's based off the whole body of work,” Sirianni said. 

“And obviously I understand where that question is coming from, but I didn't get this question last week when he ran over two guys in the Miami game and got into the end zone because we were all singing his praises. And also, the same thing in the playoffs last year when he gave us some very valuable carries.

“But I understand that's your guys' job. But if I were to just say, ‘OK, Kenny fumbled the ball in the red zone, that's it, he's going to No. 3,’ then that wouldn't be consistent of what we do with anything.

“And if Jalen throws an interception, he doesn't come out. And if Brian (Johnson) or myself call a call that results in a turnover, I don't turn the play-call duties over to Kevin (Patullo).

“This happens over and over. There are mistakes that happen. If A.J. drops the ball, we don't say to him -- I don't know if he's dropped one in a couple weeks -- but we don't say to him, ‘We ain't throwing it to him anymore.’ 

“That's the same philosophy here. Kenny is our No. 2 back because of his body of work.”

Of course, Gainwell’s issues this year go well behind the one fumble. 

His 55.4 rushing success rate was 10th-highest in the NFL in 2021 and 2022 among 71 backs with at least 100 carries.

His 35.3 success rate this year is 37th out of 39 backs, ahead of only Jerome Ford and Miles Sanders.

Something has changed. Something is different. He doesn’t look like the same Kenny Gainwell. But it sure sounds like one thing won’t change, and that’s his role in the offense.

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