Roob's Observations: A look at Gainwell's other skill


The importance of Howie Roseman year in exile, Brandon Graham’s remarkable home-town discount and Kenny Gainwell’s underrated receiving ability.

That seems like a good place to start with this week’s edition of Roob’s 10 Random Offseason Eagles Observations.

1. No doubt in my mind Kenny Gainwell can be a 60-catch guy in addition to everything he gives the Eagles as a ball carrier. Consider this: Over the last two years, Gainwell has played only 629 snaps – just 18 ½ per game – but has 56 catches on 79 targets. That’s outstanding efficiency and production in the receiving game as a part-time player. Gainwell is very smooth as a pass catcher, sees the field well, understands where his blockers are and is fast, slippery, elusive and tough. He had issues with drops in training camp last summer but had only two drops during the regular season, and Jalen Hurts seems to really trust him on third down. Since 1990, only four backs drafted in the fifth round or later have had 500 rushing yards, 50 catches and a 4.4 average in their first two years – Terry Allen, Terrell Davis, Jordan Howard and Gainwell. Only Gainwell wasn’t a starter. It’s easy to be excited about Rashaad Penny and his potential, but Gainwell will be RB1 in 2023, and there’s no reason he can’t handle it. 

2. Jason Kelce is the only player in NFL history at any position to make 1st-team all-pro five times in his career after his 30th birthday without ever making 1st-team all-pro before his 30th birthday. Only six other players made all-pro five times in their 30s but they were all all-pro at least once in their 20s – and all were Hall of Famers: Andy Robustelli, Gino Marchetti, Forrest Gregg, Chuck Howley and Jerry Rice. 

3. Only two wide receivers in NFL history drafted in the first round who played in at least 45 games in their first three seasons had fewer than 1,000 scrimmage yards after three seasons: Freddie Mitchell and Jalen Reagor. Each had 882 yards.

4. Looking back, I feel like Jeff Lurie giving Chip Kelly GM duties in 2015 and demoting Howie Roseman might have been one of the best things to ever happen to the Eagles. In the short term, it was a disaster. That team was a mess by the end of 2015, thanks in large part to Kelly’s clueless personnel moves. But the year in exile really gave Roseman an opportunity to reinvent himself in a way few front office executives have a chance to. He used the year to rebuild fractured relationships, to learn from successful GMs in other sports, to realize the importance of listening to the people around him, to become a better judge of college talent, to find ways to maximize draft capital. In Roseman’s first run as GM, the Eagles were four games over .500 (42-38) and didn’t win a playoff game in five seasons. In his second run, they’re 17 games over .500 (65-48) with five playoff wins and two Super Bowl appearances. The first incarnation of Howie Roseman was not a very good GM. The second incarnation could very well be a Hall of Famer.

5. How much of a home-town discount did Brandon Graham take? His 11 sacks last year were 6th-most of all NFL edge rushers. His $5 million salary in 2023 makes him the 57th-highest-paid edge rusher in the NFL.  

6. Randall Cunningham scored his 33rd career rushing touchdown in his 139thcareer game. Jalen Hurts scored his 33rd career rushing touchdown in his 49thcareer game. 

7. Two years ago with the Colts, Carson Wentz had the 10th-most TD passes in the NFL, ranked 3rd in the NFL in interception ratio, had a higher passer rating than Josh Allen, Derek Carr and Jared Goff and had the 11th-most wins in the league. Just two years ago. Now nobody wants him. Unreal.

8. The circumstances were somewhat different, but there are some serious parallels between Brandon Graham’s first five seasons and Derek Barnett’s first five seasons. Graham was the 13th pick in 2010, Barnett was the 14th pick in 2017. Graham played in 64 games his first five years, Barnett played in 65. B.G. had 17 sacks, Barnett had 21 ½. Graham never had more than 5 ½ sacks in a season, Barnett never had more than 6 ½. Both were viewed as 1st-round busts. As we all know, Graham turned his career around and late in his career had seasons with 8.0, 8 ½, 9 ½ and 11 sacks, recorded one of the biggest plays in franchise history in the Super Bowl and made his first Pro Bowl in 2021. The first thing Barnett has to do this year is show he’s healthy coming off a torn ACL from opening day last year. Then he’s got to make the team and earn playing time in a rotation that will be led by Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat and Graham. But Barnett does have talent and maybe coming off the bench without the pressure of living up to being a 1st-round pick will allow him to finally produce. Barnett definitely has some traits that should allow him to be an effective rusher. He needs to develop more moves than he had when we last saw him in 2021, he’s got to stay healthy, he’s got to cut down on the penalties and he’s got to learn how to finish when he gets close to the QB in the pocket. But the Eagles are getting a no-risk, low-budget former 1st-round pick who had 17 sacks in three healthy seasons from 2017 through 2020. I have no expectations of Barnett, but you never know. Maybe he can keep the B.G. parallel going.

9. Jordan Matthews had 24 third-down catches for first downs in 2014. That’s the most 3rd-down catches of any Eagles wide receiver in any season in the last 25 years. Then he had 24 more in 2015.

10. Speaking of receiving backs, LeSean McCoy was such a brilliant runner, it’s easy to forget what a terrific receiver he was as well. Shady caught 518 passes for 3,898 yards and 16 touchdowns on top of his 11,102 yards, 73 TDs and 4.5 average as a runner. Only McCoy and Marshall Faulk had three seasons with 1,000 rushing yards, 50 catches and a 5.0 rushing average. Only Tiki Barber and LaDainian Tomlinson also had two. Only 15 other backs had one. Shady’s 518 catches are 12th-most ever by a running back, and he’s the only player in history with 11,000 rushing yards, a 4.5 career average and 500 receptions. If I was on the Hall of Fame selection committee, he’d have my vote. 

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