Philadelphia Eagles

What sets Kenny Gainwell apart from other running backs


He doesn’t know when it’s going to happen. He doesn’t know how it’s going to happen. He doesn’t know where it’s going to happen.

All Kenny Gainwell knows is that at some point every Sunday, he’s going to get a chance.

It might be one run. It might be 10. His job is to be ready all the time and produce whenever that opportunity comes.

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Take Sunday’s game against the Cards.

With eight minutes left in the game, Gainwell still didn’t have a carry. Didn’t have a touch. 

But with the game tied at 17 and the Eagles at their own 45-yard-line and desperately trying to manufacture the winning points, Shane Steichen called Gainwell’s number on a critical play. And then another. And then another.

Three straight Gainwell carries netted 20 yards, and a few plays later Cameron Dicker’s 23-yard field goal accounted for the winning points in a 20-17 victory that kept the Eagles unbeaten. 

They were his only carries of the game. But they were huge.

It can be a challenging role staying ready and not knowing when – or if – you’re going to get the ball. But Gainwell has handled it well.

“It’s not tough at all,” he said. “I know my role and I play my role very well. I know once I get my opportunity I’ll be ready, and I take advantage of every opportunity I get a chance to get my hands on the ball.

“Or if I can get in on third down and blow up a d-lineman or block the best linebacker they have, whatever it is, I’m taking advantage of my opportunity. I’m very happy with my role and I understand what I have to do.”

As a rookie, Gainwell became the sixth rookie in Eagles history with 250 yards both rushing and receiving and only the fourth rookie in the last 20 years drafted in the fifth round or later to record that 250-yard double.

With Miles Sanders healthy and carrying a bigger load than ever, Gainwell’s touches are down 30 percent - from 6.3 per game last year to 4.4 this year. 

To which he responds: Who cares?

“You just have to know how to handle it,” he said. “It’s about the team. It’s not about me. Just stay focused knowing that at some point I am going to get my opportunity and that way I’m ready whenever it comes up.

“Every guy on this team has to do, they have to be the best at their role, no matter how big or small it is. Just handle it the right way. That’s what got us to 5-0.”

For a guy who's only played 27 percent of the Eagles’ snaps over the last two years, Gainwell sure has a nose for the end zone.

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He’s scored eight touchdowns on just 123 touches as a pro, and the only other NFL running back with eight TDs on fewer than 150 touches over the last two years is Boston Scott, whose locker is next to Gainwell’s.

Jalen Hurts is the only Eagle who’s scored more touchdowns since opening day last year than Gainwell (and Scott).

Only nine players in Eagles history - including guys like Mike Quick, Wilbert Montgomery and LeSean McCoy - have scored more TDs in their first 21 career games.

“You have to be perfect on your reads and if you’re perfect on your reads you can bust a good run,” Gainwell said. 

“On the goal line, if you know your opponent and have a good read, once you get your hands on the ball, it’s easy. Just run it in. You’re fresh, you’re ready, you’re focused, and you know what to do.

“Once it comes gametime, once I get hands on that ball, man, I just go.”

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