‘Hungry’ Veteran Winning Competition for Eagles’ Backup RB Job

Elijah Holyfield

Getty Former Panthers RB Elijah Holyfield — and son of boxing great Evander — was signed by the Eagles and added to the active roster.

Elijah Holyfield looks ‘hungry at all times,” per one teammate, and hungry dogs always run faster.

The Eagles proved the above statement true during their 2017 Super Bowl championship run. Elijah Holyfield wasn’t here for that magical ride, but the veteran running back has taken a similar approach to claim a spot on the depth chart. With Philly’s three top backs injured — Miles Sanders (lower body), Boston Scott (lower body), Corey Clement (lower body) — Holyfield has been getting legitimate reps with the first-team offense. He’s making the most of every single snap.

“I love playing football, so this camp has been great,” Holyfield told reporters last week. “Being on the practice squad a lot of times you don’t feel like you’re getting evaluated, and doing a lot of work and nobody’s really watching, so just the chance to get back out here and get to play, and having the opportunity has just been great for me.”

The son of heavyweight boxing legend Evander Holyfield joined the Eagles at the end of last season, Dec. 31 to be exact after Daeshon Hall was placed on injured reserve. He was relegated mostly to the practice squad and never saw an NFL snap, although he was active for the wild-card playoff game against Seattle.

“I learned so much that week I was here,” Holyfield said, “so getting to come back was a big jumpstart.”

The 22-year-old didn’t have much time to get up to speed last year and dig into the playbook. This bizarre offseason, full of Zoom meetings and a whole lot of free time, has helped him catch up. It’s been noticeable to everyone, on both sides of the football.

“He is someone who just looks hungry at all times,” Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “He wants to do everything at full speed. He plays a great technique with great strength and definitely a guy who sticks out in my mind, for sure.”

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‘Hundred Miles Per Hour’ Every Play

The injuries to everyone else in the Eagles’ backfield certainly hasn’t hurt. It appears to be a two-man race between Holyfield and undrafted rookie Adrian Killins for the fourth spot at running back.

“With the running back situation where we are and Miles resting right now and getting healthy, it’s allowed him just like [Killins] to get more reps and get more time,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “And he’s really taken advantage of his opportunity when he’s out there in practice, whether he’s in the one huddle or the two huddle, making the most.”

Pederson credited the former University of Georgia star for asking “great questions” to the coaching staff, specifically running backs coach Duce Staley and personnel consultant Darren Sproles. Both former Eagles players have been in the huddle with the rushers on a day-to-day basis.

“He’s a hundred miles per hour every play,” Staley said. “He’s going to get in there. He’s a physical specimen. He’s going to get in there and knock you around with protection. Special teams, he’s going to run down and he’s going to knock you around a little bit. I like where he is. He’s hungry.”

Faster Than 4.78-Second 40 Time

Running fast and playing fast are two entirely different things in the NFL. Those 40 times are useful tools, but they don’t always tell the whole story. Holyfield ran a disappointing 4.78 seconds in the 40 in 2019 and his draft stock plummeted.

He went undrafted until Carolina gobbled him up as an undrafted rookie free agent. Don’t be fooled, says Staley. Holyfield is a lot quicker than 4.78 seconds.

I think he plays fast,” Staley said. “I think he plays faster than what his 40 represents. Hey, that 40 is a nerve-wrecking deal, man.”

He’s also become an asset in the blocking game, holding his own against tougher, more physical defenders.

“He’s improved,” Pederson said. “Yeah, you watch him, even in his pass blocking drills, which are tough drills for players to go through, especially one-on-one, but he’s done a nice job there.”

For Holyfield, it’s all about pushing hard and taking it one day at a time. Or one round at a time, to put it in his father’s language.

“Right now isn’t the time to relax,” Holyfield said. “I’m just trying to get better every day.”

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