Don’t tell Kerryon Johnson he’s not a starter in the National Football League. The newest member of the Philadephia Eagles expects to come into training camp and compete for a job, even if the electrifying Miles Sanders is staring down the depth chart at him.
Sanders is the undisputed bell-cow running back in Philly but the Eagles seem intent on protecting their investment. The team signed Johnson off the scrap heap to reinforce that idea, one week after using a fifth-round pick on Memphis standout Kenneth Gainwell. The Eagles keep stressing how much they want competition at every single position. Well, the soon-to-be 24-year-old Johnson understands that better than anybody. His major issue has been simply staying healthy.
“The Eagles saw something in me, I appreciate them for seeing that,” Johnson told reporters on Tuesday. “My expectation is to compete. I don’t think having a crowded room full of talented guys is ever an issue. All that’s going to do is make every single one of us perform at our best.”
Johnson was waived by the Detroit Lions on May 5 after three injury-plagued seasons in Motown. Talent was never an issue for the former second-round pick out of Auburn. The 5-foot-11, 211-pounder racked up 1,225 rushing yards and another 527 receiving yards. He left with 11 total touchdowns in 34 games.
“It was kind of scary,” Johnson said of being cut. “Major kudos to people who have been through it multiple times and are still going through it to this day. Luckily, it only lasted 24 hours, or something like that.”
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Ex-Lions Running Back Will Wear Knee Brace
Johnson joked last year about being the “knee brace guy” after injuring both his right knee and left knee in back-to-back seasons (2018, 2019). His unfortunate injury history dates back to college when he dealt with two separate shoulder injuries, plus a tricky hamstring issue. High school was no picnic either. All in the rear-view mirror now.
“I feel great. I’m ready to roll here,” Johnson told reporters on Tuesday. “Better than I’ve felt in a long time. It’s been a great offseason. I’m excited to be an Eagle.”
Johnson is only 23 years old and could be the third-down back the Eagles need. That’s assuming he can beat out Boston Scott and Jordan Howard for the third spot on the running back depth chart. There’s a lot to like about Johnson even if the former Alabama Mr. Football (2014) revealed to reporters that he’ll be wearing a knee brace for the rest of his career.
Jordan Howard: ‘We’re Always Going to Push Each Other’
Howard has the same idea (read: concerns?) that Johnson does in Philadelphia. He can read the depth chart. He can count to 53. The 26-year-old running back re-joined the Eagles last year prior to Week 13 and never got fully up to speed.
He signed a one-year contract — at the $990,000 veteran minimum — in April to continue his ill-fated career. The one-time Pro Bowler has accumulated 3,955 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns in 64 career games.
Yet questions about his durability and inability to catch passes out of the backfield remain. Howard has been counted out more than times than Rocky and he’s still standing, with plenty left in the tank.
“I still feel like I have a lot left,” Howard said last month. “I’m here to push Miles (Sanders) to just continue being the great NFL back he has the potential to be along with the rest of the room. We’re always going to push each other and make each other better.”