Adrian Killins is fast. How fast is a little uncertain.
The undrafted Eagles rookie running back wasn’t invited to the pre-draft scouting combine in Indianapolis in late February despite averaging nearly seven yards per touch during his career at the University of Central Florida.
And his school’s Pro Day workout was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So he doesn’t have an official 40-yard dash time, though he reportedly ran it in 4.39 seconds in team testing at UCF last year.
A couple of years ago, Killins, a two-time Florida state high school champ in the 200 meters, declared himself the fastest man in college football.
And while he has great respect for all of his new Eagles teammates, he said Wednesday that he doesn’t think there’s a player in midnight green who can outrun him. And, yes, he does realize that DeSean Jackson has a locker near his at the NovaCare Complex.
“I’ve always been the fastest guy on my teams,” the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Killins said. “There always are guys that want to challenge me, but I held the crown at UCF all four years as the fastest guy on the team. Here, I think I’m the fastest guy on the team as well.”
Them’s fightin’ words.
“He’s fast,” acknowledged Eagles wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside. “But shoot, we got a lot of speed on this team this year. He needs to race everybody in the receiver room. I’d throw everybody in the receiver room, including myself, into the ring [against him]. But he can move. I’m not gonna lie. He can run.”
Killins has been getting a lot of opportunities to show off his speed. With Miles Sanders out for the last eight days with an unspecified lower body injury that the Eagles insist isn’t serious, and Boston Scott also missing a handful of practices, Killins has been getting a ton of practice reps at training camp.
What’s been interesting is that a lot of those reps have been at wide receiver as well as running back.
Killins wasn’t used a lot as a pass-catcher at UCF. He caught just eight passes last season and 19 the year before. But one of the foundations of Doug Pederson’s version of the West Coast offense is finding a way to get fast guys the ball in space.
You may recall that they tried a similar experiment a few years back with 2017 fourth-round running back Donnel Pumphrey, giving him a lot of training camp reps at wide receiver. That experiment didn’t work out so well.
But Pumphrey didn’t have Killins’ roadrunner speed.
“During the [virtual] offseason, I was strictly in the running back room,” Killins said. “So I got a pretty good grasp of that position, learning all of the plays and the protections and whatnot.
“Then, when I got here for training camp, they wanted to see what I could do out wide at slot receiver. Learning both positions is tough. But the more I can do for this team, the better chance I have of getting on the field.”
The Eagles are expected to increase their use of “gadget” plays – jet sweeps, end-arounds and bubble screens – this year. With his speed, Killins could potentially be an effective weapon on those types of plays. He also is one of the team’s punt and kickoff return candidates.
Pederson has been very impressed by what he’s seen of Killins so far. “He has really come in, and ... I’ll tell you, I’ve been impressed from the standpoint of his knowledge and understanding,” the Eagles coach said. “We’ve made him a running back. We’ve made him a receiver. We’ve put him in some tough situations.
“He’s handled it extremely well, and he does a nice job as a receiver in that receiving role out of the backfield. He’s got really good speed and quickness that is definitely, for a guy his size, beneficial.
“It’s unfortunate not having preseason games to be able to watch these young players play. But we’ve been able to see him in practice and what he can do and where he can possibly help us this season, if that’s the case.”
Killins rushed for nearly 2,500 yards at UCF. Averaged 7.2 yards per carry as a senior and 6.1 for his career. But his small frame scared away NFL teams. He was devastated when he didn’t get drafted.
“I had a lot of my friends and family over for the draft,” he said. “I was sitting in a [separate] room with my mom, watching it on another television. I had my phone next to me just waiting for it to ring.
“My mom, she was being a mom. She was up and down and whatnot. She kept asking me if I was OK. I wasn’t OK, but I had to tell her I was OK and not let it show.”
Several teams contacted him after the draft. He chose the Eagles because, “I knew the offense they ran and the people they had in their building and what they wanted to do with me,” he said. “I felt I could come in here and earn a spot.”
If he continues to flash the way he has in the first two weeks of training camp, he just may do that. The Eagles likely will keep four running backs and five or six wide receivers. Keeping him as their third or fourth running back behind Sanders and Scott could give them the flexibility to carry one less wideout.
“I’ve got a lot of people here I can talk to, like Greg Ward and all of the other receivers, including D-Jack and Alshon [Jeffery],” he said. “They’ve helped me a lot getting used to being a receiver because I didn’t play a lot there in high school or college.
“I’m just watching the vets do it day in and day out and try to put some of what I’m learning from them in my tool box so that I can be a dynamic player.”
Killins doesn’t lack confidence. He has played with a chip on his shoulder since high school, which was the first time but certainly not the last that he was told he was too small to succeed.
If he needs a role model, he doesn’t have to look far. Former Eagles running back Darren Sproles, who joined the Eagles as a personnel executive earlier this year after announcing his retirement, is working with the running backs and return specialists during training camp.
When the Eagles were attempting to sign Killins as an undrafted free agent this spring, they put Sproles on the phone with him. If Killins was thinking of signing with anybody else, that pretty much put an end to it.
“When he talked to me, it was like a dream come true,” he said. “Just hearing his voice and just knowing what he sees in me and what he thinks I’m capable of doing, it was a great feeling.
“When you’re undersized, you have to play the game differently. You can’t take too many hits. You have to be very smart. Having him here through training camp has been awesome. He’s told me something he knows each and every day.