Kerryon Johnson’s time on the waiver wire was short-lived, but he says it was enough to provide a spark.
The 23-year-old running back was waived by the Detroit Lions on Thursday and got claimed by the Eagles the following day. He was a second-round pick out of Auburn in 2018, but knee injuries hampered him in his first two seasons. He played all 16 games last season, albeit in a limited role.
Johnson, who had his introductory Eagles news conference Tuesday, said his first time in the NFL’s version of limbo was a sobering experience.
“It was a little weird. I’ve seen it happen to others but never personally experienced it,” he said. “Going through it one time, it was kind of scary. 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.”
“The Eagles saw something in me,” Johnson added. “I appreciate them for seeing that, and I’m ready to give this organization 100 percent.”
Johnson enters a running back room that has gotten crowded quickly. The Eagles have Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Jordan Howard returning from last year’s roster. They selected Memphis prospect Kenny Gainwell in the fifth round of the draft and also have Jason Huntley, Adrian Killins, and Elijah Holyfield battling for a roster spot.
Howard joined the team at midseason and re-signed late in free agency after the 26-year-old didn’t receive as much interest as he’d hoped. If the team carries four running backs on the active roster, it could very well come down to Howard or Johnson.
“My expectation is to compete. I don’t think having a crowded room full of talented guys is ever an issue,” Johnson said. “It’s going to make every single player better. ... You’ve got three very proven guys in this league. You’ve got three very young guys coming in hungry, and this is all going to make us all better.”
If Johnson is able to set himself apart from the crowd, he thinks it will be thanks to his versatility as a receiver out of the backfield and pass protector. His role with Detroit last season was primarily as a third-down back. He had 52 carries for just 181 yards (3.5 yards per carry). But he caught 19 passes for 187 yards and one touchdown.
He received an 84.8 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, which was the best grade among running backs with at least 50 pass-blocking snaps.
“Being able to do different things is always going to earn you a spot in this league,” Johnson said. “I just have to make sure that I go out there and prove that I’m multifaceted. Go out there and prove that I know what do. First and foremost, that’ll get you benched quicker than anything.”