Did Eagles' last preseason game take Donnel Pumphrey out of the running?
Donnel Pumphrey again produced paltry results as a runner, though his return work wasn't bad. Corey Clement played only briefly.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — We'll know by Saturday afternoon whether the Eagles intend to make Donnel Pumphrey their first fourth-round pick waived before the start of his rookie season in 20 years.
Pumphrey didn't make the decision a whole lot easier in Thursday night's preseason-ending 16-10 loss to the host New York Jets. His first five rushes totaled 6 yards. He finished with seven carries for 10 yards. On back-to-back opportunities, a run from scrimmage and a punt return, Pumphrey was yanked down by arm tackles, something we were told wouldn't happen to the FBS all-time leading rusher (6,405 yards) from San Diego State, despite his 5-9, 176-pound frame.
Pumphrey did gain 48 yards on the five punt returns he attempted (9.6-yard average), fair-catching two others. Pumphrey notched a pair of 14-yard punt returns on which he looked slippery, though he still didn't run away from anyone, really.
Pumphrey also returned three kickoffs for 80 yards, a solid 26.7-yard average, before leaving to be evaluated for a head injury. Pumphrey said after the game that he passed the concussion testing and felt fine.
"Return-wise I felt real comfortable; the other 10 guys on the field, they did a great job, getting their hands on guys, and I was just able to hit the hole," Pumphrey said.
From scrimmage though, "I just give their defense tips — hats off to them. They were able to swarm to the ball, and I was never really able to do anything in that part," Pumphrey said.
"Honestly, I couldn't tell you where I stand," Pumphrey said. "We'll find out in a few days. I'll definitely stay next to my phone."
"I put it all out there," in terms of effort, Pumphrey said, but "I definitely could have had a lot more better performances."
Pumphrey, who finished the preseason with 49 rushing yards on 26 carries, said if he was doing the evaluating, "it'd be difficult to choose."
Pumphrey caught 13 passes for 72 yards in the four preseason games.
"We saw Donnel as a returner, saw him as a receiver, saw him in the backfield. It allows us to make a good evaluation of him," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said after the game.
"It goes back to how we used him in the spring offensively. … One thing I noticed when we first got him, he's a smart football player. He gets it, he understands, he can pick up the offense. That's why I'm comfortable with him in multiple roles. It's one of those decisions where we have to take in a lot of information. We've got to go back and watch all his touches from OTAs through this game tonight."
As the clock ticks toward 4 p.m. Saturday, when rosters have to be trimmed to the regular-season limit of 53, it's still hard to find a spot for Pumphrey if the Eagles keep only four running backs. LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, and Wendell Smallwood are assumed to be on the team. None of them played against the Jets. The Eagles yanked undrafted rookie Corey Clement after just four carries for 16 yards – either because he's going to make the roster and they didn't want to get him hurt, or to limit his exposure to other teams' evaluators, if they think they can waive Clement and sneak him onto the practice squad.
Clement, from Glassboro, N.J., and Wisconsin, finished the preseason with 28 carries for 105 yards.
"It's like a redraft again," Clement said, when asked about the next few days . "Do I get a good phone call or a bad phone call? I have a great head on my shoulders right now; I'm feeling, not relaxed, but at the same time, I don't think I'm [expecting] any bad news. I shouldn't be."
Clement was excited to get a chance to play on special teams Thursday even after his chance for carries ended; not having a role there had been a mark against him.
"Now I can go back on the bus and know that I gave everything on special teams. I didn't really contribute on offense, but at the same time, I know that I didn't slack on any play. … This training camp's been great fun, and I think I did everything in my power," Clement said.
Byron Marshall actually was the most productive Eagles running back against the Jets, with 15 carries for 56 yards, but a lot of that was in the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter of the final preseason game is the football equivalent of a singles bar at closing time: You don't have to be all that great to look pretty good.
All in all, last night's action, in front of a whole bunch of MetLife Stadium empty seats, was in keeping with the solemn, sacred traditions of this preseason series. Seventeen years in a row now, the bottom of the Eagles' roster has played the bottom of the Jets' roster in the preseason finale for both teams. And aside from 2000, the Eagles and Jets have met in every preseason since 1984.
Who can forget the historic 1989 meeting, held in Raleigh, N.C., for some reason, in which quarterback Kyle Mackey stepped in for injured Jets starter Pat Ryan and led his team to a stirring 19-10 victory?
Or 2012, when Eagles quarterback Trent Edwards (yes, really) threw two touchdown passes in a 28-10 victory that clinched the Eagles' first undefeated preseason since 1995? Don't we all love to reminisce about the parade that celebrated that rare, perfect August?
The regular season that year ended 4-12 and Andy Reid was fired, but that part seemed a bit of an anticlimax, frankly.
In 2004, going on to make the second Super Bowl appearance in Eagles franchise history provided little balm to the wounds inflicted by a 28-27 Jets final preseason game victory in which Brooks Bollinger piloted New York to 21 successive fourth-quarter points, including the winning touchdown, scored with eight seconds remaining. Rookie corner Brandon Haw was beaten on the play, and across the Delaware Valley, outraged fans burned their No. 33 Haw jerseys.
Every year a pitched battle is waged in this game for the final few roster spots, and fans get very invested in the results. Last year's cause célèbre was wide receiver Paul Turner, the leading preseason receiver, who ended up catching nine regular-season passes for 126 yards, all in December, after the Eagles were pretty well buried.
This year Clement is the guy. But whatever happens between Clement and Pumphrey, chances are remote that either of them will be active when the season starts Sept. 10 at Washington.