Boston Scott was done dirty by the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1.
To some, Sanders’ absence spelled disaster for the Birds’ prospects against Washington’s formidable front four, as moving the sticks between the tackles is a fantastic way to neutralize speedy edge rushers. If that was your take, congrats, but for others, it created lofty expectations that one of 2019’s breakout stars, Boston Scott, would next-man-up himself into Sanders’ role and delivers onto Philly fans a formidable performance in only his third professional start.
If that was your take, then you were probably peeved Sunday evening.
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For those of you particularly active on Twitter, you all but surely saw take after take about how Scott and his backfield partner, Corey Clement, well, flat out stunk or *gasp* weren’t starting-caliber running backs. People critiqued the duo’s poor pass blocking, their actually-not-that-bad 3.4 yards-per-carry average, and general meh-ness as receivers out of the backfield. Factor in the former LA Tech’s putrid fantasy football production and yeah, it’s safe to say Scott had to pay for his own cheesesteaks Sunday night when he returned to our fair city.
But here, my friends, is the thing: Boston Scott isn’t an NFL starter, and honestly, that’s okay.
Measuring in at 5-foot-6, 203 pounds, Scott is a textbook definition of an NFL scatback. His lack of size, when coupled with an elusivity seldom seen in a traditional bell-cow back makes him an ideal option on third down, or on obvious passing downs against a light box.
For what it’s worth, Scott is a little more impressive than your traditional scatback, as his lower body strength is elite regardless of his height. With that in mind, expecting Scott to transform into the second coming of Maurice Jones-Drew is rather unrealistic. No, for my money, Scott’s best professional comparison is another former Philadelphia Eagle fans in the 215 had the pleasure of watching for much of the past decade: Darren Sproles.
Over his tenure with the Eagles, both under Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson, Sproles willingly filled any role he was asked to fill, going from punt returner to inside rusher, pass blocker, and even slot receiver over the course a single series. When paired up with a legit starting option like LeGarrette Blount, Ryan Matthews, or LeSean McCoy, vintage Sproles created an instant mismatch against even the most formidable defense, giving the team a competitive advantage regardless of down and distance.
If used correctly, Scott could be similarly effective as an RPO-master in a fast-paced, option-heavy attack. However, how he was used in Week 1, as a traditional running back tasked with pass protection and interior runs, *spoiler alert* probably wasn’t the best use of his unique talents.
Need proof? Look no further than how Washington used their own hybrid running back/wide receiver Antonio Gibson. Starting his first game as a pro, the third-round pick out of Memphis was almost exclusively put in the best possible position to succeed, whether rushing between the tackles, on the outside, or dropping out into the flat as a pass-catcher. Because of his background on the perimeter, Washington seldom tasked Gibson with taking on the likes of Brandon Graham or Josh Sweat one-on-one.
While Gibson is noticeably bigger than Scott, the duo should conceivably be used in a similar manner at this point in their careers.
In a perfect world, Coach Pederson would have given Clement the start and utilized the ex-Wisconsin UDFA as the team’s traditional rusher. Of the three running backs the Eagles utilized against Washington, Clement is the biggest and should theoretically hold up the best as a last line of defense in pass pro. Scott, conversely, should have been utilized just like Sproles back in the day, as a quick passing option out of the backfield who could neutralize an attacking pass rush in the screen game.
And hey, maybe all of that play-action Pederson decided to call would have been a tad more effective if the team was actually running the ball more than 28 percent of the time. Just an idea.
In the NFL, and really all of sports, the teams that succeed most are usually the ones who put their players in the best position to succeed. While, in theory, this should be rather obvious, but apparently, no one told this to Doug Pederson and his collection of ex-offensive coordinators filling out his staff. From running DeSean Jackson on comebacks or utilizing Zach Ertz as a decoy across the middle of the field, the Philadelphia Eagles’ ambitions ran counterintuitive to the players they had on the field, and no one’s usage exemplifies that issue more than Boston Scott.