Philadelphia Eagles: Jaylen Samuels is the offensive Andre Chachere

(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

Heading into the summer, the Philadelphia Eagles looked absolutely flush with talent at the running back position.

From homegrown draftees like Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell, to waiver wire claims Kerryon Johnson and Jason Huntley, practice squad signees like Boston Scott, and Jordan Howard, who was initially traded for and then later signed as a mid-season free agent one season later, many openly questioned how the team would maintain their sheer volume of talent, with four, maybe even five running backs looking destined for the initial 53 man roster.

Instead, the Eagles only kept three – Sanders, Gainwell, and Scott – and were able to stash two more on their practice squad for safekeeping.

Is that an unusual development? Yes. The Indianapolis Colts always relied on a deep stable of running backs during Nick Sirianni’s tenure with the team, as did the Los Angeles Chargers during Shane Steichen’s time with the team. Even if the Birds opt to elevate Howard and Huntley regularly on game days, it still may be in the team’s best interest to sign a fourth running back to fill out their roster once the waiver wire fury comes to an end.

While Jordan Howard may be the most likely man for the job, if Howie Roseman and company want to think outside of the box, there’s a college tight end-turned-running back by the name of Jaylen Samuels who might just be intriguing enough to demand a look on the Philadelphia Eagles’ 53 man roster.

Samuels could be the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive version of Andre Chachere.

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In college, Jaylen Samuels was one of the most unique weapons in the country.

Measuring in at 5-foot-11, 228 pounds, Samuel was officially listed as a tight end but was used more as a do-it-all H-Back, capable of blocking, catching passes, and running the ball all within the same drive.

Seriously, we’re talking about a player who finished out his college career with 1,851 receiving yards, 1,107 rushing yards, and 47(!) total touchdowns while moonlighting as a kick returner, a special teamer, and even a trick play-passer over his 50 games in Raleigh.

Unconventional? Sure. A tough player to slot into a pre-existing system with well-defined positional roles? True to that too, but surely some team would find a way to make the most of what Samuels does well, right? Not so much.

Despite turning in a strong showing at the 2018 NFL combine – where he, funny enough, still worked out with tight ends – Samuels didn’t hear his name called until the middle of the fifth round, where he was ultimately selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers 165th overall.

Okay, cool; it’s not where you are drafted but where you end up. Surely Samuels would thrive on a team known for their creativity both in the passing and run game, right?

Again, not so much. Over his three-year career with the Keystone State’s other football team, Samuels averaged roughly five touches a game as a pass-catching running back and saw his production all but disappear during the 2020 season, where he recorded a career-low 18 touchdowns for 74 total yards in 14 games of action. Samuels was leapfrogged on the depth chart by 2020 fourth-round pick Anthony McFarland Jr. and ultimately finished out the season with fewer rushing yards than wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud and the fewest receiving yards of any player with at least one catch.

So really, it shouldn’t have been too surprising that Samuels was among those players handed their walking papers by the Steelers when they trimmed down their roster to 53 players, even if he ultimately returned to the team on their practice squad alongside 15 of his peers. If this is how Samuels’ career with the team ends, at least he got three vested years of service under his belt, which is enough to qualify for an NFL pension.

But between you and me, I want to see Samuels used right.

I want to see him on a team that is willing to line him up at fullback, H-back, and even tight end, and use him as an offensive weapon a la his time with – in? – the Wolfpack. I want to see him on the field at the same time as receiving specialists like Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell. Heck, I’d even like to see him do a “Philly Special”-esque trick-play paired up with college quarterback Greg Ward, and Jalen Hurts, who has one catch for three yards under his belt at the NFL level.

Could the Philadelphia Eagles sign Samuels off of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad? Yes, there is no restriction to doing so. Should they sign Samuels off of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad? In my humble opinion, heck yes.

Now sure, Samuels isn’t the sort of trucker missing from the team’s current stable of backs. If the team is looking for a power rusher who can pick up four yards in a cloud of dust between the tackles, Royce Freeman was just released by the Denver Broncos, and Jordan Howard is sitting pretty on the practice squad. But if the team is instead looking for a do-it-all weapon, an offensive version of Andre Chachere, if you will, Samuels is one of the most intriguing options in the NFL today and could be had for quite literally nothing more than a veteran minimum contract.

Next. Andre Chachere can wear a lot of hats. dark

Ultimately, if the Philadelphia Eagles sign another running back at any point in the immediate future, it’ll surely be Jordan Howard. While their decision to waive the one-time Pro Bowler left man a fan slightly confused, doing so makes a lot of sense considering the team had to keep Tyree Jackson on the active roster through the trim down to 53, and Howard didn’t need to pass through waivers before signing to the practice squad. But if the Birds feel comfortable with Howard’s status moving forward and want to tackle their running back position in a slightly different way, signing Jaylen Samuels could provide considerable value on game days regardless of how they opt to deploy him offensively or on special teams.