Kenneth Gainwell needs to be the guy for the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Good news, bad news, Philadelphia Eagles fans.

First, the bad: Miles Sanders has a broken hand and is out for the team in Week 17 at the bare minimum.

And the good? Sanders isn’t headed to IR and could potentially take the field for the team, albeit with a casted hand, in the Wildcard round with a little luck.

While this news, when coupled with Jordan Howard’s stinger, could spell some short-term discomfort for the Birds over the next two weeks, as the Eagles are firmly a running team at this point, it’s not the end of the world. No, if the Philadelphia Eagles are smart, they’ll fully turn their attention to Kenneth Gainwell and firmly showcase his offensive game in Week 17.

Give the keys to Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles fans.

Kenneth Gainwell is an offensive weapon.

He is a good slasher between the tackles, a weapon in space, and the sort of receiver out of the backfield the Philadelphia Eagles have been looking to land since Darren Sproles hung up his cleats in 2019.

Back at Memphis, Gainwell was one of the rare redshirt freshman running backs to log over 2,000 all-purpose yards in a single season and ranked first among running backs in receiving yards at a cool 610.

Sidebar: If you’re a fan of Penn State, you might recall Gainwell gashing the Nittany Lions in the 2019 Cotton Bowl.

Had Gainwell opted in for the 2020 NCAA season, he very well may have vaulted his draft stock into Day 2 territory, but as I’m sure Howie Roseman will tell you, the Philadelphia Eagles are more than happy he was still on the board in the fifth round.

Since taking his talents to the NFL level, Gainwell has largely remained a viable two-way weapon, recording 98 total offense touches while ranking fourth on the team in rushing yards and fifth on receiving yards at 209 and 244, respectively. Whether running between the tackles, hauling in a screen, lining up at wide receiver, or running an angle route to attack the middle of the field, Gainwell has attacked opposing defenses from all over the field and scored five more touchdowns than Miles Sanders as a result, which is an absolutely wild stat that feels impossible but is very much real.

If Jordan Howard can’t go in Week 17, Gainwell should be the guy versus Washington. Sure, maybe Boston Scott starts the game, and maybe he fills the early-down back role typically filled by Sanders and Howard, but Gainwell’s ability to attack the defense from anywhere could add a much-needed element of surprise versus a defensive front that is so tough they literally fight each other on the sidelines.

What better way to neutralize a strong defensive line than to throw the ball quickly and run the ball outside the tackles, especially when you have a quarterback playing on an injured ankle? As much as I’ve banged the table for Jason Huntley all season long and appreciate the return of Kerryon Johnson to the practice squad, none of the Eagles’ other options, not even Scott, present as much upside as Gainwell if both Howard and Sanders are out.

Next. The Philadelphia Eagles avoid placing Miles Sanders on IR. dark

Over the first month of the regular season, Kenneth Gainwell received consistent action as the Philadelphia Eagles’ two-minute offense running backs. When Nick Sirianni wanted to go fast and opted to pull a Chip Kelly with the no-huddle looks, it was Gainwell, not Sanders, who was typically in the game because of his ability to run and catch the ball. In Week 17, with Jalen Hurts still on the mend and Miles Sanders out, that sort of optionally could become incredibly handy.