Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles scratching surface with Donnel Pumphrey in their offense

Eagles scratching surface with Donnel Pumphrey in their offense

They call it the Pony set. It's an apt name. 

It's the moniker of the Eagles' two-running back formation when 5-foot-8, 176-pound rookie Donnel Pumphrey and 5-foot-6, 190-pound veteran Darren Sproles share a backfield. 

"It creates a lot of mismatches because we have great wideouts on the field as well as Carson Wentz back there," Pumphrey said. 

"With both of us back there, we can just do crossing patterns and keep the linebackers all mixed up. Even when we motion out, it's going to most likely be a linebacker on us and it's a mismatch on its own." 

The Pumphrey-Sproles comparisons are unavoidable, yet understandable. While the two don't have identical body types, they're both small and it seems like Pumphrey will have a Sproles-like role with the Eagles. 

Sproles, 33, previously has talked about retiring after the 2017 season, so the fourth-round pick could be his heir apparent. Pumphrey has also been working on returning kicks and punts during OTAs, something he didn't do much of in game action in college — and he's looked comfortable doing it. It's yet another thing he can learn from Sproles. 

"It's honestly been unbelievable to play under his wing, learn different stuff, different aspects of the game with him," Pumphrey said. 

As the current round of OTAs began in the rain on Tuesday, the Pony set was scratched momentarily because Sproles was away for a family matter. It will return, but in the meantime, the Eagles have been showing the various ways they plan on using their new versatile weapon. 

That means, in addition to his duties as a running back, Pumphrey will be used out of the backfield as a receiver and in the slot. On Tuesday, the Eagles stacked him as the back end in a bunch formation, almost hiding him behind bigger receivers. 

"Pump is so laterally quick," Ertz said. "You see it out there. His change of direction is incredible. Obviously, the coaches are going to have unbelievable pieces to use in this offense between him, Sproles, myself, we added guys like Alshon (Jeffery) and Torrey (Smith). Hopefully the middle of the field will be a little more spaced out than in years past. So we're excited to use him in different ways. 

"I mean, you put Sproles and him on the field, how is a defense going to match up? Are they going to play base, will they play dime? Sproles has obviously shown he can run between the tackles, we'll see how much Pump can do in the run game. I think guys are excited to see especially when the pads go on, live bullets, to see that lateral quickness." 

Ertz said the Pony set will create problems for defenses similar to those occurring when he and Trey Burton come out in the Eagles' two-tight-end set. Which defense will teams choose to use? 

And then Ertz questioned what teams would do if the Eagles come out with 176-pound Pumphrey next to 250-pound LeGarrette Blount in the same backfield. If Pumphrey is a pony, Blount is a thoroughbred stallion; but each serves his own purpose in the offense. 

"We've got a lot of chess pieces, so it's up to Doug (Pederson) and Frank (Reich) and [QB coach John DeFilippo] to kind of make the most of this," Ertz said. "But that's the good thing, they've shown they can do it in the past and we trust them as offensive players that they'll put us in situations to be successful."

NFL Notes: Supporters hold rally for Colin Kaepernick at NFL headquarters

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AP Images

NFL Notes: Supporters hold rally for Colin Kaepernick at NFL headquarters

NEW YORK -- Supporters of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem to protest police brutality against blacks, showed their solidarity with him and his cause at a rally outside the headquarters of the National Football League on Wednesday.

More than 1,000 people, many wearing jerseys bearing Kaepernick's name, crowded the steps outside the NFL's midtown Manhattan offices.

Kaepernick, who once took the 49ers to the Super Bowl, opted out of his contract with the team in March and remains unsigned. Supporters say he is being blackballed for his advocacy, but some critics say he should not have sat or kneeled during the anthem or contend his lack of a job is more about his on-field talent.

Chants at the demonstration included "Boycott! Boycott!" Women's March organizer Tamika Mallory, addressing football fans, said, "I don't care how long you've been watching football, if they don't stand up for your children, turn the damn TV off."

Political commentator Symone Sanders said, "We are all standing with Kaepernick. It is time for the NFL to put up or shut up" (see full story).

Browns: Kizer to start at QB in 3rd preseason game
BEREA, Ohio -- Rookie DeShone Kizer is Cleveland's new starting quarterback.

Coach Hue Jackson has elected to go with Kizer, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, over veterans Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. Kizer has been the most consistent of the three during training camp and led the Browns to three touchdowns during his two exhibition appearances.

Jackson said Kizer will start Saturday's exhibition in Tamp Bay and "is certainly positioning himself well to earn the starting job heading into the regular season."

The Browns open the season on Sept. 10 against Pittsburgh.

Unless he stumbles against the Buccaneers, Kizer will be the 27th different quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999. The big-armed 21-year-old has shown no signs of being intimidated by the jump to the pros after making 23 starts in two seasons for the Fighting Irish (see full story).

Raiders: Pro Bowl LT Penn ends holdout
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn has ended his holdout with the Oakland Raiders.

Penn reported for practice on Wednesday, ending his 26-day holdout. Penn was looking for an improved contract but general manager Reggie McKenzie said earlier in training camp that he would not negotiate a new deal with Penn until he arrived at camp.

The Raiders could have fined Penn $40,000 for each day of camp he missed but the team is not expected to do that.

Penn is entering the final year of an $11.9 million, two-year contract. He is scheduled to earn $5.8 million in base salary this season with another $1.3 million in incentives and bonuses (see full recap).

Steelers: Star RB Bell hints at return date
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers star Le'Veon Bell has suggested on Twitter that he will return to the team on Sept. 1, the day after Pittsburgh's final preseason game.

Bell hasn't signed his franchise tender and has been holding out through training camp. Responding to a fan Tuesday night asking when he plans to end his holdout, Bell wrote: "9-1-17" and added a wink.

The franchise tender offered Bell will guarantee him $12.1 million for the upcoming season. The two-time Pro Bowl running back has been seeking a long-term deal.

Bell rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns last season and also caught 75 passes for 616 yards and two TDs.

Redskins: Reed makes on-field debut at practice
ASHBURN, Va. -- Jordan Reed is back at practice with the Washington Redskins.

The 27-year-old tight end made his on-field debut Wednesday after missing almost the first month of practices with a toe injury. Reed missed the team's first two preseason games and was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Sunday.

Reed was examined by a foot specialist Aug. 1 and recently started using wider shoes and orthotics to help alleviate the soreness in the big toe on his left foot. Last week he said it felt better when running routes and walking around and doesn't expect the injury to affect him during the season.

One of quarterback Kirk Cousins' most consistent and effective targets, Reed had 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns last season despite missing four games with injury (see full story).

Giants: OL Bowie waived after domestic charges disclosed 
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have waived Michael Bowie days after finding out that the offensive lineman had been charged with assault and battery in Oklahoma.

The Giants announced the decision Wednesday along with three moves.

The team learned of the charges on Saturday and did not allow the 25-year-old free agent to make the trip to Cleveland for a preseason game against the Browns on Monday night.

Bowie is accused of grabbing his girlfriend by the neck during a fight at her home in Bixby, Oklahoma, then broke two televisions and punched a hole in the wall.

Court records don't list an attorney for Bowie, a Tulsa resident. His agent says Bowie is working to prove his innocence, saying there was no physical contact with the girlfriend.

New York also waived offensive linemen Corin Brooks, and waived/injured wideouts Darius Powe and Andrew Turzilli (see full story).

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman heading to Saints

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USA Today Images

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman heading to Saints

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman has agreed to terms to join the New Orleans Saints on a one-year deal, according to his agent Sean Stellato. 

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport first reported the deal. 

Braman, 30, spent the last three seasons with the Eagles and played a major role on Dave Fipp's unit, which has been considered one of the top in the NFL during that span. He had been a free agent throughout the spring and summer after his contract ran out with the Eagles. 

Braman came to Philadelphia as a free agent from the Texans before the 2014 season on a two-year deal and later restructured his contract to take a pay cut and give him an extra year in Philly. 

While Braman rarely made it on the field for the defense in those next three seasons, he played a total of 1,214 special teams snaps, the most of any player on the team. He played in all 48 games over the last three seasons. 

Even without Braman, the Eagles still have plenty of key special teams players like Chris Maragos, Najee Goode and Kamu Grugier-Hill.