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."

Report: Eagles work weight incentive into LeGarrette Blount's contract

Report: Eagles work weight incentive into LeGarrette Blount's contract

The Eagles' biggest back might be getting a bit smaller in the coming weeks.

According to a tweet from ESPN's Field Yates, LeGarrette Blount has an incentive in his contract with the Eagles that will net him $50,000 if he weighs in between 240 and 245 pounds when the team reports for training camp on July 24. Blount's one-year deal carries a $1.25 million cap, including a $900,000 base salary as well as a $200,000 signing bonus.

Currently, the Eagles' website lists the two-time Super Bowl champion running back at 6-foot, 250 pounds — at least 30 pounds heavier than any back currently on the roster. 

When asked how much he weighs at an introductory press conference last month, Blount responded, "The weight I need to be at."

Weight clauses have become more and more common, especially with running backs. Seattle's Eddie Lacy earned $55,000 in May when he tipped the scales at 255 pounds (or fewer) and the Seahawks' bruising back will have the chance to earn another $330,000 over the course of six more weigh-ins through the end of the regular season.

The same goes for Atlanta defensive lineman Dontari Poe, who could bank as much as $500,000 in bonuses if he slims down to 330 pounds from his listed 346 pounds.

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Thanks to Lane Johnson’s suspension and a few injuries, the Eagles' offensive line unit wasn’t what most expected it to be in 2016. Should things go according to plan on the O-line in 2017, expectations are high. For Pro Football Focus, they’re as high as it gets.

PFF ranked the Eagles’ O-line No. 1 in the entire league heading into this season, citing the fact that it has the “fewest holes.”

Center Jason Kelce is considered their biggest question mark, but even though his abilities have faded a bit with age, he hasn’t missed a snap in two seasons. That has to count for something.

Allen Barbre and second-year Eagle Brandon Brooks, who allowed just one sack last season, complete the line’s interior. Then, of course, the tackle tandem of Jason Peters and Lane Johnson is hard to beat. PFF says Johnson, when on the field, was the best right tackle last season. Johnson would agree.

Even beyond the first-team unit, the Eagles have experience. Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo both saw unexpected snaps as rookies last season because of the reshuffling. That should help moving forward.

Rounding out PFF’s top three are the Browns and Steelers. Cleveland boosted its corps by signing J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler in free agency. The Steelers had the best unit during the second half of last season.

More notably for Eagles fans, the Cowboys come in at No. 9 in PFF’s rankings after owning one of the league’s best O-lines in recent years. Ronald Leary and Doug Free are gone, and La’el Collins’ move to right tackle is not a sure bet for success.

Washington sits two slots below at No. 11. PFF considers continuity the 'Skins' greatest strength — they return all five O-line starters from last season and four of five from 2015.

And the Giants, well, it’ll take some scrolling to reach their spot on the list: No. 28. Left tackle Ereck Flowers was the worst among his position in pressures allowed as a rookie. Eli Manning could be in for a busy season.