PHILADELPHIA – Players in the NFL never go hungry, privy to whatever is being cooked up by the master chefs in the cafeteria.
Elijah Holyfield, just 22, gets his share of grub, for sure, yet he remains hungry. Not in a food sort of way, obviously, but to prove he deserves a roster spot on the Eagles.
“He is someone who just looks hungry at all times,” said linebacker T.J. Edwards. “He wants to do everything at full speed. He plays a great technique with great strength and definitely a guy who sticks out in my mind, for sure.”
The numbers game could be more difficult to determine this season with teams having the ability to put 16 players on their practice squad, including as many as six veterans. So, there is more flexibility when making the final roster decisions.
In the Eagles’ case, if they keep four running backs, they may have to go lighter at tight end and/or wide receiver.
If Holyfield made his living in the boxing ring, like his father, former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, he would be able to simply punch out his competition. Even though he said he did a little boxing growing up, that was a long time ago.
So, Holyfield will have to find another way to win a job.
He has had a strong camp, flashing just about every day whether it’s in the run game or pass game, but right now, he would likely be the fourth running back on the roster behind Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Corey Clement.
He has looked good at both running and catching the ball, a skill that had to be developed after catching just seven passes in three seasons at the University of Georgia.
“We do throw the ball to the back a lot so it’s something you have to be able to do be in this offense,” said Holyfield. “Just one of those things, if you can’t do it, it’s going to be hard for you to make it so it’s one of the things I really focused on this offseason.”
Holyfield looks fast, too, though not being fast was one of the knocks on him coming out of college in 2019. He ran a 4.78 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine that year.
“I just continued with the training I normally do,” said Holyfield when asked if he has gotten faster. “I don’t really look into what other people say about me, I’ve always known I wasn’t very slow. So, just coming out here and showing what I can do. This camp has been a great opportunity to show what I can do here.”
Holyfield has gotten plenty of opportunity in this camp, much more than he did last year when he was with the Carolina Panthers, who signed him as an undrafted free agent and spent the season on their practice squad.
“Being on the practice squad a lot of times you don’t feel like you’re getting evaluated, and doing a lot of work and nobody’s really watching, so just the chance to get back out here and get to play, and having the opportunity has just been great for me,” he said. “I love playing football, so this camp has been great.”
The Eagles poached him from the Panthers’ practice squad in the week leading up to their playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks in early January, and that experience paid dividends for Holyfield.
“I think it was a real big deal, just getting to know the coaches, getting to know (assistant head coach/running backs coach) Duce (Staley) a little bit more, getting a little bit of a grasp of the offense then getting to go back and go over it again has helped a lot,” he said. “I learned so much that week I was here, so getting to come back was a big jumpstart.”
With Miles Sanders out with a lower-body injury for basically the entire Phase Three of camp, which began on Aug. 17, Boston Scott missing several days with an injury issue, and Corey Clement battling an illness that caused him to miss some time, Holyfield’s reps have come on all over the place, first team, second team, and third team.
And it appears he is making the most of those reps.
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