PHILADELPHIA - The waiver wire typically isn't the best way to add talent in-season.
In May it's even less likely, but the Eagles may have gotten a contributor last week when they were awarded running back Kerryon Johnson off waivers from Detroit.
Once a second-round pick of the Lions in the 2018 NFL draft, a balky knee, and an influx of talent in the backfield over the past two years in Detroit made Johnson expendable. The Eagles, in need of a capable third-down back as a complement to Miles Sanders, were happy to take a flyer on Johnson.
“The Eagles saw something in me and I appreciate them seeing it and I’m ready to give this organization 100 percent,” Johnson said via video conference Tuesday. “What I have left is 100 percent. That’s what I’m going to give, that’s what I’m going to fight for, that’s what I’m going to do, that’s who I’m going to be, and that’s what I’ve shown in the past and that’s what I’m going to keep showing.”
First things first and Johnson said things are looking up from a health standpoint.
“I’m feeling better than I have in the past two years," Johnson insisted, "but it’s one thing to say it — I have to go out there and prove it every single day."
He will continue to be a “knee-brace guy,” though.
“I am planning on wearing it again this year and every year after that,” said Johnson. “It still gives me peace of mind, but I don’t feel like it restricts me.”
Johnson has made what some consider a bulky accouterment into something that’s second nature.
“Once you practice with something like that for a while you kind of become used to it, so it doesn’t really restrict me,” Johnson explained. “I kind of like it. It’s still a part of me.”
Johnson is only 23 and once averaged 5.4 yards-per-carry as a rookie, something that bested the legendary Barry Sanders’ Lions rookie record. The last two years were impacted by various knee injuries, including a torn meniscus, and Johnson was under 4.0 YPC in 2019 and 2020, at 3.6 and 3.5 respectively.
He joins a crowded cast behind Sanders which includes last season's RB2 Boston Scott, rookie 5th-round pick Kenny Gainwell, and between-the-tackles veteran Jordan Howard as well as a number of developmental options like Elijah Holyfield, Adrian Killins, and a former teammate of Johnson in Detroit, Jason Huntley.
“It’s going to give us the best product on the field and it’s going to make every single player better whether they’re here or not,” Johnson said of the competition, something that has become central to head coach Nick Sirianni’s philosophy. “... that’s all you can ask for in this league is to be your best self and make others around you better."
Johnson arrives in Philadelphia on the final year of his rookie deal and is set to make $1.37 million this season if he makes the team.
"I look forward to getting back into my groove and getting back into who I think I can be," said Johnson. "This team took a chance on me, so I’m ready to make that chance pay off.”
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.