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Kenneth Gainwell rushing to the head of the Eagles 2021 draft class

PHILADELPHIA – Kenneth Gainwell sounds just like a fifth-round draft pick. His play is another thing entirely.  

Sunday afternoon in South Philly, Gainwell was a bright spot in an otherwise mostly forgettable day for the Eagles. The Kansas City Chiefs scored touchdowns on six of seven possessions on their way to a 42-30 win. 

Gainwell scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to cut the Eagles deficit to five points with 12:52 to play. The seven-yard run came on third-and goal, a bright spot for a red zone offense that failed to score touchdowns on three of its six visits deep into the Kansas City end. 

“My preparation during the week is on going in and getting in whenever my name is called and being ready,” Gainwell said. “Once they know they put me in I feel like I can go to work.” 

Gainwell had three carries for 31 yards, including the seven-yard touchdown. The Eagles offense broke 100 yards total but eight of the 20 carries came from quarterback Jalen Hurts. That’s a far cry better than the three total rushed the Eagles tried in Dallas, but still not enough to be sustainable during the season. 

Matters weren’t helped much by the unexpected, last-minute personal issues that made right tackle Lane Johnson inactive. Despite playing without four of their five opening day starters, the Eagles rolled up 461 total yards, just 10 yard shy of the Chiefs total.  

“I think the guys played very well,” Gainwell said. “They continue to do what they do. They continue to listen. They continue to work hard.” 

That’s exactly how Gainwell earned playing time as a rookie. Drafted out of the University of Memphis despite opting out of the 2020 season for with the Eagles fifth-round pick, the 150th overall, Gainwell had the reputation as a good rusher and above average receiver.  

That reputation has proven to be accurate. 

Gainwell caught six passes for 58 yards, including a 12-yard first-quarter catch on fourth-and-2 that led to the Eagles first touchdown and last lead of the game. 

“Jalen (Hurts, the Eagles quarterback) battles through adversity,” Gainwell said. “He knows where to throw the ball. Who to get the ball to. Jalen did a great job there.” 

The Eagles are still trying to better incorporate Miles Sanders into the offense. After just two carries last week, Sanders ran seven times for 13 yards and caught three passes for 34 more yards.  

Meanwhile, Gainwell is quickly becoming the Eagles most productive running back. At the very least, he’s a stopgap until Eagles coach Nick Sirianni gets Sanders on track.  

Gainwell isn’t playing like a fifth-round pick. He does sound like one, though. He’s keeping his head down, doing whatever’s asked of him and saying all the right things. 

“We will be keeping an uplifted spirit,” Gainwell said. “We will come back this week and put everything behind us. We’ll come back next week and continue to work our way hard. All our preparation throughout the week, we just tried to do everything we can to get a win.” 

Tom Rimback, sports reporter

Tom Rimback, sports reporter

Tom Rimback grew up reading the Burlington County Times and Courier Post sports sections and began writing for the BCT in 1996. He has covered everything from Super Bowls and Final Fours to Tri-County Swimming but he’s happiest on a sideline interviewing South Jersey scholastic athletes for the Burlington County Times, the Courier Post and The Daily Journal. Follow him on twitter @RimbackBCT. Email him with story ideas at and, most importantly, support local journalism with a subscription.

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