Bigger Role for Wendell Smallwood Coming Monday Night?
Eagles running back Ryan Mathews sat out Friday's practice with what is believed to be a sprained MCL. Coach Doug Pederson said Monday that Mathews had a knee injury and was day-to-day, but that was the extent of the information that he provided, since then there has been no update on how long that will sideline the running back.
"We'll evaluate Ryan later in the week, but Wendell has done a nice job, and I think if need be, I think Wendell would be okay taking the brunt of the load," Pederson said on Monday, but here we are on Friday and Mathews still hasn't practiced.
The Philadelphia Daily News' Les Bowen said Mathews is expected to play Monday night, even though he has not practiced at all this week.
Philadelphia’s roster in general and its backfield in particular took a significant hit in Sunday’s loss to Seattle, first losing Mathews and then fellow running back Darren Sproles. Pederson said on Wednesday that Sproles had a better chance of playing and being healthier than Mathews and right now, that seems to be the case with Sproles back as a full participant at practice yesterday.
That means rookie Wendell Smallwood could have a bigger role in the game on Monday night and Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Smallwood is ready to expand is role if needed.
"Yeah, absolutely," Reich stated when asked if has have seen enough from Smallwood over the course of the year if he could handle a bigger workload.
"I really like what we see in Wendell, both in the run game and in pass protection. I like everything about him. I think he's a really good football player and I think the more he plays, that's just going to show more and more."
All of that sounds like a big opportunity for Smallwood, a fifth-round pick who’s had a mostly quiet rookie season, rushing only 57 times for 253 yards in the 10 games he’s appeared in, an average of just 25.3 yards per game.
He’s had his moments, like Philadelphia's win over Atlanta when he rushed 17 times for 79 yards and a score in a Week 3 win against Pittsburgh and in Week 10 in a win over the Falcons, running 13 times for 70 yards. But he’s also had his issues, like a costly fourth-quarter fumble on his only attempt in Week 8 against Dallas.
The Eagles got away from Smallwood from weeks five-through-nine where he carried the ball a total of 11 times for 39 yards, seemingly an indication that the team didn't trust in him. Pederson, though, was complimentary of the progress Smallwood has made,and sounded like he would be the main man in the event Mathews could not play Monday Night.
"Wendell has done a nice job," Pederson said. "And I think if need be, I think Wendell would be okay taking the brunt of the load."