Smallwood Remains on the Inside Track at RB
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - According to Duce Staley, Wendell Smallwood was having the best camp among his peers before a hamstring injury shut the second-year running back for the first two preseason games.
"It's frustrating," the Eagles' running backs coach said Saturday. "You want to be out there on the field. You want to go out there and show guys what you can do -- the front office, along with your teammates."
In the time Smallwood has been absent from the lineup undrafted rookie Corey Clement has shown up, particularly against Buffalo ripping off a 24-yard run at one point and also punching it in from six yards out for Eagles' first touchdown on Thursday night.
And that has some speculating that Smallwood could be in some peril when it comes to the 53-man roster but forget that. The West Virginia product was the Eagles' most punishing runner during live sessions in practice and also offers more from a special teams standpoint due to his kick-return ability.
So the only thing standing between Smallwood and a spot in Doug Pederson's running back rotation is his health.
"It's very important and Wendell knows that," Staley said when discussing Smallwood's ability to get back on the field. "Anytime you miss valuable time in the preseason when you are trying to develop a player it can hurt you. Wendell knows what's going on and hopefully, he will be back soon."
That wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement but that came later when Staley admitted Smallwood was having the excellent camp before the injury bug bit.
"Throughout OTAs and prior to the injury, Wendell was having the best camp, in my opinion," Staley said.
Smallwood was actually back at practice on Monday before the game against the Bills, participating in both individual and group drills before sitting out the team activity as a precautionary measure.
"He has to get to over that little hump, and he will," Staley said. "And he has to go out there and perform. And he will."
Clement, meanwhile, remains a redshirt candidate for the practice squad as he continues to work on his receiving skills as well as his pass protection but the Glassboro native has certainly caught the eye of his position coach
"I'm very surprised with Corey and just him coming along and being able to grab all the information and bring it onto the field," Staley said. "I'm happy with Corey. He's just doing an awesome job and I'm happy for the kid."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen