‘There’s No Hiding That’ Josh Adams is the Eagles’ RB1
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles have favored a committee approach in the offensive backfield throughout the Doug Pederson era and that will continue down the stretch of the season as Philadelphia attempts to overtake Dallas and Washington in the NFC East race.
Rookie Josh Adams is now the starter and the lead back, however, and "there is no hiding that," according to coach Doug Pederson on Thursday.
"I think Josh is the one that's kind of taken that lead approach," Pederson said. "The other two, [RB] Corey [Clement] and [RB] Wendell [Smallwood] have done an outstanding job on special teams, so their role is obviously bigger from the game-plan standpoint. So Josh goes in as the starter. There's no hiding that. And we continue to mix the guys in there."
Adams is coming off career-highs of 22 carries and 84 yards in a 25-22 comeback win over the New York Giants last Sunday and since seeing an uptick in playing time starting in London against Jacksonville on Oct. 28, the Notre Dame product has run it 45 times for 245 yards with two touchdowns, giving Philadelphia's running game the juice it was missing since Jay Ajayi went down with a torn ACL.
In Adams' month of relevancy in the Eagles' offense, he has ripped off a 21-yard run against the Jags, a 29-yard gash vs. Dallas and a 28-yarder in New Orleans. Against the NYG Adams longest run was 19 yards but he also had a 52-yard TD run called back when Jason Kelce was caught for holding.
At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Adams is a very big back so you don't necessarily think home-run speed off the bat but he excelled when he got the second level in South Bend behind star offensive linemen like Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, often leaving defenders in the dust for long TD run.
Adams went undrafted back in April not due to any trait shortcomings but because of foot injury concerns that left him limited in offseason work.
Eagles assistant head coach/running backs Duce Staley knew the clay was there even if it took some time. Adams started the season on the practice squad but the organization was wary of losing him before activating him in time for the Indianapolis game on Sept. 23.
Since then the progress has been slow and steady with Staley focusing on Adams' conditioning and sharpening up his skills as a pass receiver and pass protector.
"You see him staying after [practice] doing little things like conditioning, working on routes with the quarterbacks," Staley said. "Stuff like that so he's dedicated and that's one of the things you look for."
It takes a feel for understanding when an unproven rookie is ripe for a bigger role, however, and Staley admitted that part of things is just throwing them into the deep end of the pool and hoping they swim.
“If I knew all that, I’d win the lottery,” Staley said when asked when he knew Adams was ready for an increased role. “I don’t know that. Gotta throw him out there.”
And Adams has not only been able to swim, he's lapped his competition.
"He's making really good strides in all three [phases], when I say protection, running the football and then catching the football, those three," Pederson said. "He's done -- he's getting incrementally better, and I think the more integrated we get him into the game plans and the more comfortable he becomes, I think you see him as a back -- and most running backs are this way, where they might not look pretty, early -- same with the offensive line, right? But as the game goes on and wears on, they get a little more explosive and a little more powerful and that's what Josh has become.
"We'll keep integrating him in the game plans and get him as many touches as we can because we feel like he's the guy that can handle it at this point."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen