From Leading Rusher to Afterthought, Josh Adams Plows Forward
(973espn.com) — Josh Adams did it once so why not do it again?
It's not often when an NFL team's incumbent rusher champion is an afterthought in training camp but that's how things have progressed for Adams this summer.
There are many contexts to that, of course, and it starts with the former Notre Dame star, who was once a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, going undrafted out of South Bend in 2018 due to injury concerns. Then it was injuries in Philadelphia that turned Adams from practice-squad player to the lead back on a reigning Super Bowl team, notably an ACL tear for Jay Ajayi, a prolonged hamstring issue for Darren Sproles, and a somewhat murky knee injury to Corey Clement.
Adams, a Warrington, PA native, used his opportunity to first carve out a role in Doug Pederson's committee approach before becoming the lead back, topping out last season at consecutive 20-carry games for over 80 yards in Weeks 12 and 13 against division rivals New York and Washington.
When it was all said and done Adams was the only back for the Eagles who passed the 500-yard mark on the season, finishing up with 511 on 120 carries in 14 games, with a serviceable 4.3 yards-per-rush.
By the postseason, however, Adams was dealing with a shoulder injury which required offseason surgery and Sproles was back as Pederson defaulted to experience with the veteran option, along with a lot of Wendell Smallwood.
The Eagles have been looking for an upgrade in the backfield for years and this spring was no exception when trade-pickup Jordan Howard, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher in Chicago, joined the party, along with second-round pick Miles Sanders.
By the time training camp began Adams, who spent most of his offseason rehabbing the shoulder was No. 6 or 7 on the unofficial depth chart behind Howard, Sanders, Sproles, Clement, Smallwood and perhaps even Boston Scott.
"There's always going to be competition," Adams told reporters when asked about all the RBs. "You had a lot of guys here last year in the running back room. The great thing about that is guys are able to compete with each other and make each other better. The thing about our room is you have the best of the best and it gives you a chance to kind of test yourself."
The numbers game may have become even more insurmountable when Adams put the ball on the turf in the preseason opener against Tennessee.
Like most players, however, Adams has been taught by Duce Staley and the other coaches to "control what you can control" and if it doesn't work out with the hometown Eagles, another of the league's 31 teams will come calling.
"I'm just going out here every day and trying to get better," Adams said this week. "I have to prove, whatever I can, how I can best help the team, whether that's on the offensive side or special teams."
The Eagles are being very cautious with their penciled in key contributors in the live preseason environment giving players like Adams and other longshots like Scott and Donnel Pumphrey plenty of opportunities to open eyes elsewhere if that's what it comes down to.
"The emphasis I am taking is trying to do everything I can to the best of my ability and let the other stuff take care of itself," Adams explained.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen