Smallwood Has Stayed Ready for Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - In the world of the NFL any player can go from afterthought to the centerpiece in a matter of moments.
Injuries are a part of life in the NFL and that can put some players on the yo-yo when it comes to playing time. That's been the case for Wendell Smallwood this season as injuries to Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement have put the Wilmington, Del. native on notice at different points of the season.
In Philadelphia's 30-23 relevance-saving win in Los Angeles, it was a tweaked back to Josh Adams that got Smallwood more involved and the third-year pro delivered with one of the best games of his career, leading the Eagles in rushing with 48 yards on 10 carries and putting together his first two-touchdown performance.
Earlier in the season, Smallwood was actually the lead back in Doug Pederson's committee after Ajayi was lost to a torn ACL, Sproles was left ailing with a recurring hamstring issue, Clement was dealing with a quad problem and Adams, an undrafted rookie, had yet to open the eyes of the coaching staff.
The latter happened first and then Clement and Sproles got healthier putting Smallwood back in the afterthought category, garnering just five carries in the five games leading up to L.A. where Duce Staley again had to break the glass for the latest emergency.
“I thought he showed really good vision and patience in the running game,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said when discussing Smallwood's performance against the Rams. “He was able to break some tackles. He has some speed. He just hasn't gotten all the way out there on the edge to break a long one. But you can see the speed through the hole. He's patient to it and you can see the burst through the hole. He's running behind his pads and pushing the pile. It was a really good night for him.”
With Clement now on the injured reserve with Ajayi, the committee down the stretch will likely be Adams, Sproles, and Smallwood and if the West Virginia product has the hot hand Staley will not hesitate to call his number a little bit more, a scenario Smallwood plans to be ready for.
“You never know what’s going to happen," Smallwood said. “... No matter where you are on the depth chart, it doesn’t matter. Guys get hurt. That’s just how the games go. When your number gets called, you’ve got to be ready."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen