bWhen a team is 7-1, praise isn’t hared to come by. The entire Eagles franchise has done a tremendous job this season of overcoming adversity and fighting through the “next man up” mentality. But through all of the big plays and impressive performances, there’s one underdog that’s still defying expectations.
If you had to pick one player who symbolizes everything the Eagles stand for, undrafted rookie Corey Clement would certainly be in contention. The former Wisconsin Badger forced his way onto the roster after an impressive training camp with the team. The Eagles would eventually keep five running backs on the roster. Three of those original five are still on the roster competing and only Clement and Blount have remained healthy throughout the campaign.
Being healthy is one thing, but performing is another. Clement touched the ball six times and amassed 22 yards on his offensive debut against the Giants, the end result of which, was a touchdown he was simply not going to let get away. Inserted into the game with the intention of driving the clock down, Clement stepped up to the plate and ensured the Eagles retain possession and attain the win. That’s a trend that has continued throughout the year.
A stunning receiving touchdown just over one week ago against the Redskins saw Clement rocket into the public eye with acrobatic footwork. An element of his game that is not a notorious strength, with just 29 receptions for 279 yards and 2 touchdowns during his college career.
“That catch was a great catch.” Offensive coordinator Frank Reich told reporters. “It wasn’t a good catch, that was a great catch, how he got his feet down, how he adjusted to the ball, [it was] not a catch that you would have expected him to make. So a credit to him, and Corey is just a football player. I mean, that’s what we’ve seen from day one with him. He loves ball, just love seeing him on the field. That was a big play.”
On Sunday, Clement led the Eagles with a career-high 54 rushing yards on 11 attempts. Dropped into the game deep into the second half, Celement drove through defenders for some crucial gains to keep the drive alive and the clock moving. While many would consider this “garbage time”, Celemt was inserted into the game long before the final two minutes and once again, answered the call.
“Corey runs hard in those situations.” Doug Pederson said. “He understands it and knows what we’re trying to get done, obviously in four minutes,that is, stay inbounds and at the same time get first down. So he’s done a nice job there in gaining some confidence in those situations.”
Running hard has been the key to success for the 5’11, 227 lbs, back. Since he first practiced with the team during rookie minicamp, Clement has done nothing but turn heads with his physical mindset and determination to push through tackles. Partnered with some electric speed and elusiveness, the rookie is developing at a rapid rate…and that goes far beyond rushing.
“Our backs have gotten better, really.” Doug Pederson said when asked about the running backs ability to pick up blitzes. “Offensive line has gotten better actually with blitz pickup. A lot of it is just recognition, and hearing the call being made by the center or the quarterback. I feel like [RB] Wendell [Smallwood] and [RB] Corey [Clement] and even [RB] LeGarrette [Blount], and [RB] Kenjon [Barner], these are sharp guys. They understand.”
Losing Darren Sproles to injury cut deep into the Eagles blitz pickup ability, but Clement has done an impressive job of picking up pass-rushers and keeping his quarterback upright when asked. For the Glassboro, New Jersey native, it’s a chip on the shoulder mentality that has helped propel him into a crucial role in the Eagles backfield.
“We just always have a big chip on our shoulder.” Clement said. “When we come out here we are always overlooked by somebody just because we are rookies, but just because we are rookies doesn’t mean we can’t make a play. When we are out there, we try to think and play as veterans. When we walk out with those guys, like [Eagles TE Brent] Celek, and all of those other veterans that have been out there, we want to prove that we belong out here. So when the time comes, I don’t want anybody second guessing why we are out there on the field.”
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports