24 hours ago, I published an article citing the snowballing problem at running back. I assumed that writing a piece focusing on the size of the opportunity afforded to the likes of Wendell Smallwood and Matt Jones would maybe spark some hope as they entered a preseason game against the Patriots. Oh, how wrong I was.
In a game where Donnel Pumphrey and Josh Adams, two very interesting and vastly contrasting players, were sidelined due to injury, the window for a breakout game seemed to be wide open. Corey Clement was out of action against the Patriots as well, meaning that there was literally no way around it. Smallwood and Jones had no other option but to have the pigskin forced into their chest time and time again. Surely, something had to give? For two players trying to keep their NFL careers secure, this was the kind of platform all underdogs dream of.
Smallwood carried the ball a total of four times on Thursday night. He ended the game with a single rushing yard to his name. A five-yard reception didn’t exactly help his situation either.
As for Matt Jones, he carried the ball on two more occasions than Smallwood and totaled 19 yards, which is an improvement. What isn’t an improvement is the fact he suffered two gut-wrenching drops. Fumbles and ball security have plagued the career of the former Redskins running back and unfortunately, last night was no different.
This is hugely problematic for the Eagles.
Wendell Smallwood’s career is a little upsetting up to this point. He had plenty of potential as a rookie and flashed it on several occasions, most notably in a dominating week 3 win over the Steelers where he recorded his first NFL touchdown. An injury cut that rookie season short, leading him to what fans hoped to be a big bounce-back in year two.
That too was cut short by injuries, but the Bug bit much sooner this time. Smallwood hit Training Camp with a chip on his shoulder and a new aggressive running mentality. He was easily one of the biggest standouts, but when the injury venom started flowing, all he could do was watch on as undrafted rookie Corey Clement went on to steal the show. The rest, as they say, is history.
Entering his third season, it’s clear the Eagles have been trying to get him as much exposure as possible and why wouldn’t they? Smallwood has proven to be a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, or at least well enough to bring a niche to the table that isn’t already being executed more consistently elsewhere. He did flash with a huge pass-protection block during last night’s game, but that’s going to be overshadowed by his primary role, running the football.
The opportunity has never been greater. The window is swinging off of its hinges and nobody is daring to run through. Smallwood and Jones have squandered the chance to really shine during preseason and make their statements echo around the City of Brotherly Love. Pumphrey is left watching from the sideline which has led Pederson to even mention the ’31 other NFL teams’ in the same breath as the former San Diego State star.
This is a problem, no matter how you cut it.
Ajayi is in his contract season and hasn’t exactly proven to be the most durable back during his short, yet explosive career.
Darren Sproles is retiring at the end of this season.
Corey Clement is the team’s ONLY long-term option at running back at this point.
Don’t be surprised to see the team bring in a sleeper free agent or claim a name from the waiver wire after cuts, they’re simply going to have to. If Ajayi goes down, there is nobody else. If Sproles goes down, there is nobody else. As of right now, Smallwood may make the roster due to his presence on Fipp’s prestigious special teams unit, but he’s hanging by a thread.
They say availability is the best kind of ability, but what happens when you’re available but still cant show what ability you have?
Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports