The Colts defense may not be reminiscent of the 85′ Bears, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be alarm bells ringing for the Eagles this week. As their beloved franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz, prepares to make his first start since tearing his ACL in week 14 of his MVP-caliber season, the Eagles find themselves devoid of running back depth.
Darren Sproles missed last game due to injury and when Jay Ajayi limped off the field with a back problem in the first quarter, things began to look bleak. Corey Clement played in just 30% of snaps and Wendell Smallwood, the team’s fourth running back, carried the ball 7 times for just 28 yards.
Without much in the way of receiving firepower or variable depth and with bizarre absence of Dallas Goedert, the Eagles will simply have to rely on the run, taking an already almighty weight off the shoulders of their franchise quarterback. To do so, the Eagles did call up undrafted free agent, Josh Adams, from the practice squad.
“We were pleased with Josh and his production throughout training camp.” Offensive coordinator Mike Groh told reporters on Tuesday. “He missed time with some injuries but had some productive time in the games, and he’s here in our practice squad, knows our system, and we think west got an upside. He’s a big body, and we’re excited about seeing Josh.”
Adams did flash in the preseason, totaling 90 rushing yards and driving the offense forward with his workhorse mentality. The decision to call him up could well be correlated with the injury to Ajayi however and if the Eagles’ lead back is absent, it’s a heavy workload for someone who has battled plenty of offseason injury concerns of his own, to pick up and run with.
An effort by committee seems to be the answer, but that committee will consist of Clement, Smallwood and Adams. Versatility shrinks and the backs almost become marginalized against a defense that have only allowed 166 rushing yards in two games, sealing the edge against the Bengals and forcing Alex Smith into a similar scenario that Carson Wentz could well experience at the Linc.
“Definitely going to have to rely on the tight ends more, going to have to rely on the running game a little bit more and kind of lean that direction until we can figure this out.” Those were the words from Doug Pederson earlier this week which showed a clear focus on where the team are headed. Dallas Goedert played under 20 snaps in his second game of the season, one where a spark was needed from pass-catchers. As for the running backs, they have seemed to struggle to make an impact so far and it’s not like the best offensive line in football has suddenly taken a step back.
“But, again, when we put game plans together, we try to utilize our zebra, 11 personnel, 12 personnel, with the two tights [ends] and all that kind of stuff.” Pederson continued to say. “I think in the past we have had some advantages there from a personnel standpoint. But we’re dealing with it right now. We’re working through it, and we’ll see where we’re at on Wednesday when we go to practice.”
The Eagles have to find creative ways to get their running backs involved. If they can’t at least taking some weight off the shoulders of Carson Wentz by opening up the passing game over the middle would be of upmost importance. The offense can’t afford to splutter in what could turn out to be a shootout with an elite arm completing upwards of 70% of his passes. Establishing the run early will be a priority, but if they can’t, perhaps the arrival of Jordan Matthews has a more significant impact than you think.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports