Eagles’ biggest underdogs were called upon to help beat the Colts, but that’s nothing new

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The Philadelphia Eagles are no strangers to calling on players buried on the depth chart to pull out a victory. They needed to do it on their improbable Super Bowl LII run and, more recently, they needed to do it against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday to improve to 2-1.

With top wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, number one running back Jay Ajayi and offensive playmaker Darren Sproles all ruled out, the Eagles called on players whose names are unknown to the casual fan. 

Josh Adams, a Warrington, Pa native and preseason standout was promoted to the active roster on Tuesday and adopted a role similar to the one Corey Clement would typically play. Adams carried the ball six times for 30 yards. Adams picked up a few chunks of yards on a second-quarter scoring drive that included a 16-yard run on his second career carry and another 10-yard run on his third carry.

Another unlikely contributor to the Eagles victory was fourth-string running back Wendell Smallwood. Smallwood has been victim to some criticism among fans of late. However, Smallwood played a big role in the Eagles week three victory. 

The third-year back averaged 5.6 yards per carry on his way to a 56-yard outing and scored the Eagles game-winning touchdown on a four-yard burst. On multiple occasions Smallwood kept his legs moving on plays that appeared to be dead. 

“Second-and-longs, first-and-longs,” said Smallwood, “you get eight, you get nine, it makes your second-and-short, third-and-short easier. I think just fighting for extra yards and getting that line pumped. The line loves when the running backs run hard. They kind of feed off of that. It was great today.”

Smallwood added 35 yards on three catches for a game-high 91 total yards.

When asked about the readiness of the running backs despite being fourth and fifth on the depth chart, head coach Doug Pederson explained his philosophy on using his depth chart:

“I trust the players,” said Pederson, “that they’re doing their jobs to make sure they understand the game plan. And really, I talk a lot about it takes all 53, you know, and then, of course, it takes the 46 on game day. Whoever dresses is going to play. These first three games, it’s really come down to everybody’s had to play. This is the National Football League, and, again, I’m not going to hold a player back just because he’s a rookie or he doesn’t have enough experience. It’s our job as coaches to coach them up and to get them ready and prepared. So the next time Josh [Adams] is in this situation, each time gets a little better and better. Whether he’s a rookie or a 12, 13-year vet, we’ve got to make sure they’re all coached up the same.”

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On Wednesday, the Eagles signed former-Eagle Jordan Matthews due to his familiarity with the offensive scheme. Matthews contributed two catches including one on the Eagles game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Matthews drew an ovation from the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field on his first reception of the game.  

Rookie tight end Dallas Goedert came into Sunday’s game with one reception for four yards. That came in the Eagles season opener. A week ago, Goedert wasn’t even targeted in the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Goedert was coming off of a week in which he saw just 17 offensive snaps, the lowest among Eagles tight ends. 

Against the Colts, Goedert had his coming out party. The rookie led the game with seven receptions for 73 yards. He also added his first career touchdown in the first quarter. The tight end had been all but invisible in his first two weeks before breaking out in quarterback Carson Wentz’s comeback game.

“He’s earned it, obviously,” said Pederson on the rookie’s breakout game. “He’s smart. He’s talented. We see it in practice. It’s just time to play and cut him loose a little bit and don’t keep him back. It was part of the game plan again to do that with two tight ends, three tight ends, but at the same time, as he gets more and more comfortable with the offense and find specific plays for him, he’s just going to get better and better.”

The Eagles gutted out a 20-16 victory over the Colts, scoring on the first drive of the game and the last drive. As Pederson said, the victory took all 46 of the players who dressed, including two players who weren’t on the team on Monday. Just like the Eagles Super Bowl run a season ago, the big plays may come from the players you least expect, even those buried on the depth chart.

Follow Brenden on Twitter @BrendenP_NFL and find his book 20,859 Days: An Underdog Story on Amazon.

 

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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