Prior to Thursday Night’s statement win, the Eagles had a massive red flag blowing in the wind when it came to the running back position. With no Jay Ajayi or Darren Sproles, the Birds were once again down to just Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement and Josh Adams, a committee that is strong in numbers but was yet to prove it could carry the load. The need for depth at the very least was prominent, but the backs already on the roster had other ideas. Corey Clement, the man who amassed 100 receiving yards in Super Bowl 52, decided to make a statement to the man behind the 53, Howie Roseman.
Corey Clement says he told Howie Roseman before the game that he didn’t need to add a runner. Roseman challenged him to prove it.
— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) October 12, 2018
The question now is, did Clement prove it? The committee didn’t set the world on fire, but Smallwood and Clement did combine for 94 yards on the ground on top of Clement’s 26 yards through the air. This sounds like a relatively strong outing, because it is, but when you have Saquon Barkley on the opposing sideline making video game runs all night, it’s easy to lose sight.
“I’ll tell you, both these guys are determined runners.” Pederson said of his newly formed tandem. “They run hard. They run aggressive. They’re really good backs for us. A lot of confidence in both of those guys, and what they do, very versatile, not only can run, but you saw Corey on the screen pass, and Wendell out of the backfield. And it’s just two guys that really take their job serious and feel like they have to prove something every single day, and that’s what you want out of your players, that they’re out there proving themselves over and over because it just makes them better and it makes us better as an offense. I’ve been real encouraged by both those guys.”
Smallwood may have only averaged only 2.8 yards per carry, but this was just the second game all year in which he averaged less than 5 yards per carry. What’s a little concerning is although 31 other teams have a ‘game in hand’, the Giants now possess the league’s worst run defense, a matchup that without their two premier linemen, the Eagles should have dominated.
The noise outside of the NovaCare Complex only got louder after Thursday night’s win, with a sense of urgency building as the trade deadline approaches. Doug Pederson remained cool and calculated when discussing a potential new addition however.
“Well, let me start by saying, I didn’t hear the conversation, so I’m not going to put words in people’s mouths until I hear it from them. But listen, I have total confidence in our runners.” The Eagles Head Coach stated on Friday. “Now, saying that, as you guys know, we constantly, and part of Howie’s job and [Vice President of Player Personnel] Joe Douglas and our personnel [department] is constantly adding talent if we can to every position on the roster. So we’re very encouraged obviously with the current situation. We love both guys, and really three guys with [RB] Josh [Adams], and then when we get [RB Darren] Sproles back at some point. That’s what we like, when we’re there. But at the same time, are we constantly trying to add value, add talent? Yeah, we’re going to always do that and try to make our roster better.”
If I was to tell you that (game in hand argument considered) through 6 games that the Eagles have the league’s sixth best rushing attack based off of total yards, you may sound shocked. It’s true. The Birds’ have totaled 662 yards on the ground and even if you subtract Jay Ajayi’s 184 yards prior to his torn ACL, that would still rank the team 22nd. Sure, that’s a massive downgrade, but one would assume that the backfield would be catastrophically unproductive without Ajayi and even if you rip away his actual production, there are still 8 offenses who are struggling even more to find momentum.
The other aspect of trading for or signing a running back is the time it would take them to get acquainted with their new surroundings. When Ajayi was signed last year, it took him four games to have double-digit carries and even less time for frustrations to show. The Eagles committee front is a very different vibe to many different backfields in the NFL and if they seek to bring in a workhorse, the fact it could well take weeks that include a road game across the pond for instance, only add to part of the problem. By the time the cylinders are firing smoothly, the pinch could be tighter than ever and by then, the rest of the backs may have figured out how to carry the load.
Do the Eagles really need to bring in an extra running back? It’s entirely subjective, but you can certainly make an argument that the Eagles have enough firepower to get by now that their offense is rekindling one of the league’s most explosive fires.
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports