The Philadelphia Eagles running back group has been a turnstile since losing their projected bellcow, Jay Ajayi, to an ACL injury following a week five loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Wendell Smallwood led the team in carries in the first week in Ajayi’s absence but has carried the ball just once in the last three games. Corey Clement is a shade of what he was in his UDRFA season and I suspect has been battling a lingering hamstring injury all season.
The team had gone four weeks straight without a running back having ten carries in a game before finding stability in the backfield the last two weeks in back-to-back divisional wins.
That stability came in the form of undrafted rookie free agent Josh Adams. Out of Notre Dame, Adams played his high school football at Central Bucks South in Warrington, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. The hometown kid has established himself as the go-to guy in the Eagles backfield.
In each of the last two weeks Adams has carried the ball 22 and 20 times in wins over the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, respectively. In each of those outings he accumulated more than 80 rushing yards, setting new personal bests each week. While Adams isn’t putting together highlight reels week in and week out, the rookie is putting up solid numbers and has become a back the team can rely on to carry the load, something they haven’t had since LeSean McCoy.
Members of the offensive line are happy to have the same guy toting the ball for the majority of the game as well.
“We’ve been trying to get that going all year by rotating backs,” said center Jason Kelce of the recent success in the run game. “I don’t want to make any excuses, but it seems like we finally got that figured out. We’re starting to click. That just opens up a lot of other things for the rest of the offense.”
It may have taken the team ten weeks but Kelce is right. The Eagles have put together their first back-to-back games with over 100 total rushing yards since losing Ajayi. They are getting the running game going at the right time, as the temperatures drop and balance becomes more important.
Offensive coordinator Mike Groh attributes the recent success in part to the rookie running back.
“[The offensive line] played together a long time and I think they just kind of found their groove a little bit,” said Groh. “We’ve been persistent with the run game. [Adams] has done a really good job of understanding who to read on each one of these runs. Guys are doing a heck of a job of creating lanes and if there is not a lane there, there have been enough times where the backs have done a good job of creating on their own and getting more out of it than you might have thought initially.”
Adams, now the Eagles leading rusher, will have his work cut out for him as the Eagles face off against the league’s fourth-ranked rushing defense. A laterally quick defense, the Eagles could benefit from Adams’ downhill running style if they attack the Cowboys between the tackles.
With the offensive line finding its groove and Adams settling in as the Eagles new lead back, the team has put together back-to-back wins. With their third divisional game in as many weeks and the season on the line, Adams, the offensive line and keeping the offense balanced will continue to be of the utmost importance for the Eagles continued success.
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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports