Few players reach the highs and the lows that Eagles’ running back Corey Clement has in his first two seasons in the NFL. Less than a year after thirty-two teams passed him up in the 2017 Draft, he led Philadelphia in receiving in the biggest game in the team’s history. Entering the 2018-2019 season riding a high, the following months would see the Glassboro, New Jersey native struggle through injury and fail to take the step up that many had expected. While he did see a small rise in opportunities during the regular season in year two, the results were mixed. Clement rose and fell out of the rotation throughout the season whether due to injury or coaches decision. Despite tumultuous outcomes, the back never failed to show tantalizing sparks of the electric potential that he’s teased since his arrival in Philly.
The Eagles backfield already looks much different than it did at this time last season, with more possible changes to come. Jay Ajayi bid farewell to the team via Instagram as fans welcomed new acquisition Jordan Howard into the fold. Darren Sproles has yet to commit to the 2019-2020 season and Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams’ role in the offense is yet to be defined. It is fair to wonder what the turnover means for the darling of the 2017 undrafted class. Was his unbelievable performance in Super Bowl LII a sign of things to come, or will his herculean feat forever highlight what was otherwise a disappointing career?
To answer that question, it’s necessary to understand exactly what went wrong in Clement’s sophomore season. The young playmaker dealt with a nagging quad injury early on in the season causing him to miss the fourth and fifth game of 2018. In the first three weeks, he looked every part the change-of-pace runner and receiver fans expected. Including a defense-heavy match up against the Atlanta Falcons, Clement’s numbers exhibited a promising uptick.
This stretch contained a rushing high of 56-yards on sixteen carries against the Colts and a five catch, 55-yard receiving performance in Tampa Bay. The quick-footed back looked comfortable in his role as the counterpart to Jay Ajayi’s pummelling, inside running style. Admittedly, with Ajayi sidelined against Indianapolis, Clement was forced into the lead role and began to show some limitations as a primary ball carrier. This is also when he seemingly suffered his first injury of the season. If he had continued to produce at the rate which he started the year, his numbers would put him among the better secondary options in the NFL.
This representation is without a doubt an oversimplification of the issue at hand. Nonetheless, it serves to convey the point that, all things being equal, had Clement’s usage and role remained steady his 2018-2019 numbers would be significantly improved. There are two valid trains of thought as to why the final results don’t match the projected figures.
The first is to examine the back’s second-year struggles as a personal issue. Whether by injury, under-preparedness or a fall back to reality, it is reasonable to believe the drop in production illuminates what is possibly a larger in-house issue. The second state of mind is to focus on Clement’s slump within the context of the entire Eagles offense. Last year’s iteration of the Doug Pederson offense was nowhere near as efficient as the previous year and wore many masks as the team clambered to find an identity that would lead them back into the playoffs. For the soon-to-be third-year back, the reality is likely a result of both phenomena.
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