Despite an unconvincing second season, there are many reasons to believe a bounce back third year is well within the cards for Corey Clement. Statistics from the second season were not all gloom and doom despite what the final results suggest. Contrary to outward appearances, the back was as efficient as ever in creating opportunities for himself according to Player Profiler.
|Yds Creat’d||YdsC/Rush||Tckls Evded||Juke Rt||Runs 15+ (%)|
He also registered a total of zero drops in 2018-2019 to go along with a catch rate of 88.0%. Even if Sproles returns for the last hurrah, Clement may have the best hands in the Eagles’ running back room. In addition to the promising numbers hidden in his sophomore season, there have been a number of key changes that will help Corey get back on track.
The first is the acquisition of Jordan Howard. Superficially, adding another running back into the ring to scuffle for carries should imply negative outcomes. On the contrary, Howard and Clement’s skill sets are completely complimentary. Similar to the success Clement had in his first season with LeGarrette Blount touting the rock, Howard bashing heads on the interior should open up a world of possibilities for Corey outside the hashes.
Compare the chart above to the one below. In 2017-2018, Philadelphia had the benefit of handing the ball to the human wrecking ball Blount and watching him work. His paths through the middle of the defense are direct and he rarely looks to bounce or avoids taking hits. The area outside the tackles is untouched. Below, Smallwood’s carry chart offers a very different story. His routes through the interior defense are meandering and he often looks for opportunities to make defenders miss or jump to space — even in one of his more productive games against a weaker opponent, such as below. Opponents can leave room in the middle only to collapse knowing Smallwood is less-than-comfortable going body-on-body to secure the extra yard. Space outside the hashes is muddied and Clement’s work isn’t as cut out as in the previous season.
Enter Jordan Howard. The chart below is from Chicago’s game against the Vikings, who, as previously mentioned, is not an easy team to butt heads with up the middle. Similar to Blount, his pathways are straight and true. This is not to say Howard isn’t capable of bouncing runs to space for impressive gains — in fact, it is a specialty of his — but instead to suggest that he is much more willing to take on defenders going north-south in between the hashes.
Clement will offer a much more proven potency in the passing game, but both backs are very capable pass blockers. Howard has been lauded in the past by PFF for his handy pass pro and Clement may be one of the more underrated pass protectors in the game. With either in the game, opponents will have to be wary of both pass or run at any moment.
The Wisconsin alum will still have to compete with Smallwood and Adams for opportunities. Nevertheless, he should still be in good standing to get his chances. The addition of Howard likely means more heartbreak for Adams than any other back in the room. In a head-to-head contest with Smallwood, Clement offers some things that Wendell doesn’t. Corey is a much more effective smoke screen on passing downs due to his skill set and usage. His performance in the Super Bowl put all other thirty-one teams on notice concerning his ability as a pass catcher. The Eagles love to fake running back screens only to throw a tight end screen. Clement is without a doubt the most effective screen RB on the Eagles roster (Sproles would be an acceptable rebuttal).
The Eagles also went through a change in the receiving room that will be of benefit to Clement, essentially swapping Golden Tate for DeSean Jackson. While the former was a threat to take touches away from Clement in the short passing and screen game, the latter will only serve to create space for the third year runner. Any time a team adds a player that can take the top off a defense it bodes well for the running game. Clement has averaged almost five yards per carry against light fronts in his first two seasons. He is bound to see more of that variety with Jackson in the mix. Without having to vie for screen plays with Tate, Corey should once again be the featured player in those situations. We’ve all seen the damage he can do with a well-blocked screen.
All in all, there is room for hope for the third year running back. Many think the Eagles aren’t done adding play makers to their current roster, whether by the draft or free agency. Chicago has proven that a tandem of Howard and an electric change-of-pace player can leave its mark on the league. Maybe this article has convinced the world that perhaps, just perhaps, the answer is already in Philadelphia.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports