The Eagles are in the heart of their offseason workout program and excitement levels are soaring. The 90-man roster is filled with potential, hunger, and talent. But not everyone can make the cut, and there are several players who start the proceedings with their backs to the wall.
It’s a rarity to see a running back who has shown improvement year-on-year, be pushed down the depth chart before OTA’s kick off, especially when there’s no injury or hefty salary cap involved. Alas, Wendell Smallwood is fighting for his future.
The West Virginia product set a career-high in receiving yards last year, shedding the skin where catching the ball was formerly a weakness. He still had some areas to work on but as a change of pace back, Smallwood seemed to be ready to take another step forward going into 2019. The issue is, the Eagles traded for Jordan Howard and drafted Miles Sanders.
Smallwood, who rushed for 364 yards and 3 touchdowns last year, may not even make the roster this year. If the Eagles carry four running backs, Corey Clement and Josh Adams are lead contenders, with the formerly undrafted Boston Scott breathing down his neck. Each of the aforementioned brings something different to the table, while Smallwood just seems to be the odd man out.
It’s important that Smallwood not only proves he can stay healthy after two years where injuries have ravaged the backfield during the offseason and regular season, but further builds on a strong base. After his rookie year, he started lowering his pads and stopped avoiding contact. In year three, his receiving skillset started to emerge. In year four, it’s all or nothing.
The Eagles parted ways with Michael Bennett and Chris Long recently announced his retirement, meaning that second-year DE Josh Sweat is suddenly thrust into a prominent rotational role.
In his rookie year, Sweat was thrown into games to chew the clock, or inserted in long drives toward the end of them. We didn’t really get a proper chance to see what he’s capable of…but with a year of development under his belt, there is now undoubted pressure for the fourth-round selection out of FSU to step up.
Shareef Miller is waiting in the wings as a recently drafted rookie and Vinny Curry is back in the picture, only adding to the pressure. Sweat played in nine games for the Eagles last year before a season-ending ankle injury cut his progress short.
Sweat has a dominant athletic profile and plenty of upside, but how much of that is ready to be harnessed next season, and will he be able to shake off the injury tag?
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