If you’ve followed my previous articles, you’d know that I love to write about the New Jersey native Corey Clement. From local high school star, Melvin Gordon’s backup, overlooked college prospect with blemishes on his record, undrafted free agent to Superbowl hero — then followed by a disappointing second year ending in injury — not many players have reached such highs and lows in so few years. He’s humble in interviews, the hype man before games and still has time to be Corey from Glassboro for the kids. That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear that Clement has finally looked himself in training camp and got some preseason action under his belt.
Against the Ravens on Thursday night, Clement made his preseason debut and rushed seven times for 36 yards. That minor explosion back into the fray could not have come at a better time for the local product.
“He hasn’t played in a while, so we needed to see some more time.” Doug Pederson said after the game. “Felt like we had checked the boxes with Miles and Jordan a little bit in these first two games and obviously through camp. So it was really Corey’s time to play, and I thought he did some really good things out there tonight.”
“I wanted to keep going to be honest.” Clement said about his performance. “I felt as though we were still clicking. Some penalties kept setting us back. I felt as if we were getting a good groove. The linemen did a great job of being on their side of the line of scrimmage. I was hungry for more so I’m still hungry for it.”
Reputedly, the third-year back has hit the ground running after a lengthy rehab process that took a good part of a year. The collective observation: he looks quick, he looks nimble, he looks fast. Those aren’t new words to describe the dynamic athlete, but they are different than the tags he received last offseason. Big, strong, muscled — the list was long. With LeGarrette Blount in Detroit, Clement saw an opportunity for more early-down carries and felt he needed the body to match.
At Wisconsin, he was known as a bruiser. A big 225 pound back that rumbled and tumbled for extra yards in a run-first offense, Clement was never thought of as a versatile, do-it-all player. That’s exactly why, come draft day, Clement was one of the unfortunate many that did not hear their name called. Despite racking up over 3,000 rushing yards in college, and 1,375 and 15 touchdowns in his final season, no team was willing to take a chance on the former Badger.
Although it took until the draft was over, the Eagles saw through all that. Corey had quick feet, vision and an excellent center of gravity, all he needed was a chance to prove the doubters wrong. A lack of production in the passing game (he registered only 29 receptions), which many teams saw as a shortcoming, the Eagles saw as a lack of opportunity. He entered rookie camp not unlike a fresh-faced, bright-eyed freshman. Running backs coach Duce Staley made it clear from the beginning that the new role in Philadelphia would come with some changes.
The first, and most significant of these changes was weight loss. Clement had spent most of his college career hovering between 225 and 230 pounds — perfect for running in between the tackles, but limiting for acceleration and change of direction. Duce wanted him at 215. At that weight, he was explosive; at that weight he was agile. Yet, he still had the mentality of a big, physical runner. Ready for action as a third-down back and special teams ace, Clement bided his time until playoffs to truly make his impact felt. The rest was history.
Then came season two. Seeing the chance for more carries, Corey entered the summer weighing 216. A full offseason in an NFL weight room would have him pressing the 220lb mark at season start. He was by no means out of shape, just a different one — more similar to his Wisconsin days. Particularly, he wanted to focus on his legs, which took a bulk of the beating. At first, it looked as if it had paid off. Clement looked more physical running the ball between the tackles and was breaking through arm tackles like butter.
However, there were also comments about a loss in acceleration. On tape, he didn’t quite look as fast. His statistical production followed suit. His second year came with a drop of .5 yards per carry, and 3.6 yards per reception. Per Player Profiler, his production premium fell from an outstanding +24.3 to a disappointing -2.2. Unfortunately for Clement, the injuries started taking their toll. What started as “just a sprain” ended in a season-ending ACL injury.
Regrettably, it may have been the weight gain that was Corey’s ultimate undoing. According to the Arthritis Foundation, every pound of excess weight adds approximately 4 pounds of extra pressure on the knees. While the rules are different for high-performance athletes, that can give you an idea of the disparity between 215lbs and 220. This season, after a long recovery, Clement is back at 215 and looking explosive as ever. By all accounts, Corey is ready to put last season behind him and show the NFL just how special he can be.
“I’m sure they wanted to see it which is why they put me out there.” Clement stated when asked if the coaches wanted to go and prove something last night. “I wasn’t shying away from anything. If anything you have to step up when the opportunity presents itself. I’m definitely blessed and fortunate to be able to play this game. You know, coming back from an injury that put me out so I’m happy to be out here and showing what I can still do.”
Playing with a chip on his shoulder, Clement should safely make the roster as the team’s fourth running back and go on to play a key offensive role.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
26 year old Eagles writer from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.