Chris Clemons isn't moping. He isn't pointing fingers. He understands that playing time is not a privilege. And he knows that when the coaches think he is ready for more playing time, Clemons will respond in a positive manner and do the things he did last season with the Raiders, the things the Eagles liked so much that they made him a 1-A priority in free agency this past off-season.
"Every day, I need to show the coaches I am capable of playing and making plays," said Clemons following his afternoon practice at the NovaCare Complex. "That's all I can do. I'm not down. I want to be playing more and helping the team, but I know I have to earn that. I have to win the confidence of the coaches."
Clemons recorded his first sack of the season late in Sunday's win over Seattle. In fact, that game marked his first official tackle from the line of scrimmage. This is Game 9 and Clemons has just one sack, not exactly the kind of production they envisioned after signing Clemons to a five-year contract on March 1. Clemons recorded eight sacks for Oakland last season, despite playing in only 37 percent of the team's snaps from the line of scrimmage.
In Clemons, the Eagles hoped they were getting a speed rusher off the edge who could come in on third down and play either end or tackle and deliver punch to the pass rush. The plan was to add Clemons to a group of speed edge rushers that included Trent Cole, Juqua Parker and Darren Howard. In fact, some observers surmised that Clemons' arrival would ultimately mean the end of Howard's time as an Eagle. Once a big-time free agent, Howard had not been productive in his two Eagles seasons and the team, the thinking went, wanted some fresh legs and new blood to come in and add energy to get to the quarterback.
So they signed Clemons to a big deal two days into free agency. And then the Eagles used a third-round draft pick on Bryan Smith and looked at a defensive end situation with great hope and promise.
Guess what? The Eagles like what they've seen from the defenisve ends, even if the names aren't exactly as we all predicted. Howard is one of the good stories in terms of a comeback player and he leads the team with 6 sacks. Parker has 5 sacks and Cole, although not where he wants to be, has 3 sacks.
"Look, it's a blessing to be here. You are not guaranteed to be here. I have fun every day that I'm able to play and every day that I'm here," said Clemons. "I know I'm helping this team and I know I'm going to help ths team even more in the future. I am out there enjoying myself, enjoying the team. I know I haven't played as much as I want, but that's on me. I have to be better.
"If you focus and take everything seriiously all week long, then Sunday is second nature. That is how I approach this job every day. We're getting ready for a big, big game. Division gmaes like this are great to be part of. I love the feeling around here. We all know how important this game is. The Giants are a great team and we think we are a great team. So we have to go out there and win on Sunday night and show it when the lights are on."
Clemons is a big part of the special teams here and he is the fourth defensive end. That means, for now, sporadic playing time. Maybe a dozen or so snaps, mostly on special teams. In this league, the good ones are prepared for every possibility. Maybe Clemons will show enough to convince his coaches that more playing time is merited. Maybe it will come this week. Maybe not until next week.
Clemons is convinced it will come, though.
"I can only continue to get better each and every week and when I get the opportunity I have to go out and make plays the way I know I'm capable of making plays," said Clemons. "That is my goal. There is no reason to cry about not playing, or about this or that. I have to earn it. I know nobody is going to hand me anything.
"That's the approach I'm taking. I'm positive. We are a confident team and I am a confident person. I'm excited every day to be here, and I know good things are going to come to me."