The run game is clearly one opposing defenses will make a concerted effort to contain. LeGarrette Blount was eating the entire game and Wendell Smallwood demonstrated that he's a threat as both a runner and receiver. However, what shouldn't get lost was the role of team's third running back in Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Rookie Corey Clement was responsible for three of the team's nine conversions on third down Sunday afternoon including two big ones on the game's final drive.
"You've got to thank (head coach Doug Pederson) for even giving us a chance to showcase the run game today and we tried not to let him down in that aspect," Clement said after the game. "So we're going to go out there next week and hopefully keep establishing that."
During Monday's press conference, Pederson referred to Clement as a real bright spot dating back to the time he joined the Eagles as a rookie free agent. He noted that the rookie runs aggressively and hard, but more importantly showed faith to give him the ball with the game on the line.
With under four minutes remaining, Clement was given the ball on third-and-2. The rookie responded by getting enough to move the chains. On the next set of downs, Clement was entrusted with the ball again, this time on third-and-1. Clement moved the chains with a 4-yard pickup forcing the Chargers to burn their second to last timeout.
"I'm going to put him in those situations and he did an outstanding job when called upon again yesterday and we'll continue to grow that area with him and keep him coming," Pederson said.
When asked about Pederson's decision to give the backs the ball early and often, Clement acknowledged that it gave the group assurance throughout.
"It gives us a whole bunch of confidence going into the game and we wanted to get the run game established as quickly as possible," Clement said. "We're going to go out there next week and hopefully keep establishing that."
Smallwood scored the team's only rushing touchdown of the day, but overall the group raked in its highest rushing total dating back to 2014. The running back room is making an emphasis to fill the void that Darren Sproles left. For Clement, Sproles is still very much a part of the group's success.
"He was a key leader in the offense but we can still play through him and play for him," Clement said of Sproles' absence. "He's still giving us tips and reminding us of what to do and how to approach each snap, so Sproles is definitely out there with us in spirit."
On the day, Clement ran the ball 10 times for a modest 30 yards but those numbers don't truly reflect the rookie's impact in the win. He kept an early possession alive with a 10-yard gain on third-and-3 that would eventually lead to a Jake Elliott field goal toward the end of the first quarter. And his last three rushes on the team's final drive all resulted in first downs. With the strong efforts from Blount and Smallwood and the subtle play from Clement, the run game is shaping up to be a formidable one.
"I think we were just missing some small components," Clement said. "I think we're doing a great job of capitalizing each week on what people have to say on the outside, so if we can just focus on this and do the small things this run game should be great."