After missing the past two games with a knee injury, running back Wendell Smallwood's return appears imminent. Hopefully, Monday night against division-rival Washington Redskins imminent.
LeGarrette Blount has been a monster carrying the football, but Smallwood's injury came at an inopportune time.
The second-year back was turning the corner, going on a tear against the Giants and Chargers. Smallwood had a career-high 71 rushing yards against the Giants and a personal-best 45 receiving yards against the Chargers. In that two-game span, Smallwood ran for 105 yards, averaged 10.8 yards per catch, and scored the team's final touchdown in their victory over the Chargers.
As it turns out, Smallwood was injured early on in the Chargers game but toughed it out. After the game, the swelling in his knee kept him out of the wins against the Cardinals and Panthers. The good news is Smallwood returned to practice and did everything the coaching staff asked and expected of him on the NovaCare Complex fields Tuesday.
"I'm working towards it," Smallwood said on the prospect of playing Monday night. "I felt good today. Hopefully later on this week I get even better as the week goes and I'll be playing Monday."
The long break after the short period between games last week did Smallwood well. His role in the offense is just one of the reasons the Eagles have been the NFL's best team on third-down situations this season.
"Wendell obviously brings a lot to the table," said offensive coordinator Frank Reich. "He's a thrashing, downhill runner. He's got some explosiveness. He's a three-down back. He's good out of the backfield. He's really good in protections. So yeah, it brings all those things."
"That guy's a beast on third down," said tight end Zach Ertz. "He's huge for us in that regard so we're just excited to have him back."
Smallwood fully participated in the Eagles' 10-10-10 practice Tuesday and felt perfectly fine. Last season, he missed the final three regular-season games of his rookie year with a knee injury and part of the preseason this year with a hamstring injury. He's battled the frustrations that come with watching from the sidelines. Smallwood's convinced that he can make his return as smooth as his past recoveries and reassume his role as a cog in the offense.
"(I'm) not going to hold back any, I'm not going to think about it and get nervous," Smallwood said. "I know I've got that confidence in myself. Just throughout this week, I was getting more comfortable with feeling how I feel and I'll be able to go."