LONDON – Maybe it’s a cutback here, or a burst through a hole there. Maybe it’s making a defender miss in the open field. Whatever it is, running backs Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement know that the Eagles need a spark in the ground game.
They think Sunday is a great chance to provide it.
“It’s another opportunity, that’s how I see it,” Smallwood said after Friday’s practice in London. “We have to play better as a whole offense. It’s not one phase or another. We’re just not sustaining drives and taking advantage of some of the chances we’ve had.”
Playing against a Jacksonville defense that has been, to date, No. 1 in the league against the pass but porous against the run, the Eagles could very well lean on Smallwood and Clement quite a bit to open holes in the defense. But the Jaguars are devastated by injuries as cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Tyler Patmon have been ruled out with injuries and nickel cornerback D.J. Hayden is listed as doubtful with a toe injury. Star cornerback Jalen Ramsey is healthy, but can he cover the entire Eagles receiving corps?
The point here is not about Ramsey. It’s not about the Jaguars’ defense. It’s about the Eagles trying to get their running game, ranked 21st in the NFL averaging 102.9 yards per week, on track heading into the bye week. And with Darren Sproles still out with a hamstring injury, the onus falls upon Smallwood, averaging 4.5 yards per carry (223 rushing yards), and Clement, who has 161 rushing yards, averaging 3.5 yards per carry.
“We’re close, we’re close,” Clement said. “A play here and there and it’s a whole different story. We can’t look back. We can only make sure that when our number is called we produce. This is a game of production. So, I’m sure we’re going to have our chances to make plays. I’m confident we’re going to turn this around, not just the offense but the entire team. It can change in a hurry.”
The Eagles also have rookie Josh Adams, who has chipped in with 11 carries and 46 yards. There aren’t any other options. There is no choice but to control the line of scrimmage and run the ball effectively against the Jaguars.
“When we run the ball well, it opens up everything else,” Clement said. “We want to be well-balanced and we want to make some big plays down the field. It helps a lot when you’re running the ball and making the defense respect that part of the offense. We’re going to have our chances to make plays. We have to go out and do it.”