Check out all of the best photos from Philadelphia Eagles vs. Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 23, 2018.
CLEVELAND - The Eagles' running backs were under the national spotlight on Thursday night in Cleveland. With Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, and Corey Clement all out of the lineup (and all virtual locks to make the team), Wendell Smallwood made the most of his opportunities as he continues to push for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Playing with the first-team offense for the duration of the first half, Smallwood ran for 53 yards on 12 carries, while also adding 14 yards through the air in the Eagles' 5-0 loss at FirstEnergy Stadium.
"Just watching film all week, I knew those holes would come open," Smallwood said after the game. "Just knowing how their defense plays, sometimes they're going to stop us, but I think just me being patient and waiting for it and just sticking to my rules, it started working out for us. When we got on our tempo, I think those guys started wearing down a little bit. The holes were there."
Whenever the Eagles' offense seemed to be picking up steam, a costly turnover would pop up and derail any potential scoring opportunities. But despite the overall shaky performance by the first-team offense (four turnovers and one safety allowed), Smallwood delivered when called upon.
"We were kind of shooting ourselves in the foot with the turnovers, but I think overall, getting those extra reps kind of felt good," Smallwood said.
Smallwood, playing in his third preseason out of West Virginia, appears to be competing for a potential fourth running back spot on the opening day roster, along with players like Josh Adams, Matt Jones, and Donnel Pumphrey. On Thursday, with Jones and Adams both healthy, it was Smallwood who got the call to play with the rest of the starters, an opportunity that the young running back didn't take for granted.
"I think it's very important, especially being with the starters," he explained. "We've got guys down and they called on me to start this game and come out with the ones, and I think that's huge with trust and me being out there with those guys and kind of getting the feeling for how it is and playing against starters. I think that's a whole different level being out there on the field with those guys, so I think it was a wonderful opportunity for me."
Over the course of his first two seasons with the Eagles, Smallwood has rushed for 486 yards, while contributing on special teams as well. He's shown flashes during the preseason of what he can bring to the table, but he also knows there's still more work to be done.
"I think there's more plays out there for me to make, and even when things are not there I feel like I can be a difference-maker out there," Smallwood said. "It's been solid, but I feel I've got so much more in the tank and I got so much more I can do that I can put out there."