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Who Carries The Running Game On Sunday?

Lost just a bit in Wentzmania and the evolving personality of the wide receiver position is an Eagles running back situation that is murky as we get deeper into the week. Neither Jay Ajayi (back) nor Darren Sproles (hamstring) practiced on Wednesday and they are termed "day to day," by head coach Doug Pederson. The way Pederson 'splained it at his morning press conference, Ajayi's status for Sunday against the Colts will be evaluated late in the week (Friday, he means) and that Sproles is "a little bit longer."

What does that mean? It means that Sproles is likely a long shot to play against the Colts and that Ajayi has a chance, but we'll see how he feels on Friday.

The ranks continue thinning. Depth is tested once again. Who is carrying the rock on Sunday?

"You have to be ready for everything and anything," second-year man Corey Clement said. "You never know when something is going to happen and your number gets called. You prepare during the week to play. That's your job."

Clement would be first in line to handle the running game's heavy lifting should Ajayi not play on Sunday. Clement is a sturdy 5-10, 220-pounder who has been professional in every sense of the word since the Eagles signed him as an undrafted rookie prior to the 2017 season. He's the same guy every day, maybe the ultimate compliment for a player at this level. The only challenge is that Clement's career high for carries in a single game is 12, last year against Denver in a blowout victory. Could Clement carry the football 15-17 times should the need arise on Sunday?

"I can do what they need me to do," said Clement, who was an all-purpose standout in last week's loss at Tampa Bay. "Everybody wants responsibility, to help the team win games. If the coaches call on me to carry the ball a lot, that's what I'll do. If not, I will help the team win any way I'm needed."

Another candidate for ball-carrying duties is Wendell Smallwood, a third-year running back who has shown flashes in his time here but has never been healthy enough for long periods of time to gain a steady role in the running game. Injuries have kept Smallwood's contributions limited. Smallwood has more experience than Clement, he's got burst with the ball in his hands, and he has improved so much in pass protection. The Eagles gave him the football seven times in Tampa and Smallwood gained 28 yards.

Maybe, if Ajayi and Sproles can't go, Clement and Smallwood split the duties against Indianapolis. It's not just running the football that is required, of course. The Eagles use their running backs in the receiving game quite a bit, particularly in the screen game, and the backs have to be stout in pass protection. The last thing quarterback Carson Wentz needs in his season debut is for a running back to make a mental mistake and whiff in pass protection.

The third option if the Eagles are stretched to the limit is rookie Josh Adams, promoted from the practice squad this week. Adams is all long legs and long arms, a talented player in a stretched-out 6-2, 215-pound frame. He is a raw and very talented prospect who is going to benefit greatly by the hands-on approach used by running backs coach Duce Staley, who absolutely loves the kid. Adams was a big-play runner at Notre Dame, but this is a different world. He's just a really tall target at this point for defenders, but Adams may be pressed into duty on Sunday because of all the injuries.

"We were pleased with Josh and his production throughout Training Camp," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said this week. "He missed time with some injuries but had some productive time in the games, and he's here in our practice squad, knows our system, and we think he's got an upside. He's a big body, and we're excited about seeing Josh."

Good thing, because Adams is very much in the mix as of now. So is Clement and so is Smallwood. The Eagles have a lot of players in and out throughout the offense with all of the injuries, including running back. How a young corps of backs responds should they be pressed into duty on Sunday will be critical to the success of the Wentz-led offense.

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