One of the great mysteries of the Eagles’ 4-4 season revolves around Corey Clement.
The second-year running back had an extremely productive rookie season that culminated in him being the leading receiver in Super Bowl LII with 100 yards. He had seven touchdowns combined, including the postseason, between rushing and receiving. He had 444 total yards in the regular season then added another 172 yards from scrimmage in the playoffs.
This year he has been more of an afterthought in the offense, after the expectation of being more involved after the Eagles let LeGarrette Blount walk in free agency. That hasn’t been the case, though. Clement has 282 total yards and two touchdowns halfway through the season.
The biggest reason offered up to why Clement’s role hasn’t developed into something larger, especially now that Jay Ajayi was lost for the season after Week Five, is the quad injury that he struggled with in-season, which cost him two games, and a training camp that saw him to take time to recover from a hamstring injury.
Head coach Doug Pederson said everything is fine with Clement, even though he continues to count more on Wendell Smallwood, and, in London, gave Josh Adams more carries than either Smallwood or Clement.
“He’s been great,” said Pederson about Clement, last Monday before the team’s week off with a bye.
“He’s been doing everything we’ve asked him to do. Of course, he was nursing an injury the first part of the season and training camp and all that. He’s bounced back from that, you know, he’s done a great job. Plus, he’s playing special teams. He’s a valuable part of what we do. He was a huge part of our success a year ago and obviously this year.”
Clement played just 13 running back snaps and 14 special team snaps against the Jaguars wile Smallwood had 31 and nine to Adams’ 18 and three.
Against Carolina two weeks ago, Clement and Smallwood both got seven special teams snaps, but Smallwood had 10 more running back snaps than Clement. Adams, meanwhile, had eight running back snaps to nine on special teams.
“Some of it is game plan,” said Pederson about the varying difference in snap counts from week to week. “When (Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach) Duce [Staley] and I look at the run game after Coach Stoutland (Eagles offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland) puts the plan together, Duce and I will sit down – more Duce, really – and he starts putting who he wants in on certain runs, and Josh had a few more this week.
“And, quite frankly, the second half of the game we just utilized one run scheme, just a couple of different formations, and Josh just happened to be the hot hand at the time and did some nice things. It’s something that we continue to look at each week and try to get all of the guys involved if we can.”
Without a dominant back, Pederson has chosen to rotate the three he has, which could soon grow to four when/if Darren Sproles returns. He did as much last year, but will likely do more of this year, which could mean Clement’s role could still increase. Either way, it doesn’t appear the coach is ready to throttle back on Smallwood’s time.
“We have a ton of confidence in Wendell,” said Pederson. “You kind of saw what he did in training camp this year. It felt like he was one of those players – I have been there as a player too where your back is kind of against the wa.ll, and you just come out swinging and see what happens. And he was one of those players this year who had a great training camp and he has just been a steady player for us and he just keeps getting better and better. We have a lot of confidence in him.”
NOTES: The Eagles return to work on Monday in preparation to host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. Both coordinators will hold their news conferences, beginning at 4 p.m. Before Jim Schwartz and Mike Groh talk, there will be locker room availability for media … According to OverTheCap.com, the Eagles have the second most contract value on IR, PUP, and NRI with a total contract value of $29.8 million. The 49ers are first at $40.4, the Seahawks third ($28.1 million), the Falcons fourth ($27.3 million), and the Jaguars fifth ($26.5 million).