The Philadelphia Eagles have gained a reputation as one of the best ground attacks over the past two weeks. This week will probably be a little different.
While the Eagles have the fifth best yards per carry in the NFL at 4.7 and the third most yards per game at 143, their opponents this week have been known to have one of the better run defenses in the league. Thus far, they have only allowed 3.2 yards per carry, good for the sixth best in the league coupled with 88 total yards per game, good for tenth best in the league.
Despite the odds being against them, Eagles cannot – I repeat, cannot – abandon the running attack altogether. Doug Pederson’s game plan should involve more runs from the shotgun and a lot of swing passes and screens to spread out the Cardinals defense.
Over the course of the last two weeks, the Eagles’ running backs became a three-headed monster comprised of LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, and Corey Clement. Blount has proven to be the bruiser, while Smallwood and Clement are more well-rounded backs who can be a threat in the passing game.
Smallwood and Clement are also solid when it comes to running the ball (see Clement’s two clutch third down runs on the final drive of last Sunday’s game). With that said, the duo of Smallwood and Clement should be a bigger part of this week’s game plan. To put it simply, they are more versatile than Blount. Doug Pederson can mask his offense a little more by putting Carson Wentz in the shotgun with Smallwood or Clement next to him. From there they can run it up the middle (like Adrian mentioned would be best), run a swing pass or screen, or run that sweep play that has been effective in the past.
LeGarrette Blount will still get his touches. The three-headed monster will continue to live and thrive; this week the Smallwood and Clement heads should get the most touches.
Wendell Smallwood is currently questionable for Sunday’s game as he is nursing a knee injury. If he were to miss the game (or has a limited role), expect Pederson to lean more on the undrafted rookie. It’s clear Clement has earned the trust of the play-caller with his performance last week against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Of course, if Smallwood does play, the versatility that he and Clement offer will be the difference maker in this week’s matchup. You heard it here first.
Editor’s note: The Eagles announced Sunday morning that Wendell Smallwood would be deactivated for Week 5.