Smallwood, Clement Forcing Eagles to Make Tough Calls at RB

Wendell Smallwood began his preseason with an impressive performance, and Corey Clement continued his preseason with another impressive performance.

The Eagles' muddled running back picture came into a little better focus Thursday night in their preseason win over the Dolphins at the Linc.

Smallwood, who missed the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury, ran just four times but gained 28 yards (7.0 average). Clement, fighting for a roster spot, got 11 touches, rushing nine times for 42 yards (4.7) and catching two passes for 11 more yards.

"Definitely think that boosted our confidence," Smallwood said. "That was our talk going into this game, to get that athletic (offensive) line going and get some runs and run the ball the way we know we can, so it was good."

Smallwood missed the last three games of last year with a knee injury, so he hadn't played in a game since last Dec. 11 against the Redskins.

He didn't look rusty.

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The second-year pro was out there with the first offense for the Eagles' second series and had runs of eight and six yards on his first drive in 8½ months. He followed that with runs of four and 10 yards later in the first quarter with the 1's on the 93-yard TD drive, and that was his night.

"Felt good," he said. "Was real fresh out there. Good to get some live game reps, get some live bullets going, get out there with the first offensive line and see how the running game will go, get those early jitterbugs out."

Jitterbugs! Jitters?

"Just from not playing," he said. "Being anxious to be out there. It's out of the way now. Time to go."

Smallwood missed a good two weeks of practice, and there was speculation that his roster spot was in jeopardy. But that was never the case.

Smallwood, a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia a year ago, may be the Eagles' most versatile back - able to run inside or out, solid receiver, capable blocker.

"I think I'm caught up," he said at his locker after the Eagles beat the Dolphins 38-31 in the third preseason game for both teams.

"I stayed dialed-in the whole time I was hurt, as far as the game plan and playbook. So I don't think I fell behind at all. Missing those game reps was tough, I needed those. I think it was good for me to get out there tonight and show what I could do.

Nobody seems to know exactly what Smallwood's role will be in an offense that has LeGarrette Blount and Darren Sproles.

Smallwood just shrugs and smiles when asked what he expects.

"To help this team," he said. "I don't know. To run the ball how I run the ball, catch the ball, block. Whatever they throw at me, I'll handle it. Whatever. We'll see how it goes."

As for Clement, he's still battling for a roster spot, but he helped himself Thursday night with a complete performance. 

Clement, a Glassboro native, has looked sharper each game, and on Thursday night against the Dolphins, he seemed to get into a nice rhythm.

After gaining five yards on his first three carries, he gained 37 yards on his next six, including his second touchdown in two home preseason games.

"Just going out there and just making progress and putting together good drives, that's really my motivation every time I'm on the field," he said.

"Whether it's through me or through the wide receivers. I want to be able to excel in pass protection. If I can add to a pass being thrown down the field, that's awesome. That's kind of like a run to me. Being able to contribute in all phases just adds more value."

Clement had a six-yard touchdown run last week against the Bills to go with his three-yard TD Thursday night.

He's the first Eagles back with a TD run in consecutive preseason games since LeSean McCoy against the Jaguars and Jets back in 2009.

"I want to make it a habit and show those guys I can be called on, especially in the red zone," Clement said. "Just have that sense of urgency that you can't be denied when you're within five yards of the end zone. It's got to be a mindset, it's got to be a belief that you can get in there every single time your number is called."

Clement was on all four major phases of special teams for the first time Thursday night, definitely a good sign for his roster hopes.

"I always want more," he said. "I want to show the staff that I can be a reliable guy to be called on at all time. Any phase of the game. Very happy, got a taste of more special teams today and show Coach (Dave) Fipp I can have more value to this team.

"I'm never satisfied, just going out there and showing I'm a team player. I've come a long way since Week 1. I've got nothing but fight in my heart."

Blount, Smallwood and Sproles have the roster made, and Donnel Pumphrey, though he hasn't been productive, is almost certain to stick as a rookie fourth-round pick.

Where does Clement fit in? Does he fit in? Is he earmarked for the practice squad or would the Eagles consider keeping a fifth running back?

These are all questions that will be answered soon. But right now, Clement is focused only on getting better every day. The Eagles finish the preseason against the Jets on Thursday, and final cuts are due three days later.

"This is going to be a crucial seven days," he said. "This is the last showcase we have to prove to the staff that I should be a part of this 53-man roster.

"But I can't think about that at all. If I am my best self that day, I go back in the mirror as I go to sleep just knowing I gave it my all. I shouldn't have anything to worry about if I gave it my all each day."

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