Thanksgiving is approaching and while it may be easy to focus on the negative aspects of the Saints game last weekend, the Eagles have a winnable game against the Giants this Sunday and the organization and fans have at least one thing to be thankful for – undrafted free agent running back Josh Adams.
Adams, much like Corey Clement last season, was a surprise in the sense that he was not drafted. Among other things, Adams set a record for the longest play from scrimmage and most rush yards for a freshman in Notre Dame history in his first season and, by the end of his college career, was fifth on the university’s rushing leaderboard despite missing significant time with an ACL injury. The Eagles felt lucky to pick him up after the draft and expected big things of him.
Perhaps the reasoning behind him going undrafted, Adams suffered a foot injury that limited him in team practices and drills. He slowly moved back the depth chart. He healed in time to appear in three preseason games, but his 103 yards on 29 touches (3.55 yards per touch) were not enough to keep him on the roster and he was waived and signed to the practice squad.
With the injuries at running back mounting quickly and early on, Adams was called up to the active roster prior to week three, but didn’t see much work. After receiving six rushes in the Colts game, Adams received only five attempts over the next four games.
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Without Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles for all but two games this season, the backfield took a hit and the pressure was put on Corey Clement early in the season. After missing time with his own injury, Clement has been all but invisible in the backfield, rushing 54 times for a mere 191 yards. That’s an average of 3.35 yards per carry – well below the league average of 4.37 yards per carry this season and his 4.34 mark from last season.
With Clement either out or ineffective, the Eagles turned to Wendell Smallwood. Smallwood had 63 rushes for 257 yards (4.08 yards per carry). Smallwood was a productive back, but in a committee form. While he is bigger than Darren Sproles, Smallwood is still an undersized back and proved to do well when he can run up the middle and avoid direct hits by spinning or juking. He is not, however, a power or an East-West runner.
In stepped rookie Josh Adams. During the week eight match-up against the Jaguars, Adams got his chance to prove his worth. He received nine carries in an offense that runs by committee and is averaging only 23.6 rush attempts per game. Adams put up 61 yards, good for 6.78 yards per carry. Against Dallas, he received seven carries for 47 yards and got 53 yards on another seven carries against the Saints. In both games, the offense was trailing for the entire game, so the run game was practically abandoned. Running backs received only 14 carries against the Cowboys and 10 against the Saints.
While Adams provides a bit of that power back ability, he is not a LeGarrette Blount type player. He actually provides a similar style of run game to that of the injured Jay Ajayi. He has the ability to do some power running and break tackles, but he is also able to read the field and make cuts. He also has speed (4.48 second 40-yard dash), slightly more so than Ajayi (4.57 seconds). Just look at the vision and cuts he took before boosting into the end zone on his first touchdown Sunday night.
While the run game has been abandoned by the Eagles, they seem to have a playmaker in the backfield once again. Adams figures to get more snaps and this week is probably the best time for him to prove his stuff. The Eagles should be in the Giants game the entire time and will hopefully have a lead, allowing Adams to get more touches and prove what he can do.
So this Thanksgiving, don’t focus on the negatives. Instead, give thanks for the run game that the Eagles now have thanks to the emergence of Josh Adams.