Eagles need to do just enough with the running game

Ed Benkin
January 10, 2019 - 10:00 pm
Dec 23, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (86) reacts with running back Wendell Smallwood (28) ad tight end Dallas Goedert (88) after scoring a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Fi

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — No one will confuse this Eagles backfield with Wilbert Montgomery and Brian Westbrook.  

It doesn't matter at this stage of the season. 

When the Eagles lost Jay Ajayi early in the season and Cory Clement late in the year, it appeared the team's rushing attack would be severely hampered. The Eagles indeed had trouble running the football at times and the lack of an effective ground game contributed to the team's 4-6 record after ten regular season contests. In recent weeks, there has been a noticeable improvement in the Eagles' ability to run the football.

Their performances have been not been dominating, but Wendell Smallwood and his teammates have done just enough to add some balance to the Eagles offense.

"We've got tremendous confidence knowing what we do," said Smallwood. "We think we have one of the best O-lines in the game. We feel like we can run the ball on anybody. We've played some great defensive guys and guys with a good front. It doesn't matter to us."

Last week was an example of the running game doing just enough to help the offense. The Eagles rushed for only 42 yards, but it came against the best rushing defense in the NFL. There were runs by Smallwood, Darren Sproles and Josh Adams that made a difference at critical times. 

The Eagles barely had a chance to get their ground game going in their first game against the Saints after falling behind so quickly. Center Jason Kelce knows that has to change on Sunday.

"We didn't get much rolling," Kelce said. "We had a lot of struggles especially early on. It kind of cascaded into bigger problems once we became one dimensional."

Kelce and his offensive line have been playing at an elite level in recent weeks and Smallwood believes that is a big reason why the Eagles have been running the ball better. Smallwood also credited Kelce's ability to make adjustments on the line with calls during snap counts to put the backs in a better situation to succeed.

"It means everything," said Smallwood. "That's who we run through. A lot of people think the quarterback runs a lot of things, but I think Kelce and those guys are the true leaders of this offense. We go out there and we make plays for them. They put us in a good position."

Smallwood and his teammates will need to be in the best positions possible to help the Eagles upset the Saints. None of the running backs have to set a playoff rushing record, but the Eagles will have to have some balance with their offensive attack. After seeing several of the top defensive fronts in the NFL, Smallwood won't be intimidated by the talented Saints' front seven.

"It's a no-face opponent," Smallwood said. "You're in the way. We've got to get a win and we want to move on to this next round. We probably won't even see the logo on their helmets."