Corey Clement will get his chance to make the Eagles | Jeff McLane
After the Glassboro native went undrafted by the NFL, he waited for the call he wanted and got it.
After the Glassboro native went undrafted by the NFL, he waited for the call he wanted - and got it.
Corey Clement didn't have much time to wallow in the frustration of not being drafted. The calls from NFL teams looking to sign the then-free agent rookie running back, he said, reached a frenzied state. But Clement was waiting for one specific number to pop up on his phone.
The Glassboro native grew up an Eagles fan. He had a long-standing relationship with the team's vice president of team security, Dom DiSandro, and was his guest at the Eagles' practice facility numerous times. He met Duce Staley as a child, wore No. 22 in his honor during youth football, and would later work out in front of the now-Eagles assistant before the draft.
The Eagles were one of 32 teams that passed on Clement. But one of the benefits of not getting selected is that you have more autonomy over where you may play. The Wisconsin product told himself that if the Eagles made an offer, he would accept.
And then DiSandro's name appeared on his screen.
"There was no hesitation of where I wanted to go," Clement said Friday after the first day of rookie minicamp.
While the opportunity to play for his hometown team played a part in his decision to sign with the Eagles, Clement admitted that the team's running back depth - or lack thereof - was also an attraction. Asked to assess his chances of making the roster, he said they were "very realistic."
He added: "And if I was to think otherwise I shouldn't be on this team."
Clement may be selling himself short. As one of the larger running backs on the Eagles, the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Clement could have the opportunity for a larger role. The same also could be said of fourth-round rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey, despite his lack of size.
The Eagles don't have an obvious No. 1 option, and aside from veteran Darren Sproles and the likely-to-be-released Ryan Mathews, they don't have a running back with more than 77 career rushes in the NFL. Coach Doug Pederson said he isn't worried.
"I'm pleased with the guys that we do have, and the guys that we're working with currently," Pederson said. "We're constantly looking and obviously trying to bolster our roster at every position - running back included. But I'm excited with the guys that we have."
It's always easy to get excited about Sproles, who has maintained a certain level of proficiency over his 12-year career. But he has never been a three-down back and is unlikely to become one at the age of 33.
Wendell Smallwood may have that kind of ability, but it was difficult to gather as much during his rookie season. He was used sparingly, had some bright moments when pressed into duty, and then missed the final three games of the season with a knee sprain.
The only other returnees are Byron Marshall, who is being cross-trained as a wide receiver, and Mathews. Pederson and Eagles executive Howie Roseman prominently mentioned Mathews during the draft - the oft-injured veteran is expected to be waived once he fully recovers from neck surgery - but he didn't even warrant a shout out when Pederson was asked about running back on Friday.
Pederson would only say, when asked about Mathews' injury, that there was no timetable for his return. With Mathews out, and Sproles likely to miss voluntary organized team activities in two weeks - he has preferred to work out near his family in San Diego - Smallwood and the rookies will not be lacking in practice repetitions.
Until the players are in full pads and hit during training camp it will be difficult to assess Clement and Pumphrey. They are essentially competing against air. And with a bigger back like Clement, it may take until the preseason to really gauge him against NFL competition.
"He's physical," Pederson said.
Clement said that he weighed in at 225 pounds on Thursday. While Staley wants him to get down to 217, he's almost 50 pounds heavier than Pumphrey, who said he tipped the scales at 176, 17 pounds heavier than Smallwood's listed weight and 35 pounds heavier than Sproles.
"I think I can be utilized in short yardage situations," Clement said, "but at the same time I can always hit the hole and run if need be."
Clement didn't become the primary running back in college until his senior season. In his first two years, he was the change-of-pace complement to Melvin Gordon and rushed for 1,496 yards and averaged 7.0 yards a carry. As the featured guy last season, he totaled 1,375 yards and averaged 4.4 yards.
Many analysts expected him to be drafted on the third day and Pederson said the Eagles had him on their board, but for some reason his name was never announced.
"I thought I was amongst one of the best in the class," Clement said. "I was very shocked, I was very, in other words, just pissed off that I didn't my chance to get my name called on draft day. Some of the best [in] history are guys who are undrafted."
Clement didn't fare particularly well at the combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in just 4.68 seconds. But he ran a 4.54 at his pro day and how many times does a running back need to run 40 yards over the course of a game?
"It's not a 10-yard race, it's not a 40-yard race, it's all about who's going to last on that field for four quarters," Clement said. "If they want a guy who's more competitive throughout the game, I'm the guy."
But he must show that he can also contribute on special teams to make the roster. And if he wants to be the guy on offense he must beat out Smallwood and the diminutive Pumphrey.
There haven't been many three-down tailbacks as small to have distinguished careers in the NFL. Pumphrey, who said he hopes to gain an additional 5-10 pounds, mentioned Warrick Dunn. But the San Diego State product, who set the NCAA mark for career rushing yards, has been proving doubters wrong for years.
"I just show them. I don't really answer questions," Pumphrey said. "When I take the field I do what I can."