Before the Eagles' Oct. 11 game against the New York Giants, with Jay Ajayi lost for the season with a knee injury, Corey Clement told Howie Roseman that the Eagles didn't need help at running back. The suggestion was that the Eagles had what they needed for the running game in their own locker room.
And there was hope that Clement, who had a promising rookie season in 2017 and was the leading Eagles receiver in the Super Bowl, could be the top running back in that group.
Six weeks later, the Eagles are preparing to play the Giants again. They didn't trade for a running back, going with the players already on the depth chart. But it's not Clement who is the lead running back. Instead, undrafted rookie Josh Adams led the Eagles in rushing in the last three games and emerged Sunday as the rusher the Eagles used most in their committee. His production, albeit with limited opportunities, warrants the playing time.
Against New Orleans, Adams played 55 percent of the offensive snaps , Clement played 27 percent, and Wendell Smallwood, only 8 percent. Adams rushed for 53 yards on seven carries, including the team's only touchdown. He is averaging 6.1 yards per carry this season – 2 yards better than any other running back, and almost 3 yards better than Clement's 3.4 yards per carry.
It's been a disappointing season for Clement, who had such hope for his budding career after the Super Bowl run. But Clement had injuries in training camp and the first month of the season and hasn't been able to match his production.
He dismissed the suggestion that he could still be recovering from a September quadriceps injury, while admitting that, mentally, he's "not where [he] needs to be right now, especially off last season." And it's because of the way he and the team are playing.
"Individual wise, I always want to be better," Clement said. "Things are not going as smooth as I wanted [them] to go. But it's part of the game. … I can complain about it, [or] suck it up, be a man, and be better at my craft. It comes down to utilizing every opportunity that I have here and making the most of it."
Clement averaged 4.3 yards per carry in his rookie season, and he was a valuable receiving threat during the postseason. He had five catches in the divisional round against Atlanta, and his Q-rating soared after finishing with 100 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
But every season is different, and the Eagles have gone away from Clement in recent weeks. Since Ajayi's injury, which corresponded with Clement's return from injury, he has not topped 37 percent of the offensive snaps in a game and has had fewer than 30 percent in the last three games, limiting his opportunities. At age 24 and with special-teams value, Clement will have the chance to restore his value. He became the team's primary kick returner after the bye week, offering another way to influence games. Clement had a 48-yard kickoff return on Sunday and has averaged 24.9 yards per return.
"I'm excited; kick return I see almost like a run play," Clement said. "Setting up a block, trying to sell the [kickoff coverage] one way and come back the other."
In the summer, Adams was compared to Clement, since the rookie was an undrafted rookie from the Philadelphia area (grew up in Warrington, attended Central Bucks South) and showed promise in the preseason. But the Eagles did not keep Adams on their initial 53-man roster, exposing him on waivers to 31 other teams. When he went unclaimed, the Eagles signed him to the practice squad.
After the Eagles' early injuries at running back, Adams quickly earned a promotion. The Eagles should now be thankful that Adams didn't get poached by another team, because he's demonstrated NFL talent. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Notre Dame product is a taller running back with a good burst when he can square his hips and head downfield.
"I don't think I look at it as I'm the top running back," Adams said. "I look at it as I was in that position … in the last game, but the position I'm in is to not only get myself better but to help this team however I'm called to help."
Adams said the year hasn't exactly been smooth, but he appreciates the road he's taken to reach this point. He left Notre Dame early, only to watch seven rounds of the draft pass without hearing his name called, and now he watches the undefeated Irish every weekend. But Adams said he never regretted his decision to leave because he had reasons for his family and himself, along with the support of Notre Dame.
"I didn't need the validation," Adams said. "God gave me talent to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, where I grew up. It's a dream come true."
The Eagles coaches have liked what they've seen from Adams and vowed last week to get him more involved. Even though Adams' playing time spiked, his production should earn him more carries. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh said the Eagles must stay on the field and get more plays, which would involve Adams more.
The play-calling can help, too. Adams got the ball on the first play of the Saints game and didn't touch it again until the second quarter, when the Eagles were down, 17-0. That's when he scored his touchdown. But when a team is in catch-up mode, it is not going to commit to the run. Groh admitted that running the ball could be one way to prolong drives.
"If we're getting production out of it, absolutely," Groh said. "But just handing the ball off isn't the answer. … We know the result, how the rest of the game went. So, absolutely. I mean, we know the formula for us is to be able to run the ball. That's helped us sustain drives and be able to have a lot of time of possession and get good production and be able to throw the ball down the field.We're very conscious of that."
However it comes, the Eagles need more points. And six weeks after the first Giants game, the Eagles are beginning to discover who their lead running back is.