Undrafted Corey Clement has become a red-zone specialist for Eagles

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Undrafted Corey Clement has become a red-zone specialist for Eagles

Nobody expected this from Corey Clement. If they did, they would have drafted him.

Clement, the Eagles' undrafted rookie tailback from Glassboro, New Jersey, has emerged as a key component of the NFL's top-ranked offense.

Specifically, Clement has proven to be an uncanny red-zone specialist. On an offense loaded with weapons, he's scored five touchdowns in nine games, all from the red zone. 

Only six players in the NFL have scored more red-zone touchdowns than Clement, and we're talking some pretty big names — Todd Gurley has nine, Mark Ingram, Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon have seven, and Zach Ertz and Jimmy Graham have six each.

So Gurley, Ingram, Elliott and Gordon — all first-round draft picks — are the only running backs with more red-zone TDs this year than a kid who went undrafted in April, was fighting just three months ago to make the Eagles' roster and doesn't even start.

What makes Clement's five red-zone touchdowns so remarkable is that he has only eight red-zone touches all year!

And that ranks him … pause for math … 92nd in the league.

So he's got the 92nd-most red-zone chances and the sixth-most red-zone touchdowns.

Now that's production.

"The end zone, to me, it smells like Christmas," Clement said. "Like Christmas morning. It's right there. Everything you want, everything you worked so hard for. 

"Now go get the payoff. A touchdown. Go get it. That's how I view it."

Clement has more red-zone TDs this year than LeSean McCoy (two), Carlos Hyde (four), LeGarrette Blount (three), Kareem Hunt (three) and Jonathan Stewart (two). 

And those five backs are averaging 42 red-zone touches each. Clement has eight.

"Some of it is just want-to," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "I think all of our players have a lot of want-to. But I put Corey — if we're talking small increments of want-to, they're all really grade A, A-plus. But Corey has that little bit of extra want-to. 

"That's always been something that stuck out about him, as far as I'm concerned, from Day 1 since he's been here."

Clement's five touchdowns are already the most by an Eagles rookie running back in 64 years and also the most by an undrafted Eagle in 64 years. 

In 1953, Don Johnson had seven touchdowns as a rookie and undrafted Hal Giancanelli had six. 

"I think it's just his attitude, his demeanor, his want-to and will, those are all what Corey is and who he is," head coach Doug Pederson said.

"He's a very violent, aggressive runner, and just loves ball. Any time he gets in there, he just goes 100 miles an hour and he is a smart guy. He's coachable. And he does exactly what you ask him to do and the results are paying off for him."

Clement actually has as many receiving touchdowns in his first nine NFL games (two) as he had in 39 games at Wisconsin.

He was never really a big part of Wisconsin's passing game because Wisconsin doesn't really have a passing game.

So what he's been able to do here as a pass blocker and receiver is really remarkable.

"That's a credit to Corey," Reich said. "You get a back from Wisconsin, you're not thinking pass protection. You're not thinking in that mode. But here's a guy who continues to show he's better in the pass game as a route runner than you thought he was going to be. He handles the protections extremely well. 

"I think some of that goes back to the want-to. He wants to play, and he wants to be on the field, and knows, especially with (Darren) Sproles being hurt, that gives him an opportunity."

And Clement has scored in a variety of ways.

He made a circus catch against the Redskins. He scored on a screen pass against the Broncos. He had a couple short-yardage rushing TDs against the Broncos, who hadn't allowed a rushing TD all year. And he had a 15-yard TD against the Giants on an outside run.

"You've got to be able to switch it up because defenses are smart in this league and they're going to figure out what you're good at," he said. "So if you can give them multiple things that you're good at, it's going to be a lot harder to stop you."

The Eagles are the NFL's best red-zone team. And an undrafted rookie from South Jersey has been their most productive red-zone weapon … aside from Carson Wentz, of course.

"I think you just have to have that want-to and that knack for sifting out the end zone," Clement said. "Game planning definitely goes into it and you have to have the players to execute. 

"Hey, every player in the NFL is good when it comes to getting into the end zone. You're right there, you've got to be able to do it. But I think it's the want-to factor of actually refusing to be denied that makes the difference when you're that close. 

"When I get the ball, I don't see anything else but the goal line."

Sidney Jones practices with Eagles for 1st time following Achilles injury

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Sidney Jones practices with Eagles for 1st time following Achilles injury

Sidney Jones went out for his first practice rep as a Philadelphia Eagle and had to resist the urge to break out in a huge smile.

"It was kickoff return," he said. "I was just so happy. I just looked around and couldn't believe it."

Jones, the Eagles' rookie second-round pick, practiced Wednesday for the first time since he blew out his Achilles during his pro day at the University of Washington back on March 11.

He probably won't play this year, but just being out there and practicing after 10 months of rehab was … indescribable.

"I can’t even describe how happy and excited I am," he said after practice. "It’s been a long road. I’m just happy to be back with my team.

“It’s been a long road to even play football. I haven’t played football since my last college game, which was approximately a year ago. It was a first step, and I can’t wait for the future."

The Eagles have a three-week window in which Jones is allowed to practice. After that, they have to either shut him down or activate him.

But Jones wasn't worried about any of that Wednesday. He was just thrilled to be on the field with the teammates who've helped him through this endless grind.

“It’s been a long journey," Jones said in his first interview since draft weekend in April. "I’ve had a great support system around me, everybody’s been helping me, telling me this, telling me that. 

"A few guys I reached out to or reached out to to me and gave me advice, people who’d hurt their Achilles before. Jason Peters helped me out a lot, Jordan Hicks helped me out a lot as well. Everybody’s been supportive."

The Eagles' defensive coaches threw a lot at Jones, treating him like a member of the active roster. He was in all the meetings, all the film sessions, out at practice watching. He prepared to play, even though he knew he couldn't.

It was all about keeping him engaged, keeping him involved, building toward 2018, when he'll presumably be a key member of this secondary.

"I think we'll see pretty quickly that he has a good grasp of what he's expected to do," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Keeping his ears open and his eyes open has been his No. 1 job description over these last six months.

"I've been really proud of what he's done there. I would be very surprised if he can't go in and execute what we're asking him to do. There's certainly a lot of rust that goes into it. With all due respect to our trainers, they are not a challenge to cover, and he's only been working with those guys. 

"So we've got to take each step along the way. It's almost like the first week of OTAs for him. It's not even really a first week of training camp. It's more like first week of OTAs for him." 

Jones said that when he was drafted, he didn't expect to get so much support from his teammates, but he said the other defensive backs have made sure he's felt a part of things throughout his rehab.

"I didn’t expect the league to be like this, but my teammates, my DB squad, they’re awesome, they’re terrific," he said. "Those are my brothers. 

"It’s a real brotherhood around here, and they’ve had my back every step of the way."

Jones, projected as a high first-round pick before his injury, said the past year has really taught him to appreciate the game more than he ever did.

“I was always grateful," he said. "In college I would go out and just every day think how grateful I am but now that it actually happened … and I got injured, I really have to be grateful because it could happen again. You never know when it’s going to happen. Just have to take every day like it's your last and go out there and give everything you’ve got."

Jones said his surgically reconstructed Achilles felt 100 percent at practice and he said he actually wasn't even thinking about it when he was out there running around.

He said he feels further behind physically than mentally.

“Just got to take it slow," he said. "I’ve got to get into shape first, that’s the biggest thing, so I don’t hurt any other body parts and stuff. Just trying to get better every day. It’s just a process.

"Just trying to get my feet wet so next year I’ll have some feet on the ground. Something to work with."

Nate Sudfeld has reasons to feel 'very confident' as Eagles' new backup QB

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Nate Sudfeld has reasons to feel 'very confident' as Eagles' new backup QB

Nate Sudfeld stood by his locker on Wednesday afternoon, early in his first week as the Eagles' backup quarterback, and claimed his game-day responsibilities won't change. He'll still be helping the starter to see coverages, go through plays and diagnose pressures. 

The only difference is he'll now wear a helmet and shoulder pads. 

Well, actually, there's one more difference. 

"I won't be dead tired when the game starts," Sudfeld said. 

During the first 14 weeks of the season, when Sudfeld was the Eagles' third-stringer, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo would put him through an intense 45-minute workout before each game. Sudfeld is grateful for those workouts, which helped him with throwing and footwork, but said DeFilippo "kills" him each week. 

Those workouts are over. Because come Sunday, thanks to Carson Wentz's torn left ACL, Sudfeld will be dressing for each game as the Eagles' backup quarterback behind Nick Foles. 

He's now just one play away from being the Eagles' starter. 

"I feel very confident," Sudfeld said. "I mean, I wasn't just sitting back, watching practice all year, just expecting to never play football. I was definitely getting ready in case something like this happened. It's my responsibility as a 3 to be ready to be a 2. One play away and then one more play away. So I definitely feel prepared being here however many weeks, 14 weeks, has really helped. But I've treated each week as if I was going to play. I feel very confident."

But the difference between Foles and Sudfeld is glaring. Foles has been a starting quarterback in the NFL before and even in Philadelphia (see story). He's been to a Pro Bowl. His experience has been lauded all week (see story).

Meanwhile, Sudfeld is 24. A sixth-round pick to Washington last season, he's never played in an NFL game. Heck, Sunday will be his first time dressing for an NFL game. He didn't even join the Eagles' active roster until early November, when the Birds signed him from the practice squad. And that was just to prevent the Colts from poaching him. 

Has the Eagles' faith in him as the backup validated his decision to stay? 

"I mean, I've always wanted to be here since I got here so I'm just very excited that they do think enough of me to give me the opportunity," Sudfeld said. "I'm looking forward to if my name does get called, being ready to go." 

Since joining the Eagles' active roster, he's been inactive every week. But the fact that they were willing to use a roster spot on him, knowing he would be inactive each week, speaks to the way the organization feels about him. 

Foles didn't hesitate during his press conference on Tuesday to include Sudfeld every time he mentioned the quarterback group. The two have grown extremely close during the last few months. 

"Nate's a tremendous player," Foles said. "I'm excited about his future. Really smart, works his butt off, he's got all the tools to be a great player in this league. He's been there. I'm always going to include Carson, me and Nate. That's just sort of how it's been every single day going to work. We're going to lean on that. I'm going to lean on Nate through this process and we have the kind of quarterback room where you can do that, so it's sort of awesome. He's a tremendous player and I'm excited about his future in this league."

While not much will change for Sudfeld on game day — unless of course something happens to Foles — his workload during the week is very different. With Foles now taking all of the first-team reps at practice, Sudfeld gets all the scout team reps. 

While he got a few scout team reps over the course of the last few months, most of his reps with the Eagles have been mental. Sudfeld has been in the building with Wentz and Foles every day to watch film at 6 a.m., the trio would prep for each team and go through everything together, but when they got onto the practice field, the top two guys got to play and Sudfeld became a spectator. 

Fans probably don't know much about Sudfeld. Until this week, there's a good chance most Eagles fans had never even heard of him. Well, Sudfeld was a sixth-round pick out of Indiana last year. He spent the entire 2016 season with Washington, but was cut on Sept. 2. The Eagles signed him to their practice squad the next day. 

What kind of quarterback is he? 

"It's hard to assess yourself," Sudfeld answered. "I'm very confident in my game and I think I can make all the throws. I think I can move if I have to. I think I know the game pretty well. I'm continuing to improve. I'm a work in progress, but excited what I know I can do."

Perhaps the thing Eagles fans might know best about Sudfeld is that he's tall, white and lanky, and folks would probably say he looked like Wentz if he didn't look exactly like Foles. He and Foles look so much alike that their teammates razz them for it and fans confuse the two (see story).

Just last week in Los Angeles, fans got the two confused. Fans thought Sudfeld was Foles, even though the Real Nick Foles was walking in uniform right in front of him. 

When it was pointed out to Sudfeld that no matter how well Foles plays, he'll probably feel it too. 

"True," Sudfeld said. "Hopefully he keeps doing what I know he can do so people love me walking down the street."