Eagles

'No doubt' Wendell Smallwood will have increased role after Darren Sproles' injury

'No doubt' Wendell Smallwood will have increased role after Darren Sproles' injury

It would be unfair to expect Wendell Smallwood to become Darren Sproles before Sunday's game in Los Angeles.

It's not going to happen. 

"I'm not sure you can ever replace 43 in that regard," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Tuesday. "He's just a unique player. But feel good about Wendell stepping up."

While Smallwood won't become Sproles, the Eagles are definitely going to lean on him throughout the rest of the 2017 season. Of the three running backs they were left with after the injury, Smallwood's set of skills most closely resembles that of Sproles, and Smallwood is now the most experienced back in the offense.

Even with the addition of Kenjon Barner (see story), Smallwood is likely going to be the main piece to fill the void Sproles' injury will leave for the Eagles' offense, especially on third downs. 

"There's no doubt Wendell is going to have an increased role," Reich said. "He's the guy ... I think all the guys have some third-down ability, but Wendell has really improved in that area. He's shown natural aptitude for it early, both from a protection standpoint and from a route-running standpoint."

The Eagles already showed a glimpse into their plans after Sproles went down Sunday. After the 13-year veteran left the game early in the second quarter, the Eagles faced 11 third-down situations the rest of the way; Smallwood was on the field for eight of them. LeGarrette Blount got the other three, one of which was a 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line. 

An area in which Smallwood has improved greatly from last season is in his pass protection. Smallwood said pass blocking is something running back coach Duce Staley harps on. When they watched film of the Giants game Tuesday, Staley was impressed and got the impression that the focus on technique is working. Likewise, Reich was impressed with Smallwood's blocking on Sunday, saying Smallwood did a good job against Steve Spagnuolo's complicated blitz schemes. 

Having the ability to block is a big part of a guy's ability to perform on third down. That becomes even more important for Smallwood now that Sproles is out for the rest of the season. 

"Yeah, it's huge," Smallwood said. "I'm just glad that I watched behind Darren and I learned his role in the third downs and the calls. And the things he's been getting, I've been learning it since I got here, behind him. Not saying I'm going to be required to do it as much as he was. But now he's gone, so someone has to step in and do it and I think I'm going to have to take on that role."

But pass protecting is just part of the duty for a running back on the field for third downs. Another important part is being able to catch the ball out of the backfield. It seems like Smallwood has the ability but has just nine catches in 16 career games. 

During his time with the Eagles, Sproles has averaged nine catches about every three games. He has 532 career catches and is one of the best receiving running backs in NFL history. 

While Smallwood won't become Sproles, he admitted he'll take on some of the burden of trying to replace him. After all, he's really close to his 34-year-old teammate. The two actually lived next to each other during Smallwood's rookie season last year and on Tuesday, Smallwood said he's been in near constant communication with Sproles since the injury. 

While Sproles hinted toward a possible comeback, Smallwood said the two hadn't talked about it. 

"He's doing good," Smallwood said. "He's a fighter and a competitor. I'm like, 'You had an ACL and you just walked off the field?' He was like, 'Man, I'm a fighter, I'm a bully.' I'm like, 'Yeah, you right.' And even when he thought he did something he was just like, 'Hey, check my knee out,' or something like that. He's a tough guy and I admire that guy to death."

Eagles LB Joe Walker named Ed Block Courage Award winner

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Eagles LB Joe Walker named Ed Block Courage Award winner

Eagles linebacker Joe Walker, who missed all of last year with a serious knee injury, has been voted by his teammates this year's Eagles recipient of the prestigious 2017 Ed Block Courage Award. 

Walker joins such hallowed names in Eagles history as Andre Waters, Kevin Turner, Correll Buckhalter, Chad Lewis and Jason Avant in receiving the award, given annually to a player on each team who shows a commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage on and off the field.   

Walker, a seventh-round pick out of Oregon in 2016, suffered a knee injury the second week of training camp last summer but bounced back to make the 53-man roster this year and has played in all six games for the 5-1 Eagles.

With Jordan Hicks hurt in the second half Thursday night in Charlotte, Walker played a career-high 13 snaps on defense against the Panthers. He's played 53 special teams snaps this year.

Ed Block was the Colts’ trainer from 1954 through 1977 after earning a Purple Heart in the Army under General Patton in the tank corps in World War II.

The 32 Ed Block Courage Award winners will be honored at the annual Ed Block Courage banquet in Baltimore this spring.

For more information on the program, go to www.EdBlock.org.

Here is a list of all the Eagles’ Ed Block Courage Award winners since the inception of the program in 1984: 
 
2017     Joe Walker
2016     Nolan Carroll
2015     Fletcher Cox
2014     Jeremy Maclin
2013     Jason Kelce
2012     Colt Anderson
2011     Mike Patterson
2010     Jason Avant
2009     Michael Vick
2008     Jon Dorenbos
2007     Montae Reagor
2006     Jerome McDougle
2005     Chad Lewis
2004     Derrick Burgess
2003     Correll Buckhalter
2002     Shawn Barber
2001     Duce Staley & Tommy Brasher
2000     Cecil Martin
1999     Mike Mamula
1998     Bobby Taylor
1997     Rhett Hall
1996     Kevin Turner
1995     Charlie Garner
1994     Fred Barnett
1993     Andre Waters
1992     Jerome Brown
1991     David Alexander
1990     Ron Solt
1989     Mike Quick
1988     Wes Hopkins
1987     Gerry Feehery
1986     Jody Schultz
1985     Ron Jaworski
1984     John Spagnola

Despite raising bar in 2017, Philadelphia won't host 2018 NFL draft

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Despite raising bar in 2017, Philadelphia won't host 2018 NFL draft

The City of Philadelphia did an incredible job hosting the 2017 draft.

And it still wasn't enough to keep the event. 

The NFL announced the 2018 draft will be held in the Dallas Cowboys' home, AT&T Stadium. Dallas — or technically Arlington, Texas — will be the third city to host the draft in three years, following Chicago and Philly. 

It has been rumored for months that Jerry Jones had his city as the favorite to host the next draft. Turns out those rumors were right. 

Good luck topping what Philly did in 2017 though. 

“Philadelphia raised the bar by taking the Draft to another level, and this new opportunity in Dallas will enable us to continue the event’s evolution and grow it even further,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We are grateful to the Dallas Cowboys, the cities of Arlington, Dallas, and Frisco, and the Dallas Sports Commission for their leadership in turning this vision into reality.” 

The 2018 draft will begin on April 26. The NFL's release said the draft site will include the field, stands and outdoor plazas. 

According to the NFL, at the 2017 draft, a record 250,000 fans attended the three-day event along the Ben Franklin Parkway. The estimated economic impact for the city was $94.9 million. 

“The Draft was a family-friendly event for Philadelphians and visitors across the country,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “I thank all of our public and private partners, especially the City employees and first responders, who made this event a success and allowed Philly to shine in the national spotlight once again.”

Aside from the numbers, the draft in Philly was aesthetically pleasing. The television shots from the Parkway were gorgeous and the vibe around the entire event was special. 

Things went so well, NFL senior vice president of events Peter O'Reilly said the draft in Philly was a "resounding success." 

It won't be coming back in 2018, but the next time it does, the city will be ready.