Wendell Smallwood happy to be back at practice, hoping to play Thursday vs. Steelers

Wendell Smallwood happy to be back at practice, hoping to play Thursday vs. Steelers

If it’s up to Eagles rookie running back Wendell Smallwood, he’ll be playing in the team’s second preseason game Thursday night in Pittsburgh.
Smallwood, who returned to practice on Saturday after missing nearly two weeks with a quad injury, is eager to compete but knows that he’ll have to be fully cleared by the team’s medical staff before that can happen. 
“I definitely believe I’m ready, I’m just limited to certain stuff I can do,” Smallwood said after Sunday night's open practice at Lincoln Financial Field. “But I think I ran well [Sunday]. I still feel it a little bit, but I’m getting healthier every day.
“I’m still kind of working my way through it. I’m almost full speed and running, but they’re just focused on easing me in slow. I did more today than I did yesterday, so that’s what they want.”
Smallwood on Sunday did not participate in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills, though he did take some snaps against the scout team. Smallwood said he expects to continue progressing and plans to be without limitations for Tuesday’s practice.
During his time on the sidelines, Smallwood tried to absorb as much knowledge as he could despite his frustration at not being able to compete.
“I learned a lot, especially from me sitting out,” Smallwood said. “Taking notes on those guys, seeing what they’re doing wrong and doing right, and seeing things I wouldn’t if I was practicing. Right now I can only watch their reps, and I think watching their reps is making me better. The same thing happened to me in college, I was out for a couple months, and I think I got better in the film room, in the classroom, and watching those guys, correcting those guys.”
However, Smallwood still knows that the practices and preseason opener he was forced to sit out would have been great opportunities for him to continue to develop and become more comfortable in a new offensive system.
“It’s been two weeks and I’ve missed a lot of ball,” he said. “I’ve missed reps that I definitely thought I would take advantage of … I think I would have gotten better with each of those reps. But with me sitting out, I just got to stay focused. [Running backs coach] Duce [Staley] is on me every day, he doesn’t let me drift away from the game.”
As Smallwood returns to full health, he understands the emotions his roommate Carson Wentz is dealing with (even though he admitted, with a smile, that he's never experienced the pain of a broken rib).
“I know him, he’s a competitor, and he couldn’t wait until the first game and to prove to everyone he’s the best quarterback and he was worth the draft pick,” Smallwood said. “So I know him being the competitor he is, he’s kind of upset right now.”
Smallwood is fortunate enough that his return to game action should happen earlier than for Wentz, who is aiming to play in the team’s final preseason game. Smallwood is itching to return but remains cautious as he thinks about his first taste of competition in the NFL.
“Staying healthy is always number one,” Smallwood said. “But [I want to] just leave my mark. It was kind of rough missing my first preseason game in the NFL, so I was kind of hurt watching. I’m just ready and eager to go and play.”
In the Eagles’ offensive system, Smallwood believes he can contribute in a variety of ways. Though he currently appears to be behind Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner on the depth chart, Smallwood could assume a significant role should any of those backs, including the injury-prone Mathews, get hurt.
“All that Doug [Pederson] asks from the running backs as far as running, catching, blocking, learning certain positions and learning different things, spreading out, going out wide — that’s what I’m eager to do in this league,” he said. “I was eager to do it in college, and I got to do it a little bit, so I think this is going to be the next step for me.”
During his final season at West Virginia, Smallwood rushed for 1,519 yards (14th-best in the country) and nine touchdowns, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He also caught 26 passes for 160 yards. While he obviously won’t be the focal point of the Eagles’ offense like he was at West Virginia, Smallwood said he actually thinks this system is better suited to his versatile skillset.
How often he gets to show off that ability will depend on how the coaches evaluate him compared to the other running backs on the roster. The players all recognize the reality of that competition, but according to Smallwood, there’s no tension between this group of Eagles running backs.
“I don’t believe anybody is selfish in anything we do,” Smallwood said. “We’re a unit and we help each other out. The [veteran backs] help us out. They’re not selfish in anything, trying to take stuff from us, because I’ve seen that happen before. But with this group, we’re one unit and when one of us succeeds, all of us succeed.

"I got pumped for them on Thursday in the game, and I know they’ll be pumped for me.”

Concert celebrating Eagles' Super Bowl season sounds pretty epic

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Concert celebrating Eagles' Super Bowl season sounds pretty epic

Eagles fans will probably never stop reliving the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.

While watching highlights, wearing championship apparel and occasionally just looking in the mirror and reminding yourself, "We won the Super Bowl" are all good ways of remembering what the Birds accomplished, there's a pretty unique new way that you'll be able to experience it all over again.

On July 24, the Mann Center will be hosting "A Championship Season," a special event to honor the Eagles. 

Going by the Mann Center's description, it should be an incredible night.

The Mann Center, NFL Films, and the Philadelphia Eagles take center stage this summer to celebrate the Eagles’ Championship Season with the world premiere of this “Philly Special” concert event. Hosted by the “Voice of the Eagles,” Merrill Reese, relive NFL Films’ stunning video highlights of the Philadelphia Eagles Championship Season on three giant screens alongside the great Philadelphia Orchestra, performing live the inspiring, uplifting and wonderfully symphonic music of NFL Films. 

Part of the proceeds from "A Championship Season" will benefit the Eagles Autism Challenge and the Mann Center's free art education programs. 

If you want to be part of the epic celebration, get your tickets here

Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

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Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

He was among the NFL’s best in virtually every category. Fourth in passer rating. First in touchdown percentage. Eighth in interception percentage. Second in TD-to-INT ratio. He was even third in wins despite missing the last three regular-season games.

So what’s Carson Wentz’s approach going into 2018?

“I think we can improve everywhere,” he said. “Overall, I think we can keep making strides and keep our foot on the gas.”

And that starts with completion percentage.

Wentz completed just 60.2 percent of his passes last year, which ranked 23rd of 30 quarterbacks who threw at least 400 passes. 

Ahead of only Blake Bortles, Andy Dalton, Mitch Trubisky, Cam Newton, Trevor Siemian, Jacoby Brissett and DeShone Kizer.

Not the kind of company he wants to keep.

Wentz was so good in every other area he still fashioned a passer rating over 100. In fact, his 101.9 rating was the highest in NFL history by a quarterback completing 60.2 percent of his passes (minimum 400 attempts).

The league average last year was 62 percent. And for the sake of comparison, Nick Foles completed 64.7 percent of his passes if you combine the regular season and postseason.

Wentz dropped from 62.4 percent as a rookie to 60.2 percent last year.

Among 36 active NFL quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 1,000 passes, Wentz’s 61.5 completion percentage ranks 21st.

 “I know I’d like to see my completions go higher,” Wentz said last week. “I think I was right around 60 percent and I expect more out of myself in that area.”

After 2016, Wentz identified red zone and third down as two areas he hoped to improve on. 

And he wound up leading the NFL in both red zone efficiency (NFL-best 116.3 passer rating) and third-down efficiency (NFL-best 123.7 rating).

“Third down, red zone, we were really good,” he said. “That’s something we really focused on from Year 1 to Year 2, but we (still) all feel we can definitely improve in those areas.”

Wentz also committed nine fumbles in 13 games, and only Jameis Winston and Russell Wilson had more.

“I think we had too many fumbles,” he said. “Balls on the ground too many times.”

Wentz, now nearly five months out from his knee injury, said he’s used a lot of his extra time at the NovaCare Complex this offseason focusing on what he can improve on in 2018, and one of those things is his upper-body strength.

“With all the extra rehab and not being able to run and do a lot of things early on you’ve really just got to focus on some different things and I got to do a lot of seated throwing and trying to build my arm strength and really take care of my upper body more than I have in the past,” he said.

“It’s been an interesting process not being able to get that true conditioning and that rehab in, but it’s exciting to start easing into the running and conditioning stuff. … 

“I feel good. I definitely feel working with the strength guys, we had some friendly competition stuff with the other (injured) guys in there rehabbing and I definitely feel like I’m making some strides in there.”