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."

Roob's 10 observations: Wendell Smallwood's chances, Tom Brady-Nick Foles handshake, Bryce Brown's elite company

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Roob's 10 observations: Wendell Smallwood's chances, Tom Brady-Nick Foles handshake, Bryce Brown's elite company

Wendell Smallwood working his way back into the running back picture, the bizarre NFL career of Bryce Brown, Michael Bennett and Shakespeare, the handshake that never was and Brian Westbrook’s 2006 postseason.

Only one place you’re getting all this!

It’s all this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations, and it starts here:

1. It’s been interesting watching Wendell Smallwood this preseason. He’s a guy who when training camp began I didn’t give much of a chance to, only because he’s never been able to stay healthy and the Eagles went into camp with a deep, talented stable of backs. But while Matt Jones, Josh Adams and Donnel Pumphrey have been banged up and on and off the field, Smallwood has not only stayed healthy, he’s made the most of his reps. He looks terrific. I’ve always felt Smallwood is a talented kid. I wrote about him last week and how he spent the offseason learning how to take better care of himself, and so far it’s paying off. Much of making an NFL roster is simply handling the workload during camp and proving to your coaches that they can rely on you. And Smallwood hasn’t missed a rep. This preseason. Not one. So far he’s outlasted the other guys in that battle for the fourth running back spot behind Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles. Has he done enough? With a couple weeks before final cuts, it’s too early to say. But he’s definitely worked himself from the brink back into the mix.

2. I’ve been disappointed by Mack Hollins’ training camp. He’s one guy I expected to make a big leap in Year 2, and while he still might, he hasn’t flashed yet. Shelton Gibson and Bryce Treggs have both outplayed Hollins in practice. Hollins has that great size and is a valued special teamer and as a second-year fourth-round pick he’s probably got the team made. But I expected to see more. Treggs is another guy who was off the radar when camp began but has that great speed and keeps showing up at practice. And Gibson simply looks like a different guy from last year. The depth the Eagles have at wideout is insane. Guys like Rashard Davis, Greg Ward Jr. and DeAndre Carter probably have no shot to make the team, but once upon a time, they would have been starters around here.

3. Michael Bennett is an interesting dude. Someone in the locker room used the phrase, “All’s well that ends well,” and he said, “Where’s that phrase from?” I said it’s the name of a Shakespeare play, and he said, “A lot of people think Shakespeare wasn’t a real person.” I said, “Yeah, there’s a theory that he was three different people.” His response: “I’m three different people.” 

4. I know a lot of people think the whole “Tom Brady hasn’t shaken Nick Foles’ hand” thing is overblown, but it really bothers me. There are certain customs in sports that are there for a reason. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever, and he should have sought out Nick either on the field immediately after the game or somewhere after the game — the lockers weren’t too far apart. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but sportsmanship means a lot to me. I know one thing: If the Patriots won that game, Nick Foles would have found Tom Brady, told him “Great job,” and shook his hand. 

5. Brian Westbrook’s 2006 postseason was insane. He rushed 20 times for 141 yards against the Giants and 13 times for 116 yards against the Saints. His average of 7.8 yards per carry is second-highest in NFL history in a single postseason (minimum 30 carries) behind Hall of Famer Marcus Allen’s 8.03 in 1983. He’s the only back in NFL history with back-to-back playoff games with 100 rushing yards, a 7.0 average and a touchdown. His 257 rushing yards are third-most in NFL history by a back in a two-game postseason (behind Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson in 1985 and Arian Foster in 2011). 

6. I love listening to Doug Pederson talk about why he’s so aggressive as a play caller. Because generally, he admits he really has no idea. I think it almost evolved by accident. He started going for it on fourth down in 2016 with nothing at stake and it started working, and he just felt comfortable doing it, and he just got in that habit, and the team got used to it and enjoyed it, and by the time the Super Bowl came along it had developed into his personality and the team was completely in step with him, and the success of the Philly Special was the product of that. You can’t run that play if you’re the least bit tight or indecisive, but the team had gotten so used to Pederson doing anything at any time in any situation it was just another play. The man is a genius.

7. Chip Kelly and Pederson have the same number of regular-season wins after two years. 

8. You figured that had to be wrong so you looked it up, didn’t you!

9. I’ve never seen an assistant coach grow as much as Frank Reich did in his two years with the Eagles. When he first started out as Doug’s offensive coordinator, he seemed to be painfully shy around the media, gave one-word or brief answers during press conferences and appeared generally uninterested in providing anything remotely revealing about football or the players he coached. By the time he left, he was one of the most interesting, insightful and quotable assistant coaches I’ve ever been around, and his commentary after the Super Bowl about Nick Foles’ performance was brilliant. I’m convinced this transformation had a lot to do with him getting the Colts head coaching job. Teams don’t want a head coach who can’t handle the media, and Frank in a very short time went from a guy who wasn’t comfortable in those situations to one who embraced them.

10. Bryce Brown had one of the strangest career arcs in Eagles history. He averaged 15 yards in his first 10 NFL games and 19 yards in his last 30 NFL games. In between, with LeSean McCoy injured, he ran for 178 yards on just 19 carries against the Panthers and 169 yards on 24 carries against the Cowboys, with two TDs in each game. Only three players in NFL history have had consecutive games with 165 rushing yards, a 7.0 average and 2 TDs — LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders and … Bryce Brown. Other than those two historic games in a seven-day span, he averaged 3.5 yards per carry and 18 yards per game. But for a brief bit of an otherwise forgettable 2012 season, he made NFL history. 

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye podcast: Previewing second preseason game

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Eagle Eye podcast: Previewing second preseason game

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss the likelihood of Carson Wentz not being healthy for the regular-season opener. Is this the best team Doug Pederson has had in Philadelphia? Also, how do players approach the second preseason game?

1:00 - Updating Carson Wentz's status.
4:00 - Guys still confident Wentz will start against the Falcons?
7:00 - Doug Pederson says this is the deepest team he's had.
10:30 - Doug Pederson and Nick Foles speak about preseason snaps.
15:00 - How do players approach the second preseason game?

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