LOS ANGELES — Standing against a bright red wall in the bowels of the historic LA Coliseum, Wendell Smallwood started praising Nick Foles.
After all, it was Foles who returned from 12 weeks on the bench to lead the Eagles in their biggest win of the season in typical Foles storybook fashion.
“He’s just always ready,” Smallwood marveled.
Hey … that sounds familiar.
Because for the last month, Smallwood was just a backup waiting for his chance too. With the ascension of Josh Adams into a more prominent role in the running back rotation, Smallwood had sort of become the forgotten man. A snap here, a snap there, but nothing very meaningful.
Until Sunday night.
“That’s a part of this game,” Smallwood said. “You never know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what’s going to go down. No matter where you are on the depth chart, it don’t matter. Guys get hurt. It’s just how the games go. When your number gets called, you gotta stay ready. We’re professionals, that’s what you gotta do. When an opportunity presents itself, you have to take advantage of it.”
The unlikeliest of heroes entering Sunday night’s 30-23 road win over the Rams, Smallwood led the Eagles’ running back rotation with 10 carries for 48 yards and two touchdowns (see snap counts). Smallwood hadn’t gotten double-digit carries since the first Giants game back on Oct. 11. He hadn’t been in the end zone since Sept. 23.
And entering Sunday’s game, Smallwood had just three career rushing touchdowns — one in each of his first three NFL seasons. On Sunday night, he had two in the third quarter, about nine minutes apart.
In his last five games, Smallwood had a total of five carries and didn’t have a single carry in two of those games. That’s after he spent the first half of the season as a pretty big part of that running back rotation. On Sunday, Adams missed time as he was evaluated for a concussion and later because of a back injury. Smallwood took the opportunity and made the most of it.
“If you get hot and you’re out there making plays, they’re going to keep you in,” Smallwood said. “They’re not going to take you out. They’re just not going to stop giving you the ball. That’s how it was for me tonight. I found myself on the field more than I thought I would be and it’s just because I had the hot hand. It felt good.”
Smallwood did admit it wasn’t easy for him to take a backseat in the running back rotation, but he claimed he never knows how much he’s going to play. The team can have a plan entering a game, but things change. That’s why he just tries to stay ready.
Smallwood said when he isn’t playing, he tries to watch the other running backs and pick up things from their games. He even watched last year’s game in L.A. to see how Jay Ajayi attacked the Rams.
“It’s just staying ready and preparing as if you’re going to be that guy,” he said, “and it just so happened the opportunity presented itself to me today.”
It’s not clear if Smallwood’s performance Sunday night will earn him more playing time going forward. But the one thing that’s clear is he’ll be ready if that opportunity presents itself.
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