Eagles

Way too soon to write off forgotten Eagles running back Josh Adams

Way too soon to write off forgotten Eagles running back Josh Adams

Every conversation we’ve had about Josh Adams this offseason, every podcast, every roster projection, every Twitter discussion, has come to the same conclusion.

“Oh, he's not going to make the team.”

It’s an understandable opinion.

The Eagles’ backfield is crowded. Corey Clement is back, Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard have been added, Boston Scott had an impressive summer. Wendell Smallwood always seems to find a way to stick around. One-time fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey is still here.

And Adams? Because his production dropped late in the season and then he was the forgotten man in the postseason, playing just one combined snap against the Bears and Saints, we’ve all just kind of assumed he’s gone.

And maybe he is.

But let’s take a minute to take a fresh look at Adams.

There was a stretch in the middle of last season when he was actually one of the more productive running backs in the league.

From Week 7 through Week 14, a span of seven games, Adams averaged 5.1 yards per carry, seventh-best among all running backs in the league who had at least 75 carries during that stretch.

Look at this stretch from the Jaguars game in London through the overtime loss to the Cowboys in Dallas:

9-for-61, 6.8 at Jaguars
7-for-47, 6.7 vs. Cowboys
7-for-53, 7.6 at Saints
22-for-84, 3.8, vs. Giants
20-for-85, 4.3 vs. Redskins
7-for-36, 5.1 at Cowboys

That’s solid, consistent production, especially for an undrafted rookie who began the year on the practice squad.

Here’s one thing I really liked about Adams: He was always good for at least one long run per game. During the seven-week stretch from the Jaguars game through the first Redskins game, he ripped off six runs of 18 yards or longer, and during that period, only Saquon Barkley (8) and Joe Mixon (7) had more in the entire NFL.

Now at some point late in the season, Adams hurt his shoulder seriously enough that he needed post-season surgery to repair a torn labrum.

It’s not clear when Adams got hurt, but he kept playing, and the injury would certainly help explain the late-season drop in production.

Adams averaged just 2.7 yards per carry the last three weeks of the regular season and then got that one postseason snap, a two-yard carry against the Bears.

But when evaluating Adams and his possible future as an Eagle, we have to take the injury into consideration.

Adams did enough during that two-month stretch in the middle of the season to at least warrant an honest look this summer.

Even starting the season on the practice squad, getting just 11 carries the first seven weeks of the season and then getting hurt, Adams still led the Eagles in rushing and became the 20th undrafted rookie in NFL history to rush for at least 500 yards, three or more TDs and an average of 4.3 yards per-carry or higher.

When you step back and look at his season, he was pretty darn good in all but the two December games against the Rams, the NFC champs, and the Texans, who had the No. 3 rush defense in the NFL.

Obviously, Sanders and Howard project to be the heart of the running attack. A healthy Clement can catch, run, block and play special teams. Smallwood and Scott can both run, catch and return.

Adams is limited. He isn’t a polished receiver — he caught just seven passes last year — and he plays very little on special teams — just 48 snaps as a rookie, only two in the last six games.

That puts him at a disadvantage from the start. So for him to win a spot on the 53 the Warrington native and former Notre Dame star has to have a healthy training camp and show exceptional production as a runner.

The odds are against him. But Adams is 22, he was the Eagles’ leading rusher last year, and undrafted rookies don’t have an eight-game stretch averaging 5.1 yards per carry by accident.

If we got rid of every rookie running back who had two mediocre games at the end of a productive season there wouldn’t be any running backs left.

Adams is talented. It’s tough to say where he fits in, but it’s way too early to say he doesn’t.

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Doug Pederson hints at big role for Greg Ward Jr. with Eagles this season  

Doug Pederson hints at big role for Greg Ward Jr. with Eagles this season  

Greg Ward Jr. became a great story for the Eagles last season, when he began the year on the practice squad and ended up being their best receiver down the stretch. 

But is he more than a good story? 

Doug Pederson seems to think so. 

The one thing now as he goes into this season, he's in that rotation, in that starting mix for us,” Pederson said on a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday. “It's just a matter of him embracing every day, getting better. Being a former quarterback, he understands our offense. Being in our offense, he knows the concepts and the routes. He and Carson (Wentz) have a really good feel for one another.

“I think for him now it's just a matter of continuing to get better each and every day and putting in the work. We expect some really big things from Greg. He can also be a leader. He can be a leader of that group. Him and DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, these guys, they can be leaders now and mentors to these young players.

In one year’s time, Ward has gone from practice squad player to being a leader in a wide receiver room that includes three draft picks, an undrafted rookie and a second-year draft pick. 

Ward, 25, is technically in Year 4 of his NFL career but he didn’t get a chance to play until the 2019 season and even then he didn’t play until November. 

Ward finished last season with 28 catches for 254 yards and a game-winning touchdown in a huge contest against Washington. 

Maybe Ward will never become a star player in the NFL, but he’s sure-handed, dependable and earned the trust of his quarterback and coaching staff last season. 

If you look at the Eagles’ group of receivers, Ward is probably the top candidate to win the slot job. DeSean Jackson is going to be the starting Z receiver and at the X the Eagles have Alshon Jeffery and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Rookie 1st-round pick Jalen Reagor is learning both outside spots. 

Eventually, could Reagor play in the slot? Absolutely. In fact, I’d love to see him in there because he’d bring an explosiveness to the position that Ward probably can’t offer. 

But Ward is going to play a lot in 2020. He’s going to have a chance to become more than a great story. 

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Eagles activate Jordan Mailata from Reserve/COVID-19 list

Eagles activate Jordan Mailata from Reserve/COVID-19 list

The entire Eagles roster will finally be back together on Thursday after the team activated Jordan Mailata from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. 

Mailata was the last remaining player on the list. And head coach Doug Pederson also returned to the NovaCare Complex yesterday after his positive COVID-19 test. 

Back on July 29, the Eagles placed Lane Johnson, Nathan Gerry and Mailata on the list. The Reserve/COVID-19 list is for players who either test positive for the coronavirus or who have been exposed to someone who has. Only Johnson publicly announced he contracted the virus. 

Gerry was activated on Aug. 9, Johnson on Aug. 11 and Mailata today. 

The Eagles have not put any other players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list since those original three back in July. 

This is a big season for Mailata, the 23-year-old former rugby player. He’s entering Year 3 in the NFL and has obviously been a project player. 

Earlier this offseason, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said he couldn’t give a real answer as to whether or not Mailata goes from project to legitimate backup in 2020, but he has seen some good signs. 

“I can say this: In the meetings that we have, the virtual meetings, he was a completely different guy in the meetings,” Stoutland said. “And, you’re going to say, ‘What do you mean by that?’ His confidence level. Because we require these guys to know a lot and to be able to convert blocking schemes and calls. Completely, completely different in the meeting. 

“Now, will that carry over to the field? Every morning when I come here I pray that’s what will happen. Do I think that will happen? Absolutely. But I can’t guarantee that. We’re going to find out, though. That’s what this is all about. And if it does carry over then we got action. We’re going to be in good shape.”

While Mailata missed over two weeks, he missed just one practice day. The Eagles were finally allowed to practice on Aug. 12. So Mailata will get the rest of the non-padded practices under his belt before the pads come on next Monday. 

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