Eagles

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.”

New NFL rules make defending Cam Newton harder than ever

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USA Today Images

New NFL rules make defending Cam Newton harder than ever

A big concern for the Eagles this weekend is figuring out exactly when Cam Newton is a passer and when he's a runner.
 
With Newton, there's often no clear line. He runs when it looks like he's going to throw, and he throws when it looks like he's going to run.
 
This makes him more dangerous than ever because the way officials are calling hits on quarterbacks, the Eagles' defenders have to be very careful how and when they hit Newton, even when it looks like he's going to take off scrambling.
 
Because the officials will still protect him as a quarterback until he's beyond the line of scrimmage and clearly established as a runner.

"It certainly makes it difficult," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "When he's sitting there like this (assumes QB stance), he's still a runner. He's protected like a passer, but he can run at any time, not just when he's out of the pocket. They have designed runs that are almost Wildcat-type plays. He's taken direct snap and running quarterback power and quarterback counter and things like that. If he's in a passing posture, he gets protection. If he's running, then he doesn't, but, again, sometimes you have a hard time deciphering between the two."

Newton has 4,528 rushing yards since entering the NFL in 2011, third-most in NFL history among quarterbacks behind two former Eagles — Michael Vick (6,109) and Randall Cunningham (4,928).
 
New Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner has incorporated Newton's running ability into the Carolina offense more than ever, to the point that Newton, at 29 years old, is on pace for a career high in rushing attempts. 

And while most running quarterbacks slow down as they get older, Newton is on pace for 666 rushing yards this year, which would be his second-most since 2012.
 
"Cam Newton has opened up every design run that you can imagine," Schwartz said. "They've really ramped up their designed quarterback runs this year over anything they've done in the past."

Schwartz spoke about what makes the Panthers' running game with Newton so dangerous.

Probably their willingness to do it in all down and distances and all field positions. There's a lot of teams that will run zone read stuff in the red zone or on a short yardage play. But Carolina, I don't think you can put any kind of constraint on down and distance. Third-down and whatever, you still got to handle the quarterback's designed runs, 2nd-and-20. I think (Sunday vs. the Redskins) they had 2nd-and-17 or 2nd-and-20, and they ran the quarterback. There's a lot of other teams you can take him off your radar in those situations. Not in this game. Every time that ball is snapped, whether it's a designed run or just an off-schedule scramble, we're going to have to account for him.

Newton is throwing the football better than ever, too. He's hitting on 66 percent of his passes — far over his career average of 59 percent — with nine TDs and four interceptions.
 
The Eagles have done OK against running quarterbacks, although they did allow Andrew Luck — a non-running QB — a career-long 33-yard scramble earlier this year.
 
Newton ran for 71 yards against the Eagles last year in Charlotte although he also threw three interceptions, and the Eagles won 28-23. 

Newton has faced all 31 teams other than the Panthers in his career and his lowest passer rating is against the Eagles at 69.4.

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Giants owner John Mara criticizes Odell Beckham Jr.

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Giants owner John Mara criticizes Odell Beckham Jr.

The New York Giants are imploding. 

They're 1-5 after the Eagles beat them up last Thursday night for their third straight loss and it looks like the Giants are in the middle of the same type of meltdown that led to the firing of Ben McAdoo before the end of last season. 

The maestro of mayhem this season has been Odell Beckham Jr., who had that now infamous interview next to Lil' Wayne when he said the team needed to play with more heart and seemed to pin some of the offensive struggles on Eli Manning. 

Now, the Giants' owner is pouring some gasoline on this dumpster fire. 

I'm sure OBJ, whom I watched pace the sideline like a crazy person and leave for halftime early a few days ago, will take this well. He's a very reasonable and sane person. 

At the start of this season, there were actually people who thought the Giants would be a challenger for the NFC East crown. They obviously have some real talent at several positions, but they did last year too. Again, they're a complete mess. 

The Giants are 1-5 through six games for the second consecutive season. Last year, they went 3-13. That seems on the table again in 2018. 

Mara touched on a few other subjects too. One was Manning.

Mara also said he's "embarrassed" that the Giants are 1-5. I suppose that's a good thing for the Giants. Because they're an embarrassing team right now. 

It just doesn't look like that's going to change anytime soon.

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