As the Eagles prepared to face the Green Bay Packers last week, rookie Wendell Smallwood readied himself for a big role.
Then he got just nine carries.
It wasn’t that those carries went elsewhere, it was that the Eagles got away from the run game early in the 27-13 loss to the Packers despite being down one score for most of the game. Ultimately, he had half of the team’s carries.
On Friday, head coach Doug Pederson said the disparity in play-calling didn’t have anything to do with having Smallwood as the lead back instead of Ryan Mathews.
“Not really,” Pederson said. “Again, that’s something – when I go back ask evaluate after the game – it’s something I have to consider more of: Did I run the ball enough or throw the ball enough or not enough or did I do it too much, one way or the other. But no, that did not dispel anything, run or pass.”
For the second straight week, Mathews is out with an MCL sprain, which means Smallwood is preparing for a bigger role in the offense again. That could also mean his second career start in as many weeks.
Having gone through this process last week has made this week even easier.
“I think I’m very comfortable, more than I was last week,” Smallwood said. “I kind of knew I was going to have a lead role, kind of thinking about a lot, how to play better and take on the load that I was probably going to get. So this week, I think it was kind of natural for me, not really worrying about it.”
Smallwood, who was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, has 66 carries for 290 yards and one touchdown this season. Smallwood’s average of 4.4 yards per attempt is sixth in the league among rookie with at least 60 carries this season. He also has the most rushing yards of any Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown in 2012.
While the Eagles would probably have preferred to use Mathews more this season, the veteran has played just 53 more snaps than Smallwood.
Does Smallwood even feel like a rookie anymore?
“Nah, definitely not, definitely not,” he said with a smile. “Probably after Week 3 I stopped feeling like a rookie. And guys tell me all the time, ‘we need you to play, we don’t need you to be a rookie right now.’ So kind of forced not to be a rookie.”