Trade for Jay Ajayi may make Wendell Smallwood Eagles’ odd man out


Five is an odd quantity. It’s additionally the variety of working backs the Eagles have after buying and selling for Jay Ajayi.

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Of the group, LeGarrette Blount was regarded as the one most straight affected by Ajayi’s arrival. And, by way of snaps and carries per sport, that’s doable. But one working again is unlikely to decorate on Sunday.

And Wendell Smallwood, who had his fewest snaps and carries on Sunday, could be essentially the most believable candidate to take a seat Sunday towards the Broncos — and within the foreseeable future.

“I don’t think there’s going to be an odd man out,” Smallwood stated Thursday. “I think it’s going to be a game plan every week, and every week the game plan is different or may stay the same. You never know.”

Eagles coaches have stated that Smallwood’s 13 snaps and one carry towards the 49ers had been primarily based upon state of affairs. Blount led the way in which (35 snaps and 16 carries), adopted by Corey Clement (19 snaps and 10 carries), Smallwood and Kenjon Barner (4 snaps and no carries).

But within the earlier three video games he performed, Smallwood had essentially the most snaps in two and just one lower than Blount. Eagles coach Doug Pederson stated there was no correlation between Smallwood’s lowered taking part in time towards San Francisco and the Tuesday commerce deadline transfer to ambad Ajayi.


How will LeGarrette Blount cope with Jay Ajayi’s arrival?

And he even stated that Smallwood’s function wouldn’t change.

“Nothing changes with Wendell,” Pederson stated. “We just keep him coming and keep feeding him when we can.”

But Pederson stated basically the identical of Blount. Something should change. If Barner didn’t return punts, he would probably be the odd man out. But the Eagles stored him on the roster for that cause, which implies that he must be lively on Sunday.

Clement was behind Smallwood on the offensive depth chart initially of the season. But he has slowly moved up the pecking order, and Clement has developed into one of many Eagles’ key cowl guys on particular groups.

Smallwood returns kicks, however that’s basically all he does on particular groups, and Clement and Barner also can return kicks.

If one of many working backs had been clearly above the remainder in go safety, his job on Sunday’s can be safe. But nobody has been capable of block constantly. Smallwood appeared improved earlier within the 12 months, however then he suffered a knee harm in Week four and missed the following two video games.

Injuries have been a difficulty for Smallwood since he was drafted within the fifth spherical in 2016. He missed most of coaching camp final 12 months and the ultimate three video games of the season with a knee harm. He began off sturdy this camp, however one other hamstring harm sidelined him in the course of the preseason.

And simply when he gave the impression to be locking down Sproles’ third down job, he injured his knee towards the Chargers.

“I think it just slowed me down a little bit missing the two games and getting kind of thrown back in there, and them having to sort of ease me in,” Smallwood stated.

But he averaged solely Three.1 yards a carry when he returned towards Washington and blocking was again to being a difficulty.

“Most of our [practice] day is pbad protection,” Smallwood stated. “Running the ball is really not the most important thing. Catching the ball is not. Pbad protection. As soon as I step in the building I have to learn protections before I move on to anything.”

Assistant coach Duce Staley, himself a top-notch blocker throughout his taking part in days, has hammered his chargers with all types of blocking and blitz-pick up drills. He’s additionally tasked with easing Ajayi, who left the Dolphins below a cloud of studies about his mentality, into the working again room.

“He’s the great equalizer in that room,” Pederson stated of Staley. He added: “He has the right demeanor to deal with LeGarrette, to deal with Wendell, to deal with all the guys we have.”

Smallwood stated that group was shocked after they realized of the commerce for Ajayi, however that “we knew what we were getting with him and we know they’re trying to make this team better.”

It was a transfer made for the brief time period, however with Ajayi below contract at low price via subsequent season it was additionally one made with an eye fixed towards the long run. Blount’s contract is up after this 12 months, however Smallwood is right here for 2 extra years.

Does he fear about his future with the Eagles?

“You got to always have that fire,” Smallwood stated.

Blitz repair

While there isn’t a searchable public engine for calculating league-wide blitzes, Doug Pederson stated after the 49ers sport that the Eagles had the most-blitzed offense within the NFL. True or not, it has appeared like rather a lot.

Pederson stated that defensive coordinators had been sending further go rushers due to Carson Wentz’s mobility. Wentz stated he had no thought why he was seemingly seeing extra blitzes than different quarterbacks.

“I feel like we’ve handled it for the most part pretty well,” Wentz stated Wednesday. “Sometimes [the blitzes] get home. I’m not exactly sure why, but we’ve got to keep handling it. At the same time, any time a team does pressure there’s a chance for big plays.”

Camera icon CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Carson Wentz drops again to go as proper guard Brandon Brooks blocks San Francisco defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Most quarterbacks view the blitz as a possibility. More rushers imply fewer defenders in protection. Wentz has, general, been higher towards the blitz than he was final season when he had a 76.Three pbader ranking, based on ESPN. He had a 94.Three ranking towards the blitz via Week 5 and hit receiver Nelson Agholor for a 72-yard landing when the Cardinals despatched the home final month.

But the Panthers, Redskins and 49ers despatched comparatively the identical variety of blitzes the following three video games, even when Wentz nonetheless had the occasional success.

“We feel like we’re pretty good against it, but there’s some weeks that you’re going to look bad,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich stated. “We tell Carson this all the time, ‘Hey, you’re going to get it wrong one time. You’re not going to see something or they are going to disguise it and they could make you look bad.’”

The 49ers blitzed Wentz on simply 9 of 37 drops, however he accomplished only one go in seven makes an attempt for 5 yards. He was additionally sacked twice and scrambled as soon as for a yard.

There are numerous different theories for why the Eagles are seeing so many blitzes. Darren Sproles was simply their greatest go defending working again. But since he suffered a season-ending knee harm in Week Three, the offense has needed to depend on LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement and Kenjon Barner — and all of them have been inconsistent blockers.

The lack of left deal with Jason Peters may be an element, though he suffered his season-ending knee harm solely two video games in the past towards the Redskins.

Wentz is the frequent denominator. As nice as he’s been this season, his numbers whereas below stress haven’t been nice. While the blitz constitutes solely a portion of Pro Football Focus’s calculations, Wentz has accomplished solely 32.eight % of his pbades when below stress (30th within the NFL) and has a 59.eight pbader ranking (22d).

He stated that the Eagles have blitz conferences a pair instances every week and that he and middle Jason Kelce typically meet on their very own to go over pre-snap recognition and safety calls. Some of what they’ve seen from opposing defenses in current weeks, nonetheless, they hadn’t seen on movie.

“You’ve got to be ready for everything,” Kelce stated. “You’re doing a lot of film study and then you’ve got to be ready in the middle of games to say, ‘OK, this is what we were expecting, his is what we’re actually getting. Now how do we solve this?’ ”

Dime a dozen

The Eagles protection used its dime package deal on 12 of 66 snaps towards the 49ers — greater than some other time this season.

Was it as a result of the Eagles had been with out linebacker Jordan Hicks for a whole sport for the primary time or was it as a result of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wished to match sure San Francisco personnel?

The Eagles weren’t saying. But it was efficient sufficient to ascertain Schwartz utilizing it quickly. The 49ers averaged simply 2.6 yards per play towards the dime. Of the 12 performs, 11 got here on third down and San Francisco transformed simply 9.

“There are a lot of teams that play dime on every single third down,” Schwartz stated, “so it’s not unusual.”

Schwartz has been mixing up his personnel within the secondary, however security Corey Graham has usually been the sixth defensive again when linebacker Mychal Kendricks comes off the sphere. With Graham at sturdy security, Malcolm Jenkins performed a quasi-linebacker function close to the road.

“I was kind of whispering for it for a long time,” Jenkins stated. “You want to put your best guys on the field, even if sometimes it’s a disadvantage in certain parts.”

The Eagles weren’t at all times matching personnel when going dime, so generally that put them at a dimension drawback. The 49ers as soon as ran on third-and-five, however the Eagles stopped them wanting the primary down marker.

“If that’s what they choose to do, I guess you could say we are sort of dictating to them and forcing them to play to our hand,” Schwartz stated.

Jenkins helped blow up the play by taking up the pulling Garry Gilliam, who was knocked from the sport when the security’s authorized hit injured the 49ers deal with’s knee.

“If you are light in the box, if they have opportunities to run the ball, if they can capitalize on that, that’s something that needs to be addressed,” Schwartz stated. “But if we do our jobs and all the steps along the way, it shouldn’t be a problem for us.”

Five questions: Nigel Bradham

Camera icon YONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Eagles sturdy security Malcolm Jenkins (proper), outdoors linebacker Nigel Bradham and cornerback Jalen Mills cease San Francisco 49ers tight finish Garrett Celek. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer

  1. If you couldn’t play the place you now play within the NFL, which place would you wish to play? I’ll say security. You wish to hit guys over the center and you may get a number of picks. And I used to love [former Redskins safety] Sean Taylor rather a lot.
  2. What’s your least favourite a part of the week apply main as much as a sport? The first day we come again [after a game], which is Tuesday after we’ve bought to elevate weights.
  3. What’s the toughest you’ve ever been hit? My rookie 12 months [former NFL fullback] Vonta Leach — it was a lead block and he was simply so large and it was an enormous collision.
  4. What’s your favourite play you ever made in soccer? In highschool, I grabbed the working again and acted like I used to be going to deal with him, however grabbed the ball and took it and ran it in.
  5. When did you first badume that you just had been adequate to play within the NFL? When I used to be 5 I first made the objective that I used to be taking part in within the NFL.

Inside the sport

Torrey Smith’s taking part in time could also be in decline — he performed a season-low 46 % of the snaps towards the 49ers — however he has nonetheless discovered methods to be productive with out catching the ball.

The receiver drew his third go interference penalty on the season late within the second half of the 49ers sport when the Eagles had been forward solely Three-Zero. On third-and-15, Smith ran a publish route into the tip zone previous cornerback Dontae Johnson, who grabbed him.

“Torrey, if you had a meter on him, is probably running faster than he’s run all year long,” Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich stated. “To put a defender in a position where he’s compromised, where he has to extend himself further to commit interference. And if Torrey is maybe just going 98 percent, as opposed to 100, that’s probably not a penalty.”

The Eagles scored a landing on the following play.

The Eagles have performed six completely different cornerbacks this season. Injuries have performed a component in Jim Schwartz’s shuffling, however the defensive coordinator has more and more divvied up snaps to all his corners.

On Sunday, all 5 lively corners performed at the very least 27 % of the time — Jalen Mills (61 of 66 snaps), Dexter McDougle (32), Rasul Douglas (30), Jaylen Watkins (27) and Patrick Robinson (18), who left with a concussion. Even when starter Ronald Darby returns from an ankle harm, Schwartz could proceed to rotate.

Most groups desire to stay with simply three cornerbacks — two on the surface and one within the slot within the nickel. The Broncos — Sunday’s opponent — usually roll with Pro Bowlers Aqib Talib and Chris Harris on the surface and Bradley Roby inside.

Inside the locker room

After the Eagles protection pounded the 49ers, linebacker Mychal Kendricks was requested to clarify the mentality of the unit that’s first within the NFL towards the run.

“Kick bad, take names,” Kendricks stated.

He paused, turned to his left and known as all the way down to fellow linebacker Nigel Bradham, who was a number of locker stalls down.

Nigel, what’s the mentality of our protection proper now?

“Inflicting pain,” Bradham stated.

By the numbers


Number of landing pbades for Carson Wentz in October — essentially the most ever for an Eagles quarterback in a calendar month.


Number of go tackles for Jalen Mills, which is second to solely the Patriots’ Devin McCourtey (30) within the NFL. Mills has been focused extra instances (69) than any cornerback.


Catch proportion for Alshon Jeffery (28 of 62), which is 78th out of 79 NFL extensive receivers with greater than 20 targets. (49ers’ Marquise Goodwin is final at 43.5).

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