Philadelphia Eagles: The Wendell Smallwood-era is all but over

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

After three-years playing for his hometown team, it looks like the Wendell Smallwood-era of Philadelphia Eagles history has officially come to an end.

When New York Jets linebacker Blake Cashman forced a fumble on Wendell Smallwood in the first quarter of the Philadelphia Eagles‘ final preseason game, it felt like a fitting end to a weird era of football in the City of Brotherly Love.

While the Eagles have been among the best teams in the league since Smallwood joined the team in 2016, they’ve also been without a traditional bell-cow running back – with Darren Sproles serving as the team’s longest-tenured ball carrier.

Granted, no one really expected Smallwood to come in and immediately become the next Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, or LeSean McCoy, the ex-West Virginia Mountaineer flashed signs of starting-caliber play when his number was called.

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But with that first-quarter fumble, the Smallwood-era may be over before it even had a chance to start.

Over the last three seasons, Smallwood has earned 211 carries for 850 yards and five touchdowns. While those numbers are fairly modest in the modern NFL, as 19 players rushed for more yards than that in 2019 alone, they’re actually the most of all of the Eagles running backs over that tenure combined.

That’s right, while players like Josh Adams, LeGarrette Blount, and Ryan Mathews all rushed for more yards in a single season than Smallwood, none of those players did so with any sort of consistency.

But still, Smallwood’s fairly consistent four yards per attempt wasn’t good enough to garner an increased workload in 2019 – far from it in fact.

As Smallwood prepared to enter the final season of his rookie contract, Howie Roseman and company stepped up to bat and added a pair of starting-caliber running backs in the offseason in Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard.

Much like Smallwood, Howard was also a member of the 2016 NFL Draft class, but with a starting role in Chicago, the former Bear ran rampant on the league to the tune of an average of 1,123 yards on 260 attempts a season.

Sure, we may never know what kind of damage Smallwood could do with that many carries, as he would nary receive a snap for the Eagles as their fifth-string runningback, that may no longer be an issue worth dissecting, as the Wilmington native appears a very, very long shot to make the final 53 man roster.

No matter how you slice it, there just isn’t a spot on the Eagles roster if they only keep four running backs, and even if they were to keep five, 2018 lead rusher Josh Adams would likely earn the nod because of his age, contract, and upside as a supersized power back.

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While Wendell Smallwood can do a lot of things pretty well, from rushing inside, rushing outside, catching the ball out of the backfield, and returning kicks, he’s proven to be a master of none, and in a league where specialization is king, its hard to justify his inclusion on the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster in Week 1.