Adams running Eagles into the NFC East hunt

Off and running: Josh Adams had a big day on the ground for the Eagles in their win over the Giants. Source: Andy Lewis

If the Eagles are going to make a run at the NFC East title and a spot in the playoffs, they are going to need to fix the offense and score points consistently. To do that, they have to be balanced. They must run the ball better than they have so far this year.

In 2017, the Eagles rushed 473 times for 2,115 yards (4.5 yards per carry) as a team over 16 games. This year, the Birds have rushed 265 times for 1,109 yards (4.2 yards per carry) after 11 games.

With the loss of LeGarrette Blount to free agency and the loss of Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi to injuries, the Eagles have not had the horses to get the job done as well as they would have liked.

Second-year running back Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood, now in his third season, were all that head coach Doug Pederson had to turn to in his running back corps.

Most people didn’t count on much from rookie free agent Josh Adams out of Notre Dame.

The Bucks County native was a nice story about the Eagles giving a local kid, who was plagued by injuries in high school and college, a chance in training camp.

Adams may end up saving a season that seemed lost last week.

With a running attack that was fading each week; Pederson had little choice but to give the kid a chance. Over the last few games, Adams has looked more confident with each carry

Against New Orleans, Adams provided the only positive in the 48-7 loss. He rushed seven times for 53 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown run while it was still a competitive game. Adams also caught three passes for 19 yards.

Against the Giants, the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder rushed 22 times for 84 yards, including a crucial 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles their first lead of the game.

After the 25-22 comeback win against the Giants, Adams seemed more comfortable talking about his rising stock. And that approach was to stay humble.

“I just try and play my game,” Adams said. “I don’t try to compare myself to anybody. I just try and go out there and do what I know and that’s to get some yards and move the ball forward. I trust those guys up front. I just try and feel comfortable. Those guys make me feel comfortable. They give me a lot of respect when I get in the huddle. They say they’re counting on me. They don’t look at me as somebody who can’t make the play, they hold me to a higher standard and I want to make that pay off.”

Adams admitted his touchdown and yards against the Giants were much sweeter than his TD against the Saints.

“This one definitely feels better,” Adams said at his locker after the game Sunday. “Being home. My first home touchdown…this one actually feels like the it’s the first one. It felt great just being able to play in front of my family and a lot of my friends. It’s a blessing.”

Adams was a big part of the Eagles’ comeback, He rushed for 80 yards on 18 carries in the second half. On the 61-yard, seven-play touchdown-scoring drive in the fourth quarter, Adams rushed five times for 30 yards.

He could have had a blockbuster day if some things had gone his way in the first quarter.

Adams had a 52-yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty on center Jason Kelce. The drive stalled and, once again, the Eagles failed to score on their first possession.

The potential is obvious, and his teammates have noticed.

“That was big,” quarterback Carson Wentz said after the game. “He was big for us. Josh did a great job. He’s done a great job in everything we’ve asked him to do this year. Today, he got the workload and he did a great job. He took it and ran with it. At the same time, the offensive line did a great job to lean on them. They made some nice holes and then Josh finished the runs really well and we got it done.”

Wentz talked about how an effective running game helps him as a quarterback:

“They always say that the running game is the best friend of the quarterback, and that was 100 percent true today. We leaned on them on that big drive to put us up late in the fourth. Did I even throw the ball? I think we just had a screen and other than that it was all handoffs. That was huge to just lean on those guys, and they did a great job.”

Adams attended Central Bucks South High School in Warrington. As a sophomore, he rushed for 2,085 yards and 28 touchdowns. He rushed for 738 yards and 10 touchdowns his junior year in 2013 before suffering a torn ACL. As a senior, he came back and rushed for 1,623 yards with 25 touchdowns. He earned All-State honors as a running back and was given offensive player of the year honors, by USA Today.

Offensive tackle Lane Johnson gave his take on Adams and his effort against the Giants.

“He’s fast, man,” Johnson said. “He’s really quick, he’s getting his knee healthy. He goes about his business, really smart and doesn’t say a whole lot. He’s one of those guys that’s just a silent killer. As the season has gone on, he keeps improving and improving and I’m really proud of what he did today.”

As a team, the Eagles rushed 29 times for 127 yards and a solid 4.4 yards per carry.

Adams knows that in the NFL he must be able to protect the quarterback when he is not getting the ball. The Eagles have improved in that area but must get better for the home stretch.

“I think I’ve made a lot of progress from when I first started,” Adams said. “I felt in this game I did a pretty good job. Obviously, there is always room for improvement, I don’t think I’ll ever get to where I want to be, but I’m going to get pretty close to that. In practice, I try to work on something new every day and make sure I build on that and not go backwards.” ••

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