By Sam Bush
Former West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood is turning heads this week in Eagles OTA’s.
Smallwood has made the most of his chances due to the absence of running back Darren Sproles and the ongoing hernia recovery for running back Ryan Mathews.
Smallwood, as a result, has shown what he can do both as a runner and a receiver. That has drawn positive reviews from coach Doug Pederson.
“Here is a guy that I think can be explosive, has shown some explosiveness,” Pederson said. “I really like the fact how he catches the ball out of the backfield. I think that is something that is just a gift that he has. He’s a natural pass catcher. I like that part of him.”
Pederson likes it because the West Coast offense thrives on dual-threat running backs. Smallwood likes that he can enhance the tailback role by becoming a receiver from time to time.
“I love catching the ball,” Smallwood said. “I take pride in doing that. They ask me how good my hands are all the time and I say, ‘Great.’ I don’t back down from it. It’s a challenge that a lot of running backs can’t do, or are not willing to do. But I’m willing to do anything to make the team better. So I definitely think me running routes and lining up at receiver or in the slot definitely helps my game and my value.”
Value is the key word, especially in relation to the fact that Smallwood was available in round five. His legal entanglement surely helped contribute to the slide. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see what the fifth-round pick does this year in comparison to the No. 4 overall choice who plays tailback for Philly’s division rivals in Dallas.