Eagles' Smallwood yearns to come up big

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Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood, recovering from a hamstring injury, is hoping to impress head coach Doug Pederson in his first preseason game action against the Dolphins on Thursday night.

This is a big week for Wendell Smallwood, to make his case in the Eagles’ running back rotation. Smallwood has missed the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury but he returned to practice last week, and Sunday he said he is looking forward to playing this Thursday against the visiting Dolphins – who arrive for joint practices at NovaCare Monday and Tuesday.

“I feel great,” Smallwood said. “I had a lot of fun, had a lot of energy. I’m just happy to be back on the field. “

Smallwood was a workhorse in college at West Virginia, playing 38 games in three seasons, but since the Eagles drafted him in the fifth round last year, his durability has been open to question. Last training camp, Smallwood suffered a quad strain, then a concussion in the only preseason game he appeared in. Given more game reps down the stretch in his rookie season, he suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss the final three games.

Does he worry that the Eagles will conclude he gets hurt too much?

“It’s always there, but I’m not really too worried about it,” Smallwood said. “This is nothing to me; I can bounce back from it. I know how good I am, I know what I’m capable of.”

Smallwood knows it isn’t enough for him to know what he’s capable of, he needs to be able to show it against the Dolphins, in a game he labels “very important.”

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“It’s good to get a game plan in, its good to get those game reps. I don’t want my first live tackle to be in the real thing, Week 1. I’d rather go out and learn from my mistakes this week and just get better.

“I might’ve had three [plays] last preseason, and that was at Indianapolis [in the third game, which he left with a concussion]. That slowed me down getting into the game plan Week 1 vs. Cleveland … I’m not trying to have the same situation.”

Smallwood said he watched practice closely while he sat out, wanted to come back ready and mistake-free. Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley said Saturday that Smallwood was having the best camp of any Eagles runner when he went down.

“Today when I came out there, you could tell I’d been paying attention,” Smallwood said. “I didn’t have any mental errors, I was dialed in. I just picked up where I left off, basically.”