Corey Clement is making steady progress as an NFL rookie.
On the first play of his first game with the Eagles two weeks ago, the undrafted rookie running back from Glassboro, N.J., by way of the University of Wisconsin sped down the field and dropped Redskins kick returner Bashaud Breeland at the 16-yard line.
“I was wired up,’’ Clement said. “I was so happy to be playing in my first NFL game. You can only imagine what was going through my head. I used to watch these games on Sunday. Now, I’m playing in them.’’
Last week, Clement got his first offensive snap. He entered the game with five minutes left in the second quarter and ran a play fake on second-and-4.
This week, there is a very good chance that Clement will get the first of what he hopes will be many NFL carries.
Head coach Doug Pederson declared his team’s running back-by-committee ground game broken after Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. That could open the door for Clement.
“I hope so,’’ he said Wednesday. “But it’s all up to the coaches. I’m always going to be ready. Whatever they throw at me … I hope they give me a shot. I always want to prove something. I don’t think there’s any harm in me wanting to get the ball. It shows my desire to want to put the team in a positive light.’’
The Eagles need somebody to put their ground game in a positive light. In the first two games, just 33 of their 134 offensive plays, or 24.6 percent, have been called running plays.
Running backs had just 13 carries Sunday in a game in which they never trailed by more than three points until there were 6½ minutes left. Darren Sproles had 10 of those carries for 48 yards but ran the ball just three times in the second half.
Pederson doesn’t want to give the 34-year-old Sproles 10 carries a game. He’d prefer to use him more as a receiver and less as a runner. But somebody else has to step up.
LeGarrette Blount had 14 carries for 46 yards against the Redskins but had no carries Sunday and played a grand total of six offensive snaps. Wendell Smallwood has just 8 yards on seven carries and two catches for 2 yards.
Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley is a big fan of Clement.
“He does it all well,” Staley said a few weeks ago. “He reminds me of one of those old-school Honda Accords. You can put a lot of miles on them and they’re going to be consistent. And that’s what he’s been.
“I’m pleased with where he is. He’s one of those guys who comes to work, puts on the hard hat, grabs his lunch pail, goes out on the field and wants to know more and more and more.’’
Clement appreciated the high praise from a man who was one of his childhood sports heroes when he was growing up in Glassboro. Might have preferred being compared to something a little faster and sexier and more expensive, like say a Lamborghini. But he’s not complaining.
“Something a little faster would’ve been nice,’’ he said with a smile. “Lamborghinis are high-maintenance and I don’t want to be high-maintenance. So I’m cool with that. Accords do go a while. You can drive them 300,000-plus miles. So I’m cool with being a Honda Accord. Old reliable.’’
Rookie running backs don’t get on the field until they prove they can pass-protect. Especially when the guy you need to protect – Carson Wentz — is basically the future of the franchise.
Clement seldom had to block at Wisconsin. But he has worked hard at it since signing with the Eagles and has earned the coaching staff’s trust that he can pick up blitzes and protect Wentz.
“I have a lot of confidence in Corey,’’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich said this week. “He’s good in protection. He’s showed that. He has a good aptitude for it. He’s in the right place, blocking the right guy. And physically, he’s strong enough to hold up against most of the [line]backers that are rushing.’’
Clement’s playing weight at Wisconsin was around 225-230. He weighed 227 this spring when Staley approached him and suggested he drop some pounds before he returned for training camp.
Clement obliged. He reported back to the NovaCare Complex in late July at 216. Now, he’s a lean, mean 211.
“The best I’ve ever felt,’’ he said. “I’m able to hit the corners now. Next season, I’ll probably be even lighter. I feel a lot faster. Just being able to get in and out of my cuts is a lot easier as opposed to being 230 in pads.’’
Clement said if he plays Sunday against the Giants, he won’t let Wentz down in pass protection.
“When I’m in the backfield, whether it’s with Carson or Nick Foles or [practice-squad quarterback Nate] Sudfeld or any other quarterback, I feel I can protect them at all costs.
“I know where blitzes are coming from. Being a rookie, I may not be able to spell it out for you per se. But I know where I need to be at the right time.’’
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