Every conversation we’ve had about Josh Adams this offseason, every podcast, every roster projection, every Twitter discussion, has come to the same conclusion.
“Oh, he's not going to make the team.”
It’s an understandable opinion.
The Eagles’ backfield is crowded. Corey Clement is back, Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard have been added, Boston Scott had an impressive summer. Wendell Smallwood always seems to find a way to stick around. One-time fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey is still here.
And Adams? Because his production dropped late in the season and then he was the forgotten man in the postseason, playing just one combined snap against the Bears and Saints, we’ve all just kind of assumed he’s gone.
And maybe he is.
But let’s take a minute to take a fresh look at Adams.
There was a stretch in the middle of last season when he was actually one of the more productive running backs in the league.
From Week 7 through Week 14, a span of seven games, Adams averaged 5.1 yards per carry, seventh-best among all running backs in the league who had at least 75 carries during that stretch.
Look at this stretch from the Jaguars game in London through the overtime loss to the Cowboys in Dallas:
9-for-61, 6.8 at Jaguars
7-for-47, 6.7 vs. Cowboys
7-for-53, 7.6 at Saints
22-for-84, 3.8, vs. Giants
20-for-85, 4.3 vs. Redskins
7-for-36, 5.1 at Cowboys
That’s solid, consistent production, especially for an undrafted rookie who began the year on the practice squad.
Here’s one thing I really liked about Adams: He was always good for at least one long run per game. During the seven-week stretch from the Jaguars game through the first Redskins game, he ripped off six runs of 18 yards or longer, and during that period, only Saquon Barkley (8) and Joe Mixon (7) had more in the entire NFL.
Now at some point late in the season, Adams hurt his shoulder seriously enough that he needed post-season surgery to repair a torn labrum.
It’s not clear when Adams got hurt, but he kept playing, and the injury would certainly help explain the late-season drop in production.
Adams averaged just 2.7 yards per carry the last three weeks of the regular season and then got that one postseason snap, a two-yard carry against the Bears.
But when evaluating Adams and his possible future as an Eagle, we have to take the injury into consideration.
Adams did enough during that two-month stretch in the middle of the season to at least warrant an honest look this summer.
Even starting the season on the practice squad, getting just 11 carries the first seven weeks of the season and then getting hurt, Adams still led the Eagles in rushing and became the 20th undrafted rookie in NFL history to rush for at least 500 yards, three or more TDs and an average of 4.3 yards per-carry or higher.
When you step back and look at his season, he was pretty darn good in all but the two December games against the Rams, the NFC champs, and the Texans, who had the No. 3 rush defense in the NFL.
Obviously, Sanders and Howard project to be the heart of the running attack. A healthy Clement can catch, run, block and play special teams. Smallwood and Scott can both run, catch and return.
Adams is limited. He isn’t a polished receiver — he caught just seven passes last year — and he plays very little on special teams — just 48 snaps as a rookie, only two in the last six games.
That puts him at a disadvantage from the start. So for him to win a spot on the 53 the Warrington native and former Notre Dame star has to have a healthy training camp and show exceptional production as a runner.
The odds are against him. But Adams is 22, he was the Eagles’ leading rusher last year, and undrafted rookies don’t have an eight-game stretch averaging 5.1 yards per carry by accident.
If we got rid of every rookie running back who had two mediocre games at the end of a productive season there wouldn’t be any running backs left.
Adams is talented. It’s tough to say where he fits in, but it’s way too early to say he doesn’t.
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