Don't give that fourth running back spot to Corey Clement just yet.
Wendell Smallwood isn't going to go down quietly.
Smallwood, the Eagles' second-year running back from West Virginia, is back practicing with no restrictions after missing nearly two weeks with a hamstring injury.
Smallwood has yet to play in a preseason game, and with undrafted rookie Clement acquitting himself well both at practice and in the first couple preseason games, the pressure is on Smallwood to produce soon to secure a roster spot.
“It was real frustrating," Smallwood said after practice Monday. "Just missing those reps, missing two straight preseason games, not being able to get better. You get better with those game reps and those practice reps, so I think I need to start taking advantage of every one I have."
Smallwood got hurt two weeks ago Monday, and although he returned on a limited basis last week, Monday's practice with the Dolphins was his first with no restrictions since he got hurt.
He looked good. He looked fast and physical. And he said he finally feels 100 percent.
“I think so," he said. "I feel good. Today I forgot about it. Wasn’t even thinking about the injury. Didn’t think twice about cuts, running, bursting, anything like that. I think I got it back.
"It’s a huge relief just because last week practicing I could sense that it was still there and I was still kind of thinking about it, and the coaches could sense it, so being this week, I’m full go, it’s not bothering me. You could see I got some of my burst back. I’m good."
Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Monday that Smallwood is more of an every-down back than he first realized.
"You know, I think Wendell is a true three-down back," he said. "When we first drafted him, I kind of looked at him as more like a first- and second-down back. I thought he would be OK on third down, but really he's turned out to be better on third down than I thought.
"So really I think he is a very versatile back who knows protections very well, who runs good routes, who catches the ball well. And then I think he's a slashing runner on first and second down, so we like that combination. He's done very well. He works very hard at it. Love him mentally, and really glad he's in the mix."
Smallwood played well early last year before he admittedly got out of shape, hurt his knee and wound up on injured reserve.
He ran for 79 yards against the Steelers and 70 against the Falcons — the Eagles' two biggest wins of the year — before fading later in the season.
He said learning how to work through an injury is an important lesson for a young NFL player.
"I’m definitely more equipped in my second year getting hurt than my first year because I dealt with it differently," he said. "I let it get to me a lot and kind of shied away from the game, but this year I got more into the game.
“It was frustrating, but I stayed into the game plan, stayed in my playbook, [and] I didn’t let it get to me. I stayed dialed in. It was frustrating to me, but I know what I can do and I know what I’m capable of. I’m right back out here and I’m ready to go, and I’m full go."
Much has been made of the Eagles' struggles running the ball this preseason.
LeGarrette Blount is averaging 1.9 yards on nine carries, rookie fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey has two yards on seven carries, Clement and Byron Marshall are both averaging under 4.0 yards per carry, and Darren Sproles and Smallwood haven't gotten any carries.
As a group, the Eagles' running backs are averaging 2.4 yards per carry.
The Eagles finish the preseason against the Dolphins at the Linc Thursday — the first offense is expected to play into the third quarter — and at the Meadowlands against the Jets, when most starters won't paly.
Smallwood knows people are already questioning the Eagles' running game.
“We sense it, we hear it, but like Doug (Pederson) said, we’re not going to overreact, we’re not going to underreact," he said. "It’s preseason, we’re going to get better at it, we know what we’re capable of doing. We’re not going to let it get to us that much.
“This game is going to be the one where we dial up the run and show how we can run the ball."
And it needs to be the game that Smallwood does the same thing.
“I’m definitely very hungry," he said. "I missed a lot of reps and missed a lot of game reps that could have made me better. So this is my chance to take it and go full throttle.
“It’s the game, man. It’s my welcome home party. I’m back on the field, going to go out there, I'm going to get some plays, I’m going to get some runs, going to get some passes. It’s real important for me."
Smallwood finished last year with a 4.1 rushing average, becoming only the fourth Eagles rookie running back to rush for 300 yards with an average of 4.0 or more in the last 35 years (also Correll Buckhalter, LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown).
And he felt before the injury he had come a long way from his rookie year.
“I definitely think I took that step," he said. "From last year to this year, I took that leap that I needed, and I think just my running, I was more dialed in, my shoulder pads were getting low, I was running through people instead of trying to run around. I wasn’t thinking so much. I was just playing with confidence.
"Now I’ve just got to do it Thursday night — and every day we’re out here at practice."