EAST RUTHERFORD — As soon as the Philadelphia Eagles lost Jay Ajayi to a season-ending knee injury Sunday, fans were clamoring for the team to pursue Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell, Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy or some other running back.
Corey Clement went to Eagles Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman before Thursday’s game against the New York Giants and told him he didn’t need to make a deal.
“He said, ‘Make me believe that we don’t need (another running back),’” Clement said Thursday. “We took that challenge for what it’s worth.”
Clement and Wendell Smallwood rose to the challenge against the Giants.
The duo combined to rush for 90 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Clement, from Glassboro, also caught three passes for 26 yards in the Eagles’ 34-13 victory at MetLife Stadium.
“Both of those guys are determined runners,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Friday in his livestreamed news conference. “They run hard, they run aggressive and they’re very versatile. Those two guys really take their job seriously and feel like they have to prove themselves every single day. I have a lot of confidence in those guys.”
The backfield should get another boost next week. Running back Darren Sproles, who missed his fifth straight game Thursday with a hamstring injury, is expected to return to action against Carolina on Oct. 21.
Clement and Smallwood were part of a tremendous offensive performance by the Eagles (3-3), who snapped a two-game losing streak.
Carson Wentz completed 26 of 36 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns, including two TD passes to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
“I never feel like I have to carry the team on my back,” Wentz said Thursday. “I spread the ball around.”
Most importantly, Wentz was sacked only once after getting dropped seven times in the previous two games.
The offensive line excelled despite having to play large chunks of Thursday’s game without starting tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson.
Johnson was listed as questionable on the pregame injury report with an ankle injury, but somehow started and played before finally exiting in the third quarter. Peters suffered an injury to his left biceps. He said he was “fine” after the game, but NFL.com reported he has a tear.
Pederson said Friday that Peters was undergoing additional testing.
“We’re offensive linemen, and we’re expected to play through anything,” guard Brandon Brooks said.
“Unless your leg’s falling off or your arm’s coming off, you try to be out there no matter what it is.”
The Eagles’ defense also had to deal with an injury when cornerback Sidney Jones left with a strained hamstring. Rookie safety Avonte Maddox moved to Jones’ spot in the slot, and cornerback Rasul Douglas took over at safety.
The defense got gouged by Giants (1-5) rookie running back Saquon Barkley but contained quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Manning completed 24 of 43 passes for 281 yards and an early interception by linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill. Beckham, who left the field in the final seconds before halftime and was later spotted throwing a sideline tantrum, had six catches for 44 yards.
Barkley rushed for 130 yards on 13 carries, including a 50-yard touchdown. The No. 2 overall pick also had nine receptions for 99 yards.
“He’s really a raw talent,” Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks said Thursday.
“There were a couple of times when he just outran our defense. And he’s got power and agility. But other than a few big plays, he didn’t hurt us.”