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The Linc: Wendell Smallwood settling in as a lead running back

The rook doesn’t feel like one.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles news and notes for 12/4

Wendell Smallwood more comfortable as leading back - CSN Philly

For the second straight week, Mathews is out with an MCL sprain, which means Smallwood is preparing for a bigger role in the offense again. That could also mean his second career start in as many weeks.

Having gone through this process last week has made this week even easier.

“I think I'm very comfortable, more than I was last week,” Smallwood said. “I kind of knew I was going to have a lead role, kind of thinking about a lot, how to play better and take on the load that I was probably going to get. So this week, I think it was kind of natural for me, not really worrying about it.”

Smallwood, who was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, has 66 carries for 290 yards and one touchdown this season. Smallwood's average of 4.4 yards per attempt is sixth in the league among rookie with at least 60 carries this season. He also has the most rushing yards of any Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown in 2012.

While the Eagles would probably have preferred to use Mathews more this season, the veteran has played just 53 more snaps than Smallwood. Does Smallwood even feel like a rookie anymore?

“Nah, definitely not, definitely not,” he said with a smile. “Probably after Week 3 I stopped feeling like a rookie. And guys tell me all the time, 'we need you to play, we don't need you to be a rookie right now.' So kind of forced not to be a rookie.”

Eagles not as young as you might think - Inquirer

The premise presented by Doug Pederson last week was that the Eagles are a young team on the verge of getting better. It's flawed, mostly because the coach's team isn't as young as he thinks it is.

Look no further than the Eagles' own division for proof.

Dallas is 11-1 and its best two players on offense this season have been rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who is seven months younger than Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is a candidate for league MVP at 21.

That duo have ignored the "trust the process" mantra we're so sick of hearing about in this town and are carrying the Cowboys straight to the top seed in the NFC playoffs. But Dallas' youth movement goes beyond those two. The average age of the Dallas offensive line, which is arguably the team's greatest strength, is 26.4 and it includes three first-round picks. The average age of the top 11 players on the Cowboys offense is 26.5 years old.

By comparison, the average age of the Eagles' top 11 offensive players is 27.9.

Move to the defensive side, where Dallas also has two rookie starters in defensive tackle Maliek Collins and cornerback Anthony Brown, and the discrepancy is even greater. The average age of the Cowboys starters is 25.5. The average age of the Eagles' defensive starters is 27.4.

DeFilippo says Wentz improving every day - Daily News

Over the last seven games, he has a more rookie-like 72.9 passer rating with just four touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He has failed to throw a touchdown pass in three of the last four games. He has averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt over the last six games.

But John DeFilippo said anyone who thinks that Wentz has leveled off or regressed or hit a rookie wall are sorely mistaken.

"I don't even know what his numbers are, to be honest with you," said the Eagles quarterbacks coach. "I don't get caught up in those things.

"But I thought Carson played as good a half of football in the first half of the game the other night as he's played all season. It wasn't just from a completion percentage standpoint. It was from the standpoint of his comfort in the pocket, his finish, his eyes.

"He took off and ran on a few plays and showed the kind of athleticism we want him to show. All those things put together is why I thought he played as good a half as I've seen him play."

Wentz had a terrific first half in the 27-13 loss. Completed 13 of 17 passes for 147 yards. Scored his first NFL rushing touchdown. Had a 17-yard run on a third-and-6 that kept a scoring drive alive.

The Very Real Picture At WR - PE.com

Agholor said he doesn't yet know his role for Sunday, but it seems increasingly likely that he will be asked to play a significant part with Jordan Matthews hobbling with an ankle injury that kept him out of Friday's practice after limited participation on Thursday. There is a real chance that Matthews, listed as questionable, won't play in this have-to-have game against Cincinnati. And without Matthews, the Eagles are extremely young and unproven at wide receiver.

Agholor, in his second season, would be the senior Eagles wide receiver without Matthews. Dorial Green-Beckham had a nice game against Green Bay with six catches for 82 yards one game after a five-catch, 54-yard, one-touchdown outing in Seattle. He seems to be gaining confidence and knowledge in an offense he met for the first time during the preseason. Paul Turner is in his second week on the 53-man roster after being promoted from the practice squad. Turner has been in the offense since the Eagles signed him in the post-draft period in May. Bryce Treggs was claimed off of waivers in September.

Together - Agholor, DGB, Turner and Treggs - would comprise the team's wide receiver corps should Matthews not play.

"When you get the opportunity, you have to step up and take it," Treggs said. "Everybody wants to play and show what he can do. I'm trying to make the most of my chances and show the coaches and my teammates what I can do and that they can trust me."

Five over/unders for Eagles' Week 13 matchup against Bengals - Philly Voice

Sacks by Eagles’ defense: 1.5

The Eagles defensive front seven has struggled to get to opposing quarterbacks in recent weeks, recording just one sack (but no negative yards) in the last two weeks. They have just six in their last five games after recording 20 through their first seven games of the season. I wrote a quite a bit about those struggles earlier this week – and you can read about that here – but when it comes to Sunday's matchup against the Bengals, there's a decent chance Jim Schwartz's unit breaks out of their recent slump.

In 440 dropbacks this season, Andy Dalton has been sacked a total of 32 times (or 7.3 percent). Another way to look at that is that Dalton is sacked once every 13.75 times he tries to throw. The Bengals offensive has been slightly better in the last three games, allowing one sack for every 18.14 passing plays. That being said, they've still allowed seven sacks in those three games, and we're talking about the total number, not the efficiency rate.

Without Bernard, look for Dalton to throw quite a bit – the Bengals have called 95 passing plays in their last two games – giving the Eagles D more than enough chances to bring him down. After all, this shouldn't be that tough of a number to reach. But maybe that depends on which defensive front shows up on Sunday.

OVER.