I haven't written about any Eagles draft picks yet so apologies for that, I've been busy with exams. You're probably wondering why I decided to write up a UDFA first so let me explain. If you remember from my running back rankings, I liked Corey Clement. So I decided to write him up first because he intrigues me and so I can explain why I like him. Also, the Eagles are probably going to trade for Mark Ingram as I'm writing this so I need to get it out quick!
I'm not going to go in detail about my thoughts on the Eagles current running backs, but the Eagles need a running back. You can't go into the season with Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles. You can't run power consistently with those running backs in the NFL and I don't think any of them will be able to handle a heavy workload. They can all play a role, but the Eagles will need someone to play the Ryan Mathews role from last year at the very least. Clement was a UDFA so I'm not going to act like he's the answer, but I do think he can play that role and I'll explain why.
First off, Clement came from a pro-style running game. I saw him run inside zone, outside zone, power, counter from under center and this fits what the Eagles need and also what they do on offense. Here are some examples of this.
Here's just your standard Power O and it shows some of Clement's strengths. I included the second angle because you can see the little delay step he takes in order to let his tight end come around and seal the edge. That tiny delay step is important as it allows Clement to burst through the hole untouched and then he lays an awesome stiff arm on the safety. Clement tested poorly at the combine (much better at his pro day though) and you can see he isn't fast as he gets caught up, but his burst is good enough.
The Eagles don't run Iso as they rarely use a fullback, but this is a good run that shows off Clement's power. Clement isn't a huge power back, but he's 220lbs and looks jacked up. He runs with really good pad level and can be hard to bring down as this clip shows. He keeps his legs moving to fight through contact which is good to see.
I described Clement as an urgent runner in my notes and you can see his one-cut style here. Clement doesn't waste time behind the line of scrimmage and when he sees a hole he darts through it quickly. This is inside zone and he reads the play really well after his preferred gap is closed up by a linebacker. Clement quickly cuts it back and finds a cutback lane, I also like how he falls forward to get the first down.
Here again, you can see his impressive vision on display. Wisconsin leaves the backside defender unblocked and Clement notices straight away that this defender isn't setting the edge and cuts it straight back to the outside and has enough juice to stiff arm the defender away. Once again, Clement isn't that fast but he has enough speed to get it done. I'll take vision over straight line speed every day.
Clement has really quick feet and great contact balance too which you can see here. Clement shows good vision again to spot the hole and he makes the defender miss with a little shift and manages to regain his balance to fall forwards for a few extra yards. He has the power and quickness to run through weak tackle attempts like this consistently.
Here's another example of his vision and quick feet. This is Power O again and Clement shows some patience and follows his blocks well. He then makes some nice moves to get some extra yards on the play. He reads unblocked defenders well and seems to be able to find space to run into even in a crowded area. Sometimes he'll need to be better at seeking out contact and powering through defenders, but it's hard to complain when he's gaining extra yards like this.
If you are going to run Power O, it's always nice when you can run counter plays off of it too. Clement has a weird fake step that looks like he's about to ice skate to sell the counter, but it gets the job done and it's a great run overall. Clement reads that the defensive end has his head inside his lead blocker's pads so he quickly cuts it back and gets up the field. After that, he shakes off two poor tackling attempts and then lowers his shoulder and sends the safety flying to the ground. This is an awesome run that shows off his vision and power when running. I don't think any running backs currently on the roster can run like this.
So you're probably thinking that this guy looks pretty good, so why was he a UDFA? Well there are a number of reasons. A lot of his issues I can explain without showing clips. Firstly, he's had injury problems and missed nearly all of the 2015 season because of this and an off-field issue. Also, you might have noticed every clip above was from under center. Loads of teams (the Eagles included) run a lot of plays from the shotgun and he hasn't proved that he can do that. I personally think his skills translate though to be able to run out of the shotgun. Clement also frequently ran behind a fullback which is something NFL teams don't really really use anymore. He is a very urgent runner and doesn't mess around behind the line of scrimmage which can be a good thing, but he will also need to show more patience when running out of the shotgun.
Clement tested terribly at the combine too which probably bothered some NFL teams. His pro-day was actually pretty good and he tested in the 44th percentile in terms of SPARQ score after this so he is an average athlete and his film shows that. I imagine the biggest reason Clement fell though is he doesn't suit what NFL teams want in running backs anymore. He isn't a 3rd down option at all. He doesn't have great hands, I rarely saw him run routes and his pass blocking wasn't great. NFL teams want versatile running backs these days and Clement doesn't fit the mold. Most players that aren't versatile are big power backs but I wouldn't say Clement is that, as this clip shows.
This clip isn't terrible, but I'm just showing it to highlight that Clement isn't like a LeGarrette Blount at running back. Clement has more than enough power to run power runs and handle a high number of carries but he isn't a big bruising style of back that will excel in short yardage situations like Blount does.
I'm not naive, and I recognize that the odds are stacked against Clement making the roster this season. However, I do honestly believe he is a better runner than Smallwood and could replace Mathews role in the offense. Yes, he isn't versatile, but at some point, you need someone who can actually handle a heavy workload and run power on 1st and 10 to take the pressure of Wentz. Clement is jacked up and has the mentality to handle a lot of carries which is what the Eagles need. They already have guys who can run outside and catch the ball in the screen game and line up out wide, but they don't have someone like Clement who can run power plays and handle carries.
Clement isn't a special player and for the most part, he will just get what is blocked for but I do think there's a role for him in this offense. The Eagles offensive line is very good so the Eagles don't need an elite running back, they just need someone with good vision. If the Eagles don't trade for Ingram, I hope they give Clement a chance rather than sign an old veteran with no upside. Even if Clement doesn't make the roster and they trade/sign someone, I hope he stays around on the practice squad where he can learn how to the run out of the shotgun and get better in pass protection.
[For more on Clement, check out this profile on him.]