Howard becomes the instant favorite to serve as Philadelphia's lead runner, albeit in backfield that has consistently taken a committee approach since coach Doug Pederson was hired in 2016. There's still room for Smallwood to earn a significant role -- especially on passing downs -- but it also isn't difficult to envision a scenario in which he fails to make the 53-man roster. Howard was selected three picks before Smallwood in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, leaving both players in the final season of their respective rookie contracts. The Philadelphia backfield may get even more crowded before training camp, as Darren Sproles may decide to play another season and the draft is still to come.
Change-of-pace option Darren Sproles was the only other back besides Smallwood to log a carry for the Eagles, as the third-year pro was the preferred early down option over Josh Adams for the second straight postseason tilt. Smallwood was serviceable with his opportunities, but the running game became more of an afterthought as the game wore on. The 24-year-old finished his third season with 87 carries for 364 yards and three touchdowns, along with an additional 230 receiving yards and a pair of scores on 28 receptions. Given his dual-threat skill set and modest cap hit in what will be the fourth year of his rookie contract, Smallwood figures to be given an opportunity to compete for at least a part-time role in the backfield once again in 2019.
Smallwood rushed eight times for 20 yards and caught two of three targets for 20 more in Sunday's 16-15 wild-card round win over Chicago.
Darren Sproles (13 carries for 21 yards) and Smallwood split most of the work on the ground, with Josh Adams rushing just once for two yards. Smallwood came tantalizingly close to giving his team a three-point lead after Philadelphia's go-ahead touchdown in the final minute, but his attempt at diving over the goal line for a two-point conversion came up just short. That play almost led to the Eagles' downfall after the Bears got into field-goal range, but Cody Parkey missed from 43 yards out to send Philadelphia to New Orleans for the Divisional Round. Smallwood and Sproles should continue to work in a timeshare against the Saints.
Smallwood (hand) doesn't have a designation for Sunday's wild-card contest at Chicago.
Smallwood made a sudden appearance on Thursday's practice report as limited due to a hand injury, but his elevation to full participation Friday has wiped away any question about his ability to suit up in the Eagles' postseason opener. If his workload from the final three games of the regular season translates to the playoffs, he should be in line for upwards of 10 touches working behind Darren Sproles and Josh Adams.
Smallwood was limited during Thursday's practice due to a hand injury, Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports
Smallwood's late addition to the injury report is some cause for concern in regards to his status, but the fact that he still got in part of the practice suggests the issue isn't too serious. The final injury report Friday should shed some more light on his availability for the wild-card game.
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