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Eagles rookie RB Josh Adams surges to top of depth chart

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PHILADELPHIA -- Corey Clement, Super Bowl LII star, had to give it up postgame Sunday to rookie counterpart Josh Adams, who has soared to the top of the running back depth chart for the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Hat goes off to Josh Adams for basically carrying the heavy workload as a rookie," Clement said following the Eagles' 25-22 come-from-behind win over the New York Giants. "It's definitely not easy, getting a chance to showcase your efforts, be trusted, counted on in prime-time situations. That's awesome."

Coach Doug Pederson leaned heavily on Adams in a must-win game. Adams responded by rushing 22 times for 84 yards -- both season highs for an Eagles back -- and put Philadelphia ahead for the first time all game with a 1-yard touchdown plunge in the fourth quarter.

It was a big jump in touches (the most carries he received in a game before Sunday was nine), but not a totally unexpected one. Adams had averaged about 7 yards per carry over his three previous outings -- a mark he would have nearly matched Sunday if his 52-yard TD scamper on the opening drive wasn't negated by a penalty. That production has convinced the coaching staff to feature Adams moving forward.

"Listen, it's not to discount or discredit Corey and Wendell [Smallwood] because they do a lot of great things as well," Pederson said. "It's just that Josh now has kind of taken that lead, and we continue to grow and try to increase his touches each week."

Adams became a big, blinking light on the Eagles' radar his final year at Notre Dame when he rushed 206 times for 1,430 yards (6.9 yards per carry) with nine touchdowns. They attended two of his better games against Boston College (18 carries, 229 yards) and USC (19 carries, 191 yards, 3 TDs) in 2017. They liked that he was a big back (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) who could still gallop. They liked his downhill running style and the fact that he thrived against top-end competition. They liked that he was a team captain. They were not alone.

But a foot fracture was discovered during the pre-draft process, according to a league source. He also suffered a bad knee injury his junior year of high school at nearby Central Bucks South. Concerns with his medicals kept him from being drafted.

The Eagles scooped the local product up as an undrafted free agent in May. Injuries limited him for a good chunk of the offseason. He was waived in early September and added to the team's practice squad.

The injury bug hit the Eagles' running backs hard early this season, with both Darren Sproles (hamstring) and Jay Ajayi (back fracture, ACL) going down, creating an opportunity for Adams. He was promoted to the active roster on Sept. 18 and made his NFL debut Week 3 against the Indianapolis Colts. Adams started getting into the mix regularly a few weeks later.

With the defensive secondary decimated by injuries, Pederson turned to the running game against the Giants to play ball control, and it netted positive results. There's a decent chance that Philly becomes a little more run-centric down the stretch, which should spell plenty of opportunity for Adams, who is looking healthier and more like his old Notre Dame self.

"He's just been coming on and making really good progress each and every week," said offensive coordinator Mike Groh, "and I think earning everybody’s trust with the way he's handled everything that he's been asked to do."