LONDON — Josh Adams left Wembley Stadium only 21 years old.
By the time the Eagles land in Philadelphia after an 8-hour overnight flight home, Adams will be 22. He’s a changed man.
Monday is Adams’ birthday, and he can celebrate knowing that he’s cemented himself as an NFL running back and a key member of the Eagles offense. He won’t be going back to the practice squad anytime soon.
“Josh,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said, “had the hot hand.”
Adams went undrafted out of Notre Dame in April, was cut after the preseason in September, went unclaimed through waivers and opened the season on the Eagles’ practice squad. He was called up in Week 3, and then in his first five games, he only received more than one carry on two occasions.
He had zero against the Giants on Oct. 11, even as one of only three healthy running backs and in a blowout victory.
“When he does get the chance, he’ll take advantage of it,” Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley said recently.
Adams got his chance on Sunday. He took advantage of it.
The rookie had a 21-yard run in the third quarter, which helped set up a 36-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to Wendell Smallwood.
A 17-yard run with 10:33 left the fourth-quarter put the Eagles at the 7-yard-line, setting up another Wentz touchdown pass, this time to tight end Zach Ertz.
He finished with nine carries for a game-high 61 yards, plus one catch for six yards.
It was “just a little bit more responsibility,” Adams said. “It felt good to be able to get out there and just know that not only the guys on the field have trust in me, but the coaches as well. I just try to do my job and trust everybody else doing their job.”
Ever since the Eagles let LeGarrette Blount leave as a free agent, the Eagles have struggled to find a running back who can take on that role he played so well. That is, a powerful, strong runner who falls forward and can get tough yards in large chunks.
There’s been talk of the Eagles trading for a running back, to help get some of that back and to add depth to a position decimated by injuries to Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles.
Perhaps the answer lies in Adams, a local kid from Warrington, Pa.
The numbers back it up.
Last season, Blount led the Eagles with 22 runs of nine yards or more.
This season, Corey Clement has five such runs on 50 carries. Smallwood has six on 60 carries. Ajayi had seven on 45 carries before suffering a torn ACL.
Adams already has five on his 20 carries.
He also rarely loses yards — only two of his carries lost yardage, and one came at a strange point in the Vikings game when the Eagles hadn’t played Adams at all leading up to that carry, or after it, and he lost a yard against a stacked defense.
Anyway, Blount-lite or not, he’s earned a larger workload, especially as Clement (12 yards on 12 carries the last two weeks) continues to struggle.
“I just tried to go and take advantage of every opportunity I got,” Adams said. “Just never know how long you’re gonna be out there, so I tried to treat each and every snap like it was my last and give it all that I had and it turned out pretty well for me.”
“I’m blessed to be here,” he added, “so I’m just staying patient for whenever my opportunity may come.”