- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2019

ASHBURN — Wendell Smallwood wasn’t surprised when the Philadelphia Eagles released him last weekend. The running back watched this offseason as the Eagles added both Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders at his position. It was clear, he said, Philadelphia was moving in a different direction.

Being snatched up by the Washington Redskins, however, did catch Smallwood off guard.

Not only would he be staying in the division, he’d have a shot at his former team right away when Washington opens the season Sunday in Philadelphia.

“They kind of couldn’t get rid of me in a sense,” Smallwood said. “I’m excited to go whoop up on my old teammates.”

Smallwood wasn’t the only former Eagle claimed by the Redskins, either. Washington signed defensive tackle Treyvon Hester on Monday — raising the question of whether the Redskins did so specifically to get some inside information ahead of their matchup. Both players would have insights into the Eagles’ on both sides of the ball, so why not use it?

Coach Jay Gruden downplayed that angle.

“Could be a little bit of a benefit, but at the end of the day we don’t know what play they’re going to call,” Gruden said. Both pickups were brought in because of their skillsets, the coach said, not their knowledge of the Philadelphia Eagles offense or defense.

Smallwood is expected to contribute on special teams, possibly as a kick returner. At 5-foot-10, the 26-year-old was a first- and second-down back in Philadelphia, but he won’t have that role with Washington as Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice are the team’s main backs. Gruden said Monday the offense will run through Guice.

So far, Smallwood said his new coaches and teammates haven’t asked for him to relay any tips on facing the Eagles. That’s not something Smallwood appears entirely comfortable with sharing, as well. Smallwood said he’s “not into” giving the Redskins plays, mentioning the Eagles still mean a lot to him since they won a Super Bowl together.

Hester, on the other hand, thinks he can give a “little bit” of insight into the Eagles, but said, “I can’t give too much.” Hester said he could help the Redskins’ offensive linemen understand where the Eagles’ defensive line tends to attack from. He also knows the style of each defensive linemen.

The 26-year-old needs to help in any way he can. The Redskins are already Hester’s third team since he was drafted in 2017 in the seventh round. He was brought in to add to the team’s defensive line depth with Tim Settle and Caleb Brantley nursing injuries.

“It’s another chance,” Hester said. “I’ve had a dream I’ve been trying to live out my whole life. So I’ve got to continue to keep fighting.”

Historically, teams have always been willing to add players from rival teams as a way to gain an edge. In 2017, the Eagles added former Redskins quarterback Nate Sudfeld ahead of that year’s season-opener in the District. When Redskins coordinator Kevin O’Connell was with the New York Jets as a player, coaches turned to him to get perspective on New England’s defense as the quarterback was drafted by the Patriots.

Still, it will ultimately be up to the coaching staff to formulate a gameplan. Sometimes, any potential insights from players could just as well be gleaned by watching hours of game tape.

“The film tells the story,” Smallwood said. “You see what guys run and you make the gameplan. … It’s our job as professionals to be ready for whatever they throw at us.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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