Eagles

Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

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Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

Forget for a moment all the record-setting touchdown passes, all the dazzling third-down conversions and the highlight-reel red-zone heroics.

One of Carson Wentz's greatest accomplishments these last two years has just been playing football every Sunday. Being out there for his team without fail every week.

That alone puts him in an elite group.

Look around the league. Tyrod Taylor just got benched in Buffalo with the Bills in the playoff hunt. Trevor Siemian was benched just before the Broncos came to Philly. The 49ers benched Brian Hoyer a few weeks before facing the Eagles

Last we checked, the Browns have already benched DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan this fall.

Heck, even one-time Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco was benched by Ravens head coach John Harbaugh during a loss to the Jaguars.

We've been through all of that. That quarterback carousel. It never leads anywhere.

Wentz on Sunday night will start his 26th consecutive game. Every game the Eagles have played since opening day last year. He's one of only 12 quarterbacks who's started all his team's games over the last two years.

Elite quarterback play is huge for any football team, but quarterback stability is just as important. And Wentz is finally giving this franchise something it's lacked for much of the last quarter century.

Think about it.

From 1991 through 2015, a 25-year span, the only years an Eagles quarterback started 16 games were Donovan McNabb in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008. And McNabb got benched in 2008.

From 2010 through 2015, the six years between McNabb and Wentz, the Eagles used seven different quarterbacks. Not only did the Eagles not win anything during that span, there didn't seem to be much of a future either. 

The Eagles were stuck trying to build a championship team without an elite quarterback. Which is almost impossible to do.

All of which led Howie Roseman to make the franchise-altering decision that the Eagles had to do anything possible, no matter how drastic, no matter how extreme, to get that guy and turn the franchise over to him.

That realization, that organizational decision and the series of trades that landed Wentz in Philadelphia guaranteed that the Eagles would have quarterback stability and a chance for sustained success for the foreseeable future.

Just by starting 25 games in a row, Wentz has done something no Eagles QB had done since McNabb started 31 straight from opening day 2003 through Week 15 of 2004. With the No. 1 seed locked up, he didn't play the last week of the season.

McNabb started 51 straight games from midway through 1999, when he replaced Doug Pederson, through Week 10 of 2002, when he broke his ankle against the Cards (but threw four touchdowns anyway).

And along with those two McNabb streaks and streaks by Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham, Wentz's run of 25 starts is already the Eagles' fifth-longest since Norm Van Brocklin started 36 straight from 1958 through 1960.

You've probably already picked up on the fact that the Eagles' greatest periods of success in the NFL's modern era — the 1960 championship and the 1980 and 2004 Super Bowl appearances — just happen to coincide with periods of tremendous quarterback stability.

And maybe very soon we can add another era to that list.

Just by being out there every Sunday, Wentz has separated himself from most quarterbacks in the NFL.

Of the 12 QBs who've started every game since opening day last year, only six have a career winning record. And of those six, only Wentz and Dak Prescott — both 24 — are under 28.

They'll meet for the third time Sunday night in Dallas, and whatever happens, both franchises are in good hands for the foreseeable future.

For the Eagles, these are heady days. Wentz is having an MVP season and Roseman and Joe Douglas have surrounded him with a deep and talented roster.

An entire generation of quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer — will be retiring in the next few years. And most of the young QBs lining up to replace them are unproven. Even guys like Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson will be in their mid-30s in five years.

How many NFL teams know who their quarterback will be in, let's say, 2023? The Texans with Deshaun Watson, the Rams with Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota in Tennessee and probably Jameis Winston in Tampa. And the Eagles and Cowboys. Anybody else?

Most NFL teams are in a constant search for that elite quarterback. Not around here. Not anymore.

The most important question facing almost every NFL team is one the Eagles won't have to even think about for a decade.

Jay Ajayi no longer a secret in Eagles' RB room

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Jay Ajayi no longer a secret in Eagles' RB room

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It's not much of a secret anymore. 

Jay Ajayi is the Eagles' top running back. 

And in Sunday's 34-29 win over the Giants, he began to separate himself even more. He had 89 total yards on 14 touches and was a threat on the ground and through the air.

"Yeah, I definitely feel that I was getting some good runs out there," Ajayi said. "Obviously, I would have loved to do a lot more on the ground, but what I was able to get, I think I was running pretty hard today."

Ajayi's numbers weren't staggering Sunday, but he was the best of the Eagles' four-man running back rotation. He had 49 yards on 12 carries and had two catches for 40 yards. The other three running backs combined had the same number of touches. 

For the past few weeks, Ajayi's role in the offense has grown and that doesn't look like it's slowing down anytime soon. By the time the playoffs get here, the Eagles' midseason acquisition should be really hitting his stride in his new offense. For as good as LeGarrette Blount has been, at times this season, he just doesn't seem to have the explosiveness the 24-year-old Pro Bowler does. 

Ajayi's playmaking ability really took center stage in the third quarter, when he ran for 22 yards and then caught a screen pass for 32 yards on the very next play. That set up a touchdown to put the Eagles up 31-23 a few plays later.

"I definitely feel on plays like that, it's good to feel like I'm doing good for the offense, getting in a rhythm," Ajayi said. "Obviously, I would have loved to finish in the end zone. So I just have to make sure I end in the end zone so I can put some points on the board in the RB room and get us some stats."

If Ajayi's looking for stats, how about these: He already has four runs of 20-plus yards this season. Blount, who has been with the team all year, has just seven. 

And in six games with the Eagles, Ajayi has 356 yards on 56 carries for an average of 6.4 yards. Ajayi's overall numbers aren't that good because of his time in Miami, but if only his Philly stats counted, he'd be among pretty exclusive company. There's only one running back in the league (Alvin Kamara) to average over 6.0 yards per carry with at least 50 attempts. 

Aside from his running ability, Ajayi enjoys the receiving aspect of playing in this offense. He might not be the most natural pass-catcher, but his 40 yards receiving was the second-highest total of his career. He'll get even more chances to catch the ball this season, especially if he's on the field for an increasing number of third downs.

Really, getting on the field on third down is all about trust from the coaching staff.

"Yeah, I've shown them that I'm keyed in on my protections and it's just about knowing what you're doing on third down," he said. "And that's what I've been trying to do throughout this time."

Ajayi prides himself on his physical condition. Even when he was the feature back in Miami, he prided himself on being fresh late in games and late in the season. He claims he would be fresh even if that was the case.

But the Eagles haven't asked him to carry the ball 20-plus times at all since he's been in Philly. After carrying the ball 260 times last year, he has just 194 carries this season and just 56 of those have come since the trade. Even if the Eagles ride him hard over the last two games of the season — which seems unlikely — he's going to have way fewer touches this year. 

"I feel good," Ajayi said. "I'm very diligent in my preparation, so whether I was getting a lot or a little, I would still feel good. But right now, I feel good."

Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

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Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Facing a growing investigation that accuses him of sexual misconduct and using racist language at work, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced Sunday that he will sell the NFL team after the season.

The team announced on Twitter that Richardson is selling the team, linking to a five-paragraph letter by the franchise's only owner.

"I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership," Richardson wrote, saying he wouldn't begin discussions until after the season. The Panthers, who lost in the Super Bowl in 2016, are in playoff position again.

"I hope everyone in the organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl," said Richardson, 81.

The NFL awarded Richardson, a former player with the Baltimore Colts, an expansion franchise in 1993, and he has been the team's only owner.

Richardson's letter did not directly address the investigation.

"There has been no greater mission or purpose in my life than to have brought and NFL franchise to Charlotte," Richardson wrote. "The obstacles back then were significant and some even questioned whether or community could or would support professional football. But I always knew that if given the chance the Carolina would rise to the occasion. And you have. The team has become an integral part of the community. The stadium is in its best condition since the day it opened."

Richardson attended the game Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium and was photographed sitting beside his wife Rosalind in his luxury box.

He did not speak to reporters.

"While I will no longer be the team owner, I will always be the Panthers Number One fan," Richardson's letter said.

The Panthers are tied to Charlotte through June of 2019.

The city of Charlotte and the Panthers reached agreement on improvements for the team's stadium in 2013. The plan called for the city to contribute about $87 million for renovations to Bank of America Stadium in exchange for a six-year deal to keep the Panthers in Charlotte.

The money is less than what the team was seeking for improvements of the stadium, which opened in 1996. Forbes estimates the Panthers worth at $2.3 billion.

Richardson's announcement comes after a Sports Illustrated report that cited unnamed sources who said Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report states that the settlements came with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.

The NFL on Sunday said it has taken over the investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment on the report.

Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Sunday the team requested the league take over the investigation.

"We thought it would be best for transparency reasons," Drummond told The Associated Press.

The investigation was originally going to be led by the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by Erskine Bowles, a minority owner with the Panthers.

Drummond said in a release that the Panthers take these allegations very seriously and are committed to a full investigation.

"The entire organization is fully committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally," Drummond said.

The Panthers began play in 1995 but have never delivered on Richardson's promise of winning a Super Bowl. They lost after the 2003 and 2015 seasons.

The Panthers are 10-4 entering the final two weeks of the regular season and well positioned for a playoff run.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, like most of the team's players, hadn't read the details of the report that came out just as the Panthers were preparing to play the Green Bay Packers.

Newton said Richardson has served in a "father-like role" for him since his arrival in Carolina seven years ago.

"For me I hope things don't alter my thinking of Mr. Richardson," Newton said. "But I do know that he has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative of."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after the game it is important to let the process play out, but vouched for Richardson's character.

"The only thing I can speak on is for what he has been to me as far as I'm concerned," Rivera said. "A lot of you know I had a house fire and he was there for (my wife) Stephanie and I. He was tremendous in supporting us. My brother passed and Mr. Richardson was there and helped me get to the funeral and back. I can't speak to anything other than that."

It has been a whirlwind year for the Panthers organization.

Team president Danny Morrison abruptly resigned in February. Richardson then fired general manager Dave Gettleman on the eve of training camp and replaced him with former general manager Marty Hurney on an interim basis. It was a surprising move considering Carolina made the playoffs three times in four seasons under Gettleman.