Eagles

Change of scenery worked out perfectly for Ajayi

Change of scenery worked out perfectly for Ajayi

Jay Ajayi walked off the field at U.S. Bank Stadium while the celebration was still in its prime, shouting "We're the best in the world!" 

He wore his Super Bowl champions T-shirt stretched over his shoulder pads and around his shoulders he had the Union Jack draped like some sort of British superhero. 

Eventually, someone handed him a Super Bowl hat and he put that on too. But the Union Jack stayed. That wasn't going anywhere. And as he walked into the press conference room and eventually the locker room, he was telling everyone he saw ... maybe he was just reminding himself. 

"We're the best in the world!"

For the 24-year-old who had his character as a football player and as a man questioned when the Dolphins were willing to trade him away during the season for fourth-round pick, notice Ajayi in the minutes after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy wasn't saying he was a world champion. It was "we." 

When Ajayi got to town in late October, head coach Doug Pederson had a conversation with him, told him the deal. From there, Pederson expected his veterans to keep Ajayi in line. There were never any problems.  

"I just wanted to have the team embrace me for who I am as a person and who I am as a football player as well," Ajayi said. "The running back room here embraced me. I wanted to challenge them as well. We have a competitive environment in there. We want to see each other succeed, at the same time pushing each other to be the best that we can be and that starts with our running backs coach Duce Staley. I think that showed tonight, all the running backs that played in this game. 

"Everyone played a part, from LeGarrette (Blount) leading us, Corey (Clement) with all those big plays, even Kenjon (Barner) on his returns giving us great field position. I think our running backs room showcased ourselves very well tonight."

Even though it looked like down the stretch that Ajayi would eventually become the Eagles' feature back, it never really happened. His role increased but the Eagles kept using the running back by committee approach. 

In fact, in the Super Bowl, Ajayi carried the ball nine times for 57 yards. Blount had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown. Clement had three for eight, but also caught four passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.  

Of the three, Ajayi actually had the least impactful Super Bowl. For a guy who once reportedly pouted about a lack of carries after wins in Miami, Ajayi couldn't have cared less on Sunday night. He was just happy to be a champion. 

"Duce Staley's room, he breeds competitiveness and breeds excellence," Ajayi said. "It showed tonight. The committee, we were the best on the field today."

"I knew Jay's true intention when he stayed after late at night, trying to pick up the offense the first week he got there," Clement said. "Being able to play against the Broncos and to be able to do what he did. That really shows Jay's character and how he can be for this team for years to come."

Before he came to Philly this season, Ajayi carried the ball 138 times for 465 yards (3.4), but after the trade, he had 70 carries for 408 yards (5.8) and also became better out of the backfield as a receiver. 

Ajayi's average of 5.83 yards per attempt is the 11th-best number in Eagles franchise history for a player with at least 70 attempts and the second-best number among running backs. Just Bosh Pritchard (6.02 in 1949) was better. Ajayi's average was actually slightly better than Steve Van Buren's 5.82 in 1945. 

Ajayi went from a bad situation in Miami to a historic season in Philadelphia capped off by a Super Bowl championship and a parade down Broad Street in his new home. 

On Sunday night, still in shock from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, he remembered back to the day he was traded. Still draped in the Union Jack, he remembered that it was like any other normal day of work until they called him into the office and told him the shocking news. But like that, his journey to become a Super Bowl champion was underway. 

"At the time, there was a lot of emotions," Ajayi said, " but looking back at it, I'm so grateful for the opportunity of becoming an Eagle and now being a Super Bowl champion forever." 

Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

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USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

As we continue our offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. 

We go alphabetically — Part 1 was Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett, Part 2 was De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks, Part 3 was Billy Brown to Vinny Curry. Today is Darby to Ertz. 

Ronald Darby
Roob: I’m still not completely sold on Darby. He made some big plays but also needs to be more consistent. That’s probably true of every young cornerback, and Darby certainly has all the tools to be a very good corner in the NFL. He just turned 24, he’s got world-class speed and when he gets his hands on the ball he’s always a threat to go the distance. The Eagles have a whole stable of young corners, and he’s in a similar position to Jay Ajayi in that he has one year left on his rookie four-year deal with another team, an AFC East team — in this case the Bills — and 2018 will give the Eagles a long look at him with a full training camp and season in an Eagles uniform. Darby will definitely be here in 2018. Beyond that, we’ll see.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: When you think about Darby's road to becoming a Super Bowl champion last season, it's pretty crazy. He gets traded to the Eagles during training camp, has to catch up and learn the defense and then dislocates his ankle in Week 1. He eventually came back as the Eagles' starter and never looked back. He's still just 24 and is really talented. Darby is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, so the Eagles are going to have a decision to make about him soon enough. But for now, this is a no-brainer. 

Verdict: STAYS

Rashard Davis
Roob: Davis came and went on the practice squad throughout the year, but he was along for the Super Bowl ride in Minneapolis as a practice squad receiver, so the Eagles must like him. Davis had a decorated career at James Madison, where he was a record-setting punt returner, and that’s something the Eagles could be looking for depending what happens with Darren Sproles. Davis remains a long-shot, but he is an interesting guy. Stranger things have happened. Especially around here lately. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Davis didn't even spend all year on the Eagles' practice squad in 2017, but the team did bring him back and he'll be with them this spring. An undrafted receiver out of James Madison University, there's not a ton of people who even know about him. His best chance to make the Eagles' roster is as a returner, especially if Kenjon Barner isn't back. Not completely out of the question, but he has a steep uphill climb. 

Verdict: GOES

Rasul Douglas
Roob: I really like Douglas. What he lacks in pure speed he makes up for with intelligence and preparation. He’s a physical corner, likes to support the run, a sure tackler. He started five games while Ronald Darby was out and played surprisingly well for a rookie third-round pick, even picking up two interceptions in the first month of his pro career, both in key situations in close games. Whether or not he eventually moves into the slot or even safety remains to be seen, but I expect Douglas to be around here for quite a while. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Douglas had a pretty weird year. He was a third-round pick and would have had the opportunity to win a starting job but struggled some early during training camp. If he didn't, the team might not have made the move to trade for Darby. But when Darby went down, Douglas became a starter and played really well, finishing with two interceptions. He's not the fastest guy, but his length and ballhawk skills make up for it. With Darby and Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones all in the mix, how does Douglas fit in? That's not clear yet, but he'll be back for his second year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dannell Ellerbe
Roob: Ellerbe gave the Eagles functional linebacker play after joining the Eagles late in the season to provide defensive depth in place of Jordan Hicks. He was solid against the run and provided veteran leadership during the postseason run. He essentially did exactly what the Eagles brought him in to do. But Ellerbe is 32 and has nine years under his belt, and the Eagles will no doubt go younger at linebacker moving forward. Whatever happens, Ellerbe now has two Super Bowl rings — one with the Ravens and one with the Eagles. Not a bad career!

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles were looking for a veteran to play on base downs, so they went out and got Ellerbe from the street in November. The 32-year-old eventually became a starter, but never played much. He then missed the NFC Championship Game with an injury and played just a few snaps in the Super Bowl. The Eagles need to upgrade and get younger at linebacker. Ellerbe shouldn't be back. 

Verdict: GOES

Jake Elliott
Roob: Yeah, he missed too many PATs, but the positives sure outweigh the negatives with Elliott. If Elliott didn’t prove his worth with the 61-yard game-winner against the Giants, he sure did with fourth-quarter field goals of 42 and 46 yards in the Super Bowl. Those are incredibly tough pressure kicks with the whole world watching, and Elliott crushed them. Caleb Sturgis is a very good kicker. Elliott is a potentially great one.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: This time last year, Elliott was still at Memphis getting ready for the draft. A lot has happened since then. He went in the fifth round to the Bengals, but he lost the competition in Cincinnati, was placed on their practice squad, and stayed there until Sturgis got hurt in the first week of the season. Elliott came to the Eagles and in his second game, he became a hero when he made a 61-yard, game-winner against the Giants. The crazy thing about it is, if Elliott missed the 46-yarder just before the game-winner, he would have been 2-for-5 and in jeopardy of getting cut. But that didn't happen and now it's his job for good. 

Verdict: STAYS

Zach Ertz
Roob: Ertz has established himself as a top-three tight end in this league, behind Gronk and probably a little behind Travis Kelce, although it’s close. As good as Ertz was during the regular season, earning his first Pro Bowl honor, he was massive in the postseason, with 8-for-93 against the Vikings and 7-for-67 with two huge catches in the Super Bowl — the two-yard gain on a fourth-quarter 4th-and-1 with the Eagles trailing by one at their own 45 and his go-ahead touchdown a few moments later. Ertz has the sixth-most catches by any tight end in NFL history after five seasons and the 10th-most yards. He’s already the greatest tight end in Eagles history, and he just turned 27. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There's no question about it. Ertz has grown into one of the best and most complete tight ends in the NFL. He's one of the best weapons on the team and he's going to have a chance to continue to grow his already-impressive chemistry with Carson Wentz. 

Verdict: STAYS

Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

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AP Images

Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

We all know about the myriad injuries the Eagles suffered on their way to the Super Bowl.

Nobody knew about this one.

Alshon Jeffery had surgery Wednesday morning to repair a torn rotator cuff that he played through all season, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Per Rapoport, Jeffery suffered the injury in training camp this past summer. We did know Jeffery suffered some sort of shoulder injury during the summer. Even after he returned, Doug Pederson remained very cautious with Jeffery. At the time, that seemed strange. Pederson just kept saying he held him out at his own discretion, even though it seemed like Jeffery and Carson Wentz needed time to build chemistry. All that seems to make more sense now.

Rotator cuff injuries can be especially difficult for wide receivers (over-the-head catches) and any skill player who gets tackled to the ground. In recent years, rotator cuff tears have either ended the season or caused multiweek absences for Eric Decker, Martellus Bennett and Plaxico Burress, among others. 

Jeffery's ability to play the whole season with a shoulder injury makes what he was able to do all the more impressive. He made a quick impact, catching two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in Weeks 1-4, then scored seven TDs from Weeks 8-14 before turning in a strong postseason.

Along the way, Jeffery earned a new contract that pays him $26.75 million guaranteed with a full value of $52 million. 

Safe to say that playing through pain worked out. How crazy is it to consider now that on Wentz's crucial Week 14 touchdown pass to Jeffery in L.A., the QB had a torn ACL and the receiver had a torn rotator cuff.

Jeffery confirmed the surgery via Instagram story on Wednesday afternoon.