Doug Pederson changes his tune on Eagles' RB rotation

Doug Pederson changes his tune on Eagles' RB rotation

Doug Pederson has sworn by a running back rotation all year. With the playoffs on the horizon, that could be changing.

Pederson said Tuesday there's a chance Jay Ajayi, who's been the Eagles' most effective running back down the stretch, could have an expanded role once the postseason begins.

LeGarrette Blount finished with a team-high 173 carries for 766 yards, and Corey Clement had 74 carries for 321 yards. Ajayi carried 70 times for 408 yards in seven games after the Eagles acquired him from the Dolphins in October.

Wendell Smallwood (47 carries), Kenjon Barner (16 carries) and injured Darren Sproles (15 carries) were also part of the mix at one time or another.

But Ajayi's 5.8 average is third-highest in the NFL over the second half of the season, behind only Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (6.3) and Saints rookie Alvin Kamara (6.1).

Ajayi has also become a factor in the passing game, with a career-long 32-yard catch against the Giants and his first career receiving touchdown against the Raiders. He didn't play against the Cowboys on Sunday.

Pederson has stuck to a running back rotation all year, but on Tuesday he said Ajayi could very well be the featured back when the playoffs begin.

"I think that's a possibility," he said. "What he's shown us down the stretch here and giving him rest last week and we'll see where he's at this week health-wise. I think he's one of the guys that we can rely on.

"Again, I don't want to get away from the things that got us to this point, too. That's the other thing. You don't want to just abandon ship on everybody else. But I do think there could be a little more role for him down the stretch."

Ajayi has lingering knee soreness, so that's a consideration, too. Including his time with the Dolphins, Ajayi had 208 carries for 873 yards and 232 total touches in 14 games this year.

Pederson said Tuesday Ajayi either won't practice or will be limited on Wednesday. The Eagles don't play until Jan. 13.

Ajayi and Blount both have postseason experience. Ajayi ran 16 times for 33 yards in the Dolphins' wild-card round loss to the Steelers last season. Blount has played in eight career playoff games, all with the Patriots, with 111 carries for a 4.2 average and eight touchdowns. He won a Super Bowl rings with the Patriots after the 2014 and 2016 seasons.

Pederson said whatever happens with Ajayi, Blount will remain a key part of what the Eagles are doing

"LeGarrette has embraced his role," Pederson said. "I'll tell you what, he's been a pleasant surprise, particularly with the younger guys. He understands his role. He's going to be a big part of the success and has been a big part of the successes this year already.

"He has been to the pinnacle. He's been there and understands it, what it takes. Those are the things I'm going to lean on him with our team and with the guys that haven't been there. How to practice, how to prepare. So he's really done a nice job this his role."

Concert celebrating Eagles' Super Bowl season sounds pretty epic

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Concert celebrating Eagles' Super Bowl season sounds pretty epic

Eagles fans will probably never stop reliving the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.

While watching highlights, wearing championship apparel and occasionally just looking in the mirror and reminding yourself, "We won the Super Bowl" are all good ways of remembering what the Birds accomplished, there's a pretty unique new way that you'll be able to experience it all over again.

On July 24, the Mann Center will be hosting "A Championship Season," a special event to honor the Eagles. 

Going by the Mann Center's description, it should be an incredible night.

The Mann Center, NFL Films, and the Philadelphia Eagles take center stage this summer to celebrate the Eagles’ Championship Season with the world premiere of this “Philly Special” concert event. Hosted by the “Voice of the Eagles,” Merrill Reese, relive NFL Films’ stunning video highlights of the Philadelphia Eagles Championship Season on three giant screens alongside the great Philadelphia Orchestra, performing live the inspiring, uplifting and wonderfully symphonic music of NFL Films. 

Part of the proceeds from "A Championship Season" will benefit the Eagles Autism Challenge and the Mann Center's free art education programs. 

If you want to be part of the epic celebration, get your tickets here

Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

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Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

He was among the NFL’s best in virtually every category. Fourth in passer rating. First in touchdown percentage. Eighth in interception percentage. Second in TD-to-INT ratio. He was even third in wins despite missing the last three regular-season games.

So what’s Carson Wentz’s approach going into 2018?

“I think we can improve everywhere,” he said. “Overall, I think we can keep making strides and keep our foot on the gas.”

And that starts with completion percentage.

Wentz completed just 60.2 percent of his passes last year, which ranked 23rd of 30 quarterbacks who threw at least 400 passes. 

Ahead of only Blake Bortles, Andy Dalton, Mitch Trubisky, Cam Newton, Trevor Siemian, Jacoby Brissett and DeShone Kizer.

Not the kind of company he wants to keep.

Wentz was so good in every other area he still fashioned a passer rating over 100. In fact, his 101.9 rating was the highest in NFL history by a quarterback completing 60.2 percent of his passes (minimum 400 attempts).

The league average last year was 62 percent. And for the sake of comparison, Nick Foles completed 64.7 percent of his passes if you combine the regular season and postseason.

Wentz dropped from 62.4 percent as a rookie to 60.2 percent last year.

Among 36 active NFL quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 1,000 passes, Wentz’s 61.5 completion percentage ranks 21st.

 “I know I’d like to see my completions go higher,” Wentz said last week. “I think I was right around 60 percent and I expect more out of myself in that area.”

After 2016, Wentz identified red zone and third down as two areas he hoped to improve on. 

And he wound up leading the NFL in both red zone efficiency (NFL-best 116.3 passer rating) and third-down efficiency (NFL-best 123.7 rating).

“Third down, red zone, we were really good,” he said. “That’s something we really focused on from Year 1 to Year 2, but we (still) all feel we can definitely improve in those areas.”

Wentz also committed nine fumbles in 13 games, and only Jameis Winston and Russell Wilson had more.

“I think we had too many fumbles,” he said. “Balls on the ground too many times.”

Wentz, now nearly five months out from his knee injury, said he’s used a lot of his extra time at the NovaCare Complex this offseason focusing on what he can improve on in 2018, and one of those things is his upper-body strength.

“With all the extra rehab and not being able to run and do a lot of things early on you’ve really just got to focus on some different things and I got to do a lot of seated throwing and trying to build my arm strength and really take care of my upper body more than I have in the past,” he said.

“It’s been an interesting process not being able to get that true conditioning and that rehab in, but it’s exciting to start easing into the running and conditioning stuff. … 

“I feel good. I definitely feel working with the strength guys, we had some friendly competition stuff with the other (injured) guys in there rehabbing and I definitely feel like I’m making some strides in there.”