Eagles have liked Jay Ajayi since August

Eagles have liked Jay Ajayi since August

The Eagles had a pretty close look at Jay Ajayi just a few months ago when the Dolphins were in town for joint practices in August. 

And they liked what they saw. 

"He's one of the guys that when we came back after those practices, we said, 'That's our kind of guy,'" Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said on Tuesday. "He's got the mentality that we're looking for. He brings the presence and he plays the kind of way we want to play and we want to represent our football team with and our fans with."

While Roseman said the Eagles didn't have a sense that Ajayi would be available for a trade just a couple months later, the Eagles did use those practices to scout the Dolphins. So they watched Ajayi, came away impressed and tucked that information away. 

They brought it back out on Monday when they began discussing a trade that would bring the running back to Philly. The move, which sends a fourth-rounder next year back to Miami, was completed on Tuesday.

While the Eagles were impressed with what they saw from Ajayi on the practice field in August, they couldn't possibly have seen inside the Miami locker room through the first seven games of this season. According to a report from the Miami Herald, Ajayi had become a chemistry problem, even storming out of the locker room after wins because he didn't get enough carries. 

For a team with a head coach who, as recently as Monday, was concerned about negatively affecting the chemistry of a 7-1 team with a new face, this could seem like a pretty big problem. 

But the Eagles did their homework, Roseman said, and came away feeling good about the move. 

"We weren't going to bring anyone here that would disrupt team chemistry," Roseman said. "We feel very confident and comfortable about the player."

A couple times on Tuesday, Roseman mentioned "trust" when talking about making deals with Miami. The Dolphins are run by Roseman's friend Mike Tannenbaum, and it was their close relationship that helped the Eagles make the move from 13 to 8 in the 2016 draft. 

So when the Eagles made the decision to go ahead with the trade on Tuesday, they probably leaned on the information they gathered from the Dolphins as well as their own talks with Ajayi, who they interviewed at the 2015 combine. Ajayi was a fifth-round pick out of Boise State. 

Another major question mark about Ajayi is his health. He has struggled with knee issues dating back to college and the pre-draft process, and those issues aren't past him. He has been listed on the Dolphins' injury report this season. As of Tuesday afternoon, Ajayi still needed to pass a physical. 

Even if Ajayi's knees don't make him a candidate to fill the void at running back for the long term, he can at least help the Eagles make a Super Bowl push over the next two seasons. He's just 24 — as Roseman eagerly pointed out a few times on Tuesday — and is cheap for the rest of this season and next. 

After a Pro Bowl season last year, Ajayi's 2017 hasn't gotten off to a great start. He's averaging just 3.37 yards per carry this year, the second-worst average among backs with at least 100 carries. Even taking the Dolphins' poor offensive line into account, there has been a pretty clear numbers drop for Ajayi this season with two pretty notable exceptions. 

"I think you look at the Chargers game and the Falcons game and you could argue he put the team on his back," Roseman said of Ajayi's two 100-yard rushing performances in 2017. "That was this season."

What the Eagles can hope is that he returns to the form that sent him to the Pro Bowl in 2016. He was great last season, rushing for over 1,200 yards and averaging 4.9 yards per attempt. He averaged 3.46 yards per attempt after contact. 

His yards after contact average from last year is actually better than his yards per attempt average through seven games in 2017. 

But if the Eagles can get the 2016 version of Ajayi, they got a steal. 

"This is a physical, downhill running back, he can run after contact, he can make people miss," Roseman said. 

Sure, adding a piece to a team that is already in control of the NFC East and is the frontrunner to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs is a risk. Chemistry is a real concern and it's why Doug Pederson seemed so hesitant on Monday. 

The Eagles are in a unique position at 7-1 and maybe acquiring Ajayi will help them get to the Super Bowl and bring the city its first major football championship in over half a century. For a fourth-round pick, the Eagles took that gamble. 

"I think you take into account where you are," Roseman said. "It's certainly different when you're 7-1 than if you're having a losing season. But at the same time, we're not going to do anything that puts us in a bad spot going forward. Again, a big part of this trade, this is a 24-year-old back that's not just on a one-year deal. But if there are opportunities to improve our team and improve where we're at, we have a responsibility to the people on the field, the people off the field, our fans, to evaluate everything."

Eagles Stay or Go Part 2 — De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks

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Eagles Stay or Go Part 2 — De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks

In the second part of our 12-part 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 2 is De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks. 

De'Vante Bausby
Roob: The Eagles liked Bausby to keep the 25-year-old cornerback on the practice squad all year. What does that mean for the former undrafted free agent from Pitt (Pittsburg State in Kansas)? Probably nothing. The Eagles are loaded with young corners. Between Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones, they have four corners 24 or younger to build around. Bausby has logged some regular-season playing time with the Bears, but if he hopes to ever really compete for a roster spot on a team's 53-man roster, he's in the wrong place, because it won't happen here.

Verdict: GOES 

Dave: The Eagles added the young cornerback to their practice squad the week before the Chiefs game in Week 2. At the time, it looked like they simply added him because Bausby had previously been with the Chiefs. He heard plenty of that early on during his time with the team, but then he lasted the rest of the season on the practice squad and was re-signed after the year ended. He was good enough to stick around, but the Eagles have plenty of depth at corner to keep him off the roster. 

Verdict: GOES

Will Beatty
Roob: Beatty joined the Eagles halfway through the season as an emergency backup offensive tackle, but with Doug Pederson making it clear that he expects Jason Peters back at left tackle next year, that means Halapoulivaati Vaitai would be the leading backup tackle. I would expect the Eagles would draft a tackle at some point, and that guy could be the fourth tackle. Beatty has had a nice career and now has two Super Bowl rings, but it's hard to imagine that he has any kind of future with the Eagles.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: There's a reason Beatty was on the street until the Eagles called in November. The Birds probably need to upgrade at their backup tackle spots and Beatty is past his prime and shouldn't be the answer. He helped the scout team down the stretch and worked hard to help the Eagles get a Super Bowl ring, but it's time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

LeGarrette Blount
Roob: This is a tough one because Blount meant so much to this team, both with his unflinchingly unselfish attitude in the locker room and his big-time production on the field. How do you cut ties with a guy who was 14-for-90 rushing with a touchdown in a Super Bowl? But that's the reality the Eagles are facing. Blount is 31 and a free agent. Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement are the future at running back. And as mighty as Blount was in the Super Bowl, he did average 3.5 yards per carry or worse in eight of the last 13 games. Blount is a fun guy to be around and a tremendous natural leader. He played his heart out for this team. It'll be tough to see him go, but I think we'll have to.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Blount is a 31-year-old unrestricted free agent running back and it wouldn't be crazy to bring him back. After all, Blount shouldn't be very expensive and he was able to combine with Clement and Ajayi to form a pretty dynamic running back group. But Ajayi is going to get an offseason with the Eagles and he's going to take over more of the offense. The Eagles will have a decision to make with both Blount and Sproles hitting free agency. This is a pretty tough one, actually. 

Verdict: GOES 

Nigel Bradham
Roob: The Eagles have several valuable free agents you'd like to have back, but nobody is as important as Bradham, who had a very good year in his second season with the Eagles. The Eagles have depth at running back, tight end, and cornerback, where their most prominent free agents play, but they have very little at linebacker. Especially with Jordan Hicks missing half of two of his three NFL seasons, the Eagles must find a way to sign Bradham.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Bradham is an unrestricted free agent and should be the Eagles' top priority this offseason. It flew a little under the radar, but Bradham's 2017 was a huge reason for the Eagles' successful run to the Super Bowl. After Hicks went down, the Eagles relied on Bradham to make the defensive calls like a MIKE. He and Mychal Kendricks ended up being huge keys to the season. He's still just 28 and it'll be interesting to see how much he'll demand. Either way, the Eagles have to try to bring him back, especially as Hicks recovers from his Achilles tear. And you better believe Jim Schwartz will make his case for keeping a guy who has played for him more than anyone on the team. 

Verdict: STAYS

Bryan Braman
Roob: The Eagles brought Braman in late in the season after injuries took such a toll on special teams, and the former high school javelin star got himself a Super Bowl ring for his six games of work. But there's a reason Braman wasn't on a roster the first few months of the season. He's 30 years old now, turns 31 in May, and special teams is a young man's game. And Braman really doesn't have a position, although he's listed on the roster as a linebacker. It's tough for teams to really invest in a 31-year-old special teams specialist.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: After they brought him back in December, Braman did provide a certain spark to the Eagles' special teams group. But he's 30 now and doesn't give anything on defense. He carved out a nice career in the NFL as a special teams ace, but it seems like his time might be over, especially now that the Eagles have other key special teamers like Kamu Grugier-Hill. 

Verdict: GOES

Brandon Brooks
Roob: Like so many guys on the Eagles, Brooks left a challenge-filled 2016 season in his wake and enjoyed tremendous success in 2017. He played all 16 games, he successfully dealt -- in a very public and constructive way -- with the anxiety that had been plagued him on and off the field, he made his first Pro Bowl and was an absolute wrecking machine at right guard, especially in the postseason. Brooks is signed for three more years. He's not going anywhere.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: This season, Brooks finally fulfilled his potential and became one of the most dominant offensive guards in the league. More importantly, he bravely put his issues with anxiety in the rearview. Brooks started every game for the Eagles this season and was their most consistent offensive lineman. He also made his first Pro Bowl team in 2017 and it shouldn't be his last. He's under contract for three more seasons. 

Verdict: STAYS

Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

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Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

While many folks are off for Presidents Day, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is hard at work trying to figure out how to replace Frank Reich. 

Pederson is spending his Monday interviewing running backs coach Duce Staley and wide receivers coach Mike Groh for the Eagles' vacant offensive coordinator position, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the news Monday. 

It's possible one or both coaches could take over in some sort of offensive coordinator role. 

Reich left his post as offensive coordinator earlier this month when he accepted the head coaching job in Indianapolis. While it might not seem like an OC who doesn't call the plays has a big role, Reich was a good sounding board for Pederson and seemed to be very-well trusted by the head coach. He also helped put the weekly gameplan together. 

It makes sense that the Eagles don't want to go outside the organization to hire an offensive coordinator. Pederson trusts Staley and Groh and the chemistry inside the NovaCare Complex was tremendous during the Eagles' run to Super Bowl LII. 

Either way, Pederson is going to oversee the offense and call plays. Staley or Groh, if one or both are promoted, will handle some extra responsibility, but it'll still all be on Pederson. 

While Staley has been with the Eagles as a coach since 2011, working his way up from a quality control coach to running backs coach in 2013, Groh is a newcomer. He was added to the staff before the 2017 season to take over for Greg Lewis after the Eagles fired him. Groh did an impressive job last season, particularly with helping transform Nelson Agholor from a bust to one of the team's more explosive weapons.