Eagles

Jay Ajayi no longer a secret weapon

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Jay Ajayi no longer a secret weapon

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."

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

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Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

When Doug Pederson said back in July that the 2017 Eagles "probably have more talent" than the Super Bowl Packers teams of the 1990s that Pederson played on, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Millions of eyebrows maybe.
 
The Eagles? Who hadn't won a playoff game since 2008 and were coming off a 7-9 record in Pederson's first season?
 
More talented than a team that went to the playoffs virtually every year from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s behind Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Reggie White and reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997, winning one?
 
"I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there," Pederson said on July 17.
 
"And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?"
 
Seriously, Doug?
 
Six months later, Pederson's comments — which seemed so ridiculous at the time — don't seem so ridiculous, do they?
 
Because here are those 2017 Eagles, sitting 13-3 with a playoff win over the Falcons in the books and a berth Sunday in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings despite a rash of injuries to some of their best players.
 
The Eagles haven't lost a game with postseason implications since Carson Wentz was lost for the season, and they're one home win from reaching their third Super Bowl.
 
Pederson, who had two stints backing up Brett Favre with the Packers — from 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 — was reminded of his comments Friday before practice.
 
"I don't have a crystal ball, obviously, and it's hard to predict," he said. "You'd love to sit here and go, 'Yeah, in the summer, (I thought we were) going to be 13-3 and win the NFC East.' You'd love to be in that situation, or 16-0, or whatever it might be.
 
"I did have a feeling back then when I made that statement that we could be, we had the potential to be a good football team because of the way we've practiced and the talent that we brought to the roster and the progression of Carson in his second year.
 
"And then defensively, the front, the way they performed, and the back end, I saw a lot of the same similarities. So you just have that gut feeling when I made that statement."
 
Back in July, when Pederson made those comments comparing the Eagles to the Packers, he tempered them by saying talent isn't always enough. It takes much more for a team to have success.
 
"I (said) it takes great coaching, teaching, mentoring to also have our guys prepared each week to be in this position," Pederson said. "So all of that has kind of culminated. I think you look back on it and you go, 'Wow, maybe it was a true type of thing.'
 
"But we just keep doing our jobs, keep doing what we've been coached to do. Players play what they can do and what's in their control, and we're here today."

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

Veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) is the only Eagles player listed as questionable for this week's game. Everyone else on the 53-man roster is expected to be available. 

Ellerbe, 32, missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday. 

The Eagles' starting MIKE linebacker was also listed as questionable last week and was able to play, so expect him to be good to go. After all, this is the NFC Championship Game. There's no resting for anything else. 

In Minnesota, wide receiver Adam Thielen (lower back) and safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) are both listed as questionable. 

Thielen, the Vikings' top receiver, missed Wednesday's practice and was limited on Thursday and Friday. Just like Ellerbe, there's no saving him for next week. 

Sendejo was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, was a full participant on Friday, but is still technically in the NFL's concussion protocol. He'll need to clear that before he's able to play, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he's optimistic Sendejo will be able to play. 

Meanwhile, third defensive tackle, Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle), missed practice all week and has been ruled out. While Stephen isn't a starter, he played just under 40 percent of the Vikings' snaps this season, so missing him is still a loss.

After practicing indoors on Wednesday and Thursday, the Eagles loaded up on buses and spent their Friday practice outside at Lincoln Financial Field. Head coach Doug Pederson likes to get his guys outside for at least one day per week. 

The Eagles will have a walkthrough on Saturday before they'll be back at the Linc for Sunday's 6:40 p.m. kickoff in the NFC Championship Game.