Eagles

Jay Ajayi Q&A: Reaction to trade, relationship with LeGarrette Blount and more

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Jay Ajayi Q&A: Reaction to trade, relationship with LeGarrette Blount and more

Just nine months after playing in the Pro Bowl in a Dolphins jersey and just 2½ weeks after the biggest rushing game against the Falcons in two years, Jay Ajayi arrived at the NovaCare Complex Wednesday morning ready to begin a new phase of his career.

The Eagles acquired the 24-year-old running back from the Dolphins hours before the trade deadline Tuesday in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round draft pick.

Since opening day last year, Ajayi has the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL, behind only Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell and Jordan Howard (and just ahead of new teammate LeGarrette Blount).

Ajayi met with the media after practice Wednesday and addressed numerous topics, including his role with the Eagles, anonymous allegations coming out of Miami about his attitude, and his relationship with Blount.

Q: What was your initial reaction to the trade?
Ajayi:
 I enjoyed my time with the Dolphins and appreciated being there. And then getting the news that I’m going to be an Eagle and understanding what comes with that and understanding where this team is and just wanting to be a part of this team, [going to] put my head down and get to work.

Q: Why do you think they traded you?
Ajayi:
 I have no idea.

Q: What do you expect your role to be?
Ajayi:
 I think that’s the coach’s decision to make on that, but for me personally in our running back room, just go inside there and [we're going to] push each other to be great. Myself personally, I strive to be great every day and I’m excited to come into this talented room and join these running backs and achieving our goal of helping this team win the Super Bowl.

Q: A lot of anonymous allegations and accusations critical of you started coming out of Miami the last couple days. What was your reaction to all of that?
Ajayi:
 Those things that are out there, I can only speak on how I view myself. I view myself as a team guy. I’m excited to be on the Eagles, excited for this opportunity. That stuff is in the past. I woke up today as a Philadelphia Eagle and I’m very excited about that.

Q: Do the comments bother you?
Ajayi:
 It is what it is. It’s a business, and at the end of the day I can just say I respect the Dolphins for giving me the opportunity to chase my dream of being in the NFL. And I can say I respect all my teammates. I love those guys. Bled. Fought. Won a lot of games with them and enjoyed my time as a Miami Dolphin. At the end of the day, God has another plan for me, and that’s to be with the Philadelphia Eagles. We’re 7-1 and I’m excited about that, and the opportunity to go get this thing, and just here to be a part of that, however the coaching staff wants to use me.

Q: What are your thoughts about running backs coach Duce Staley, who you met during joint practices over the summer?
Ajayi:
 I was just talking with Coach Duce. It’s ironic that I’m here, even though we got to see each other earlier this year during training camp and we even spoke very briefly in passing in training camp. For him to be my running backs coach, I’m very excited about that opportunity. Somebody that I looked at when I was starting to even follow football, I can remember the name Duce Staley as a Philadelphia Eagles running back. For him to be my running backs coach, I’m excited. Knowing he’ll be able to bring the best out of me.

Q: There was a report that the Dolphins don't think your knee will hold up long term. How is your knee?
Ajayi:
 My knee’s doing good. Just staying diligent with it. Having a good plan with the training staff, having a good plan with the coaches. Just have to stay with it.

Q: How's your blitz pick-up? Can you be a guy who can be on the field on passing downs?
Ajayi:
 Definitely, I view myself as a three-down guy (see film study). A guy who can be counted on to do anything that the offense needs me to do. I’m excited to be able to do that role here as well. Just continue to work on my craft, whether it’s blocking, catching the ball out the backfield or running hard for this team. I’m ready to do anything.

Q: Carson (Wentz) said he spoke to you after he heard about the trade. What was that conversation like?
Ajayi:
 He just basically expressed his excitement to get me out here and get ready to keep this thing rolling. That was warming for me to get the quarterback and some of the guys to send a text and to tweet, so that was really cool. And then just being able to be around him today and even just from watching his game throughout this season, you can tell he’s a special guy, a special talent. I’m excited to be in the backfield with him.

Q: How do things stand between you and LeGarrette Blount?
Ajayi:
 Me and L.B. have actually had a good relationship through passing on playing games when he was on the Patriots to even when we were out here for joint practices. So I’ve been able to build a little bit of a respect relationship with him, and we’ve had conversations here and there. Now being a teammate, it’s just a really cool dynamic now, and it’s fresh, all of us in the running backs room are all trying to feel each other out, especially with me being the new guy. I’m just trying to join whatever they’ve got going and not try to be a distraction or anything, just try to be a help. I think it’s a great dynamic in that RB room.

Q: How's your understanding of the offense after one day?
Ajayi:
 It’s been good. I’ve been able to have a lot of good meetings with Coach Staley. We’ve been talking about the offense, going through the playbook and really it’s just about just getting comfortable. That’s what it comes down to. Getting on the field. The coaches getting comfortable in me knowing the plays. So right now it’s just about getting comfortable in the playbook and getting comfortable with my teammates and being able to do that.

Q: Before the trade, Dolphins coach Adam Gase criticized you for trying to hit home runs instead of running in a disciplined style and taking what the defense gives you. What was your reaction to that?
Ajayi:
 I think that my style is my style. I don’t think it’s a style of always looking to bounce. I think it’s taking what the defense gives you and even creating things if there’s nothing there. I think that’s a lot of my style, being able to break tackles, [play] downhill, and make big plays for the team. I don’t think that’s going to change. Definitely always want to be able to hit the right reads and make the right decisions on the field. At the end of the day, I’m a downhill runner looking to make big plays for this team and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.

Q: What have the last 24 hours been like?
Ajayi:
 It's been crazy. Never thought I would be traded. It’s something new, a little bit of a new challenge, new adversity, but I feel like I’m built for it. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career and I’m excited to have this as a positive. I’m excited to be here in Philly. I think it’s time for a new opportunity for me and I’m embracing it and just excited to be here.

Q: You caught 50 passes your last year at Boise but only had 48 catches in three years in Miami. Can you be a viable receiver in the NFL?
Ajayi:
 Always working on my craft. This past offseason, really worked hard on doing a lot of route running and really being able to be a good pass catcher and understanding that if that’s something we need to be able to do here, I can do that and be an option at all times on the field.

Q: How different is the offense here than Miami?
Ajayi:
 We did a lot of different schemes [in Miami], to be honest, ran a lot of different styles of runs, which is why I feel like I’m very versatile and I can do a lot of different things. Here we actually do a lot of similar things to what I did in Miami. In a way it's a little bit different, some of the little tendencies here and there, but it's nothing too out of the ordinary for me, so it's just about putting it in those same terms that I can remember and I'll know it down pat and getting comfortable doing it over and over, and that way I can get used to this offense.

Eagles Stay or Go — The Joneses

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Eagles Stay or Go — The Joneses

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Donnie Jones
Roob: Jones turns 38 before camp starts and goes into his 15th NFL season out of LSU next year. Jones, who hasn't missed a game since 2004, is as reliable as ever. Including the postseason, he had 26 punts inside the 20-yard line and just six touchbacks. In five years here, he's established himself as the greatest punter in Eagles history. His 45.3 average and 40.6 this past year were very good. They'll drag a guy in to compete, but Jones is still terrific.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Jones is 37 now but he's a punter and he doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Before the 2016 season, Jones said he wasn't interested in retiring any time soon and there doesn't seem to be much of a reason to stop yet. He had another good season in 2017. Of course, the Eagles proved that no one is immune from the business of the NFL when they decided to go with Rick Lovato over Jon Dorenbos in 2017, but Jones is still a really good punter. During Super Bowl week, Jones got a kick out of hearing he was the only Eagles player who was able to have a legal drink when Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl. Jones joked that's probably what he was doing. 

Verdict: STAYS

Sidney Jones
Roob: 
It'll be fun to see what Jones can do with a full healthy offseason and training camp. Along with Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Ronald Darby, he's a big part of the most talented young stable of cornerbacks the Eagles have ever had. Where does everybody fit in next year? We'll see. But I expect Jones to be here and playing at a high level for years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It was probably a pretty good thing for the young corner to get some experience toward the end of his rookie season. Fans should be excited about Jones if he really is back to being the player he was before his injury. Because before he tore his Achilles at the Washington pro day, Jones might have been the very best cornerback in a deep cornerback draft. The Eagles have a little logjam at the cornerback position; what a great problem to have. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles Stay or Go —2 big contracts and a fringe player

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USA Today/AP Images

Eagles Stay or Go —2 big contracts and a fringe player

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Tim Jernigan
Roob:
 Jernigan had a very good first half, an OK second half of the season and really didn't do a lot in the postseason, and there's no doubt the Eagles would like to see him maintain his level of consistency throughout the season. But he's certainly not going anywhere, not with $11 million in dead money vs. a $5 million cap hit. Jernigan's talent is undeniable. He just needs to find a way to keep it going through the year.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I was a little surprised about how little Jernigan played in 2017. He played just 48 percent of the Eagles' snaps and in the playoffs, he played about as much as Beau Allen. Now, I know Jernigan dealt with an ankle injury throughout most of the year, so maybe that played a role. But for a guy who signed a four-year extension worth $48 million during the year, I really didn't see enough. He started off the season really strong, but then seemed to level off some. Maybe the ankle had something to do with that. In any case, he's now signed through 2021. The Eagles need more out of him. 

Verdict: STAYS

Lane Johnson 
Roob:
 We finally saw what Lane Johnson could do with a full season, and it was impressive. Johnson was named first-team All-Pro and made his first Pro Bowl team, and he deserved all of it. Johnson, suspended two of the last three seasons for testing positive for banned substances, was a beast at right tackle. He's not going anywhere for a long time.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: That was the season we've all been waiting for from Johnson. He was a dominant right tackle in 2017 and finally made it to his first Pro Bowl roster. He deserved it. For a long time, there's been a stigma about playing right tackle and that makes sense on its face. Protecting the quarterback's blindside has historically been more important, but defenses have adjusted. That's why guys like Von Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence, Justin Houston and Joey Bosa generally rush against right tackles. Johnson shut down those guys and more last season. It's a big reason why the Eagles didn't move him to left tackle when Jason Peters went down. That was the right call. 

Verdict: STAYS

Marcus Johnson
Roob: Johnson stuck on the active roster all year and got into 10 games, catching five passes for 45 yards. But wide receiver depth is certainly one area the Eagles will try to upgrade this offseason. Johnson will get a long look with the other young receivers in camp, but he faces an uphill battle. He's got good speed, size and athleticism, but can he put it all together and catch the ball consistently enough to stick around another year? We'll see.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The young wide receiver had a great spring and summer a year ago to earn his spot on the roster. He really worked his tail off to get better and the Eagles rewarded him with a roster spot. From there, he carved out a role on offense. He was the Eagles' receiver in their 13 personnel (three tight ends) package for much of the early season. But then in late November, Johnson lost his active spot to Shelton Gibson, who didn't play as big a role on offense but was a better special teamer. That was a shock to Johnson at the time. He'll have a shot to make the roster this year, but losing his job on Sundays in 2017 isn't a good sign. 

Verdict: GOES