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.

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

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Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

Carson Wentz doesn't care about accolades. 

He just better get used to them. 

The NFL announced Wednesday afternoon the Eagles' quarterback is leading all players in Pro Bowl fan voting. 

"I honestly didn't even know that," Wentz said to NBC Sports Philadelphia while sitting at his locker after Wednesday's practice. "I guess that's cool and all but you know how I am about that stuff. At the end of the day, we're 9-1 and that's what we like. You know me, I don't get caught up in that stuff."

Wentz has 273,367 votes, well ahead of the second-place player, Tom Brady (239,989). He has over 30,000 more votes than perhaps the best quarterback of all time. 

Fan voting is open until Dec. 14 and the Pro Bowl teams will be announced on Dec. 19.  

This season, Wentz has thrown for 2,430 yards and leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 25. He has just five interceptions. Wentz, in his second pro season, is a big reason why the Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 9-1. 

If Wentz makes the Pro Bowl this season, it would be the first of his career. He admitted it would mean something to be named to the team. 

"I mean, obviously, that's recognition and that's something cool," he said. "But that's for down the road. We still have six games here to take care of business. We'll see what happens." 

In addition to Wentz, his favorite target Zach Ertz is closing in on his first Pro Bowl appearance. Ertz leads all NFC tight ends with 156,183 votes. In nine games this season, Ertz has 536 yards receiving and a career-high six touchdown catches. 

The Eagles are hoping neither of these two will be able to play in this year's Pro Bowl even if they make it. They're hoping both will be preparing for the Super Bowl that week. 

Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

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Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

Carson Wentz's declining production probably isn't a sign of trouble on the horizon for the Eagles. Quite the contrary, the quarterback's down numbers may be at least in part a reflection of the scheme and how well the team is playing.

With 2,430 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, Wentz might be the front-runner to be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player at season's end. He's among the top two or three candidates, anyway. But the second-year player's once eye-popping statistics have notably dropped off in recent weeks, begging some question as to whether the magic is wearing off.

Over the Eagles' last three games, Wentz has completed 47 of 86 pass attempts (54.7 percent) for 192.7 yards per game (6.7 average) with eight touchdowns — far from MVP-caliber.

Perhaps the most concerning of those numbers is Wentz's completion percentage. At 59.7 percent for the season, he's fallen well below his mark of 62.4 as a rookie.

Wentz concedes he could be more accurate. The 24-year-old signal caller also believes some of the dropoff in his completion percentage is due to the offense pushing the ball vertically with more frequency in 2017.

That, and stats are meaningless as long as the Eagles are winning.

"That's definitely a number that I'd like to get higher again," Wentz said before Wednesday's practice. "I'm not crazy about stats. What really matters is wins and losses, but I'd like that to get higher.

“I do think it's a product of taking more chances down the field, taking more shots, being aggressive. I'm not going to get too hung up on that.”

There is certainly something to what Wentz is saying. While his completion rate is sub-optimal, his yards per attempt are over a yard higher compared to last season — 7.6 to 6.2. That's good for ninth in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks.

More incompletions or not, Wentz has still managed to play more efficient.

The Eagles are also 3-0 during Wentz's ongoing funk, so to speak, and he's only turned the football over once. He's obviously doing something right.

In fact, Wentz and the Eagles have been so successful in the last three games, that's actually had a negative impact on his individual numbers as well. The team jumped out to big second-half leads in contests against the 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys, reducing the need to put the ball in the air. Wentz even sat out portions of the fourth quarter twice.

Those types of game scripts will obviously put a damper on volume totals such as yards and touchdowns, and possibly Wentz's MVP chances along with them. From the team's vantage point, they're overwhelmingly positive.

With the Eagles chugging right along at 9-1, there doesn't seem much need to perform an autopsy on Wentz's season at this point. But if critics are searching for holes in the ship, the quarterback doesn't appear to be the place where this squad is going to spring a leak.