Jay Ajayi wastes no time asserting himself in Eagles debut

Jay Ajayi wastes no time asserting himself in Eagles debut

Jay Ajayi looked confused. 

With his backpack hoisted over his shoulders and a beanie cap holding down his black and blonde dreadlocks as he walked through the Eagles' locker room, Ajayi needed some directions. 

He didn't know how to get out of the stadium. 

He didn't look nearly as lost on the field. Just five days after a trade brought him north from Miami for a fourth-round pick, Ajayi carried the ball eight times for 77 yards, which included a 46-yard touchdown in the second quarter in the Birds' 51-23 win Sunday over the Broncos (see breakdown)

"[The touchdown] was special," Ajayi said in his delightful British accent. "First off, it was my first touchdown of the season. And it's exciting for it to have been in Philly in my first game as an Eagle. I don't think it could have been written any better than that." 

Not only was Ajayi's touchdown the first of this season, it was also the first rushing TD the Broncos had given up all year.

Once Ajayi busted through the line, he thought he had a chance to score. He had a couple blockers in front who were able to lead the way. The touchdown run was the Eagles' second-longest of the season and the fourth-longest run of Ajayi's career. He capped it by diving head-first into the end zone. 

"I saw him hauling ass and then I saw him diving for the pylons," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "Fantastic run, man."

"We saw it on the big board," fellow running back Corey Clement said. "It's hard to miss it. He did a great job of getting into the end zone. Couldn't be happier."

He was also pretty happy to be playing in front of the home fans at the Linc for the first time (see Roob's observations). Every carry he got, the crowd got pretty loud. He called the atmosphere "electric" and was excited to experience it. 

While the Eagles haven't given Ajayi the entire playbook just yet, they did want him to feel comfortable with 10-15 plays. Before he was given a handoff, Ajayi was on the field as what looked like a decoy. It seemed pretty clear Denver expected him to get the ball when he was in. 

Ajayi led the Eagles in rushing Sunday and put together the second-best individual rushing performance against the Broncos all season. Only the Giants' Orleans Darwka rushed for more. In fact, Ajayi rushed for more yards on his own Sunday than four teams have against the Broncos this season (see report card). The Broncos came into Sunday with the second-best rush defense in the league. The Eagles — led by Ajayi — put up 197 yards against them. 

"I'm excited to have [Ajayi] here because I've been a fan of his all the way back to last year," said LeGarrette Blount, who had 37 yards on nine carries. "He is a really good player and is an exciting and dynamic player to watch."

In the days since the trade brought Ajayi to town, he and running backs coach Duce Staley "had some long nights" trying to teach Ajayi the playbook. 

"It's impressive," Carson Wentz said. "Hats off to him. He came in with a 'I want to work' attitude right away. That was great to see. Great communication he fits in well in the locker room and everything as well. He's a smart kid and he picked up on things pretty quickly."

The 24-year-old Ajayi thinks the bye week is coming at the perfect time for him. He'll be able to finally breathe and have some more leisurely time to learn the playbook before the Nov. 19 game in Dallas against the Cowboys. 

Things have been pretty hectic for Ajayi over the last week. 

"It was just about coming in and getting ready for Sunday," Ajayi said. "That was the main focus. Then I can focus on finding my place and getting my life situated out here." 

And getting out of the building.

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

USA Today Images

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

USA Today Images

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.