Eagles

Nelson Agholor's fumble recovery TD example of Eagles' relentless attitude

ap-nelson-agholor.jpg
AP Images

Nelson Agholor's fumble recovery TD example of Eagles' relentless attitude

The game was over. There was no way the Bears were going to come back and win. 

There was also no way Nelson Agholor was going to stop running. 

Early in the fourth quarter, on the tail end of his 30-yard run, Jay Ajayi fumbled the ball forward from the Bears' 5-yard line. The Bears could have recovered it for a touchback, but Agholor entered the picture late to fall on the ball. Touchdown. 

"Great hustle by Nelson," Ajayi said, "keeping the play alive and making a bad play a good play."

One way to look at this play is that everything really is going the Eagles' way; they're even scoring on fumbles. 

The other is this: the Eagles never stops hustling. 

Before that play, the Eagles were already up 24-3 on a Bears team that simply couldn't move the ball offensively. A lot of players on a lot of teams would have watched Ajayi run from afar.

Not this team (see Roob's observations). Not Agholor. 

"That's habit. We do it all week in practice," Agholor said. "We try to trail runners, we try to get in front of runners. Convoy when guys are running, chase the ball carrier. Our coaches gave us credit for that in film in weeks past. This is an opportunity where that same habit and that same coachable moment came into play for a touchdown. I'm happy that was the result but I also wish I would have gotten there earlier so he could get his touchdown because he deserved that."

Running back Corey Clement, who was on the sideline for the play, said he didn't see Agholor until the last second. 

"That's just the type of team we are," Clement said. "We hustle and everybody tries to get into the end zone as much as we can."

In addition to that hustle touchdown from Agholor, he also had three catches for 32 yards, which included a 15-yard touchdown in the second quarter that showed off his play-making ability.  

On that touchdown, Agholor took a quick pass from Carson Wentz. He then used his speed to sprint around the right edge past safety Eddie Jackson and then leaped into the end zone over Kyle Fuller. 

"I had a lot of fun with the first one," Agholor said after the Eagles' 31-3 win (see breakdown)

Agholor was able to leap over Fuller because Fuller was already on his way to the turf thanks to some "great downfield blocking" from Alshon Jeffery. 

On the season, Agholor has 33 catches for 458 yards and six touchdowns. He came into this year with three career touchdowns. He has also set a career-high for yards receiving a few weeks ago. 

Agholor's transformation from a first-round bust into a viable offensive weapon is undoubtedly one of the biggest storylines for the 2017 Eagles. The team felt so strongly about his growth that they traded Jordan Matthews to the Bills before the season began — a bit of a gamble at the time. 

But it's paid off. 

From the moment Agholor got to OTAs this season, it was pretty clear something was different. He followed up his spring with a strong training camp and his success has flowed right into the regular season. His confidence, which wavered during his 2016 season, has been high all year. 

Now, here we are, almost in December, and Agholor is an absolute playmaker. 

"I'm so happy for him," tight end Zach Ertz said. "I think it's just a testament to hard work. He's one of the first guys in the building each and every day. He's on the JUGs each and every morning. He's worked his butt off to get to this point."

Agholor never stops working, even with a 21-point lead in the fourth. It got him an extra touchdown Sunday.

Jay Ajayi no longer a secret in Eagles' RB room

usa-jay-ajayi-eagles-giants.jpg
USA Today Images

Jay Ajayi no longer a secret in Eagles' RB room

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."

Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

ap-jerry-richardson-panthers.jpg
AP Images

Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Facing a growing investigation that accuses him of sexual misconduct and using racist language at work, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced Sunday that he will sell the NFL team after the season.

The team announced on Twitter that Richardson is selling the team, linking to a five-paragraph letter by the franchise's only owner.

"I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership," Richardson wrote, saying he wouldn't begin discussions until after the season. The Panthers, who lost in the Super Bowl in 2016, are in playoff position again.

"I hope everyone in the organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl," said Richardson, 81.

The NFL awarded Richardson, a former player with the Baltimore Colts, an expansion franchise in 1993, and he has been the team's only owner.

Richardson's letter did not directly address the investigation.

"There has been no greater mission or purpose in my life than to have brought and NFL franchise to Charlotte," Richardson wrote. "The obstacles back then were significant and some even questioned whether or community could or would support professional football. But I always knew that if given the chance the Carolina would rise to the occasion. And you have. The team has become an integral part of the community. The stadium is in its best condition since the day it opened."

Richardson attended the game Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium and was photographed sitting beside his wife Rosalind in his luxury box.

He did not speak to reporters.

"While I will no longer be the team owner, I will always be the Panthers Number One fan," Richardson's letter said.

The Panthers are tied to Charlotte through June of 2019.

The city of Charlotte and the Panthers reached agreement on improvements for the team's stadium in 2013. The plan called for the city to contribute about $87 million for renovations to Bank of America Stadium in exchange for a six-year deal to keep the Panthers in Charlotte.

The money is less than what the team was seeking for improvements of the stadium, which opened in 1996. Forbes estimates the Panthers worth at $2.3 billion.

Richardson's announcement comes after a Sports Illustrated report that cited unnamed sources who said Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report states that the settlements came with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.

The NFL on Sunday said it has taken over the investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment on the report.

Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Sunday the team requested the league take over the investigation.

"We thought it would be best for transparency reasons," Drummond told The Associated Press.

The investigation was originally going to be led by the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by Erskine Bowles, a minority owner with the Panthers.

Drummond said in a release that the Panthers take these allegations very seriously and are committed to a full investigation.

"The entire organization is fully committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally," Drummond said.

The Panthers began play in 1995 but have never delivered on Richardson's promise of winning a Super Bowl. They lost after the 2003 and 2015 seasons.

The Panthers are 10-4 entering the final two weeks of the regular season and well positioned for a playoff run.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, like most of the team's players, hadn't read the details of the report that came out just as the Panthers were preparing to play the Green Bay Packers.

Newton said Richardson has served in a "father-like role" for him since his arrival in Carolina seven years ago.

"For me I hope things don't alter my thinking of Mr. Richardson," Newton said. "But I do know that he has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative of."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after the game it is important to let the process play out, but vouched for Richardson's character.

"The only thing I can speak on is for what he has been to me as far as I'm concerned," Rivera said. "A lot of you know I had a house fire and he was there for (my wife) Stephanie and I. He was tremendous in supporting us. My brother passed and Mr. Richardson was there and helped me get to the funeral and back. I can't speak to anything other than that."

It has been a whirlwind year for the Panthers organization.

Team president Danny Morrison abruptly resigned in February. Richardson then fired general manager Dave Gettleman on the eve of training camp and replaced him with former general manager Marty Hurney on an interim basis. It was a surprising move considering Carolina made the playoffs three times in four seasons under Gettleman.