Why Eagles won't name Jay Ajayi No. 1

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Why Eagles won't name Jay Ajayi No. 1

Jay Ajayi has an NFC-best 6.4 yards per carry since arriving in Philly.

What he doesn't have is a full-time job.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday he doesn't play on making Ajayi the Eagles' featured running back down the stretch and into the playoffs, despite Ajayi's recent production.

"It's a fine line a little bit," Pederson said. "Right now, I don't want to fix something or do something if it's not really broken."

The Eagles have used a running back-by-committee approach all year, and it's served them well. 

But Ajayi has separated himself the last few weeks. He's had a higher average than LeGarrette Blount in five of six games he's played, and his 6.4 rushing average since his Eagles' debut in early November is highest among all NFC running backs during that span (and second only to Cam Newton in the conference).

Overall, the Eagles' running game hasn't been quite so effective the last few weeks.

After averaging 147 rushing yards and 4.7 yards per carry through the first 11 games of the year — both among the top-three in the NFL during that span — they're at 115 yards per game and 4.1 per carry against the Seahawks, Rams and Giants. Those figures rank 18th and 22nd in the league.

Blount is averaging just 2.2 yards per carry in those three games. Corey Clement continues to produce when he gets the ball — he's averaging 4.3 yards per carry — and Kenjon Barner had a big 18-yard gain against the Giants Sunday.

With Ajayi, Blount and Clement, the Eagles are the only NFL team that has three running backs with at least 300 rushing yards.

On Sunday, Ajayi had only six touches in the game's first 38 ½ minutes, then on back-to-back snaps gained 22 yards on a run and 32 yards on a catch and run on a pivotal touchdown drive.

Despite the 33rd-most carries in the NFL during his six weeks with the Eagles, Ajayi has 10 runs of 10 yards or more — 11th-most in the NFL during that span.

"If a guy does get a hot hand, I try to maybe feature that guy a little bit more in each game," Pederson said.

"I still think we've got a great running back room. We've got some talent there. Each one has a different skill set, and we want to make sure we use it all the best we can."

Since Pederson became the Eagles' head coach, Ryan Mathews is the only running back to get 20 carries in a game — he had 22 against the Browns last September and 20 against the Ravens last December.

But the bottom line is the Eagles are 12-2 and on the brink of clinching the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, and Blount, Ajayi, Clement and Barner have all contributed … as did Darren Sproles before he got hurt and Wendell Smallwood before Ajayi arrived.

"I suppose there are pros and cons, but like anything, you play the cards and the hand that you have, and the hand that we've been playing has been working for us, where it keeps them fresh," Reich said.

"I feel like we've built in enough rhythm for them at times. I'm sure every back always wants more carries, but so far it's been working pretty well for us."

Forget empty Day 2 of draft, Eagles hoping to find gold in Day 3

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Forget empty Day 2 of draft, Eagles hoping to find gold in Day 3

The Eagles are scheduled to have a pretty boring Day 2 of the draft this year. Because after they pick at No. 32, they don’t have another selection until the 31st pick of the fourth round. 

That means 98 players will be taken between the Eagles’ first and second picks. And they’ll have to watch other teams pick that entire Friday (Rounds 2-3) without them … unless they make a move. 

“We’re not looking at it like we’re sitting out on Friday,” Eagles de facto GM Howie Roseman said. “We’re going through our draft process looking at every scenario. When we get to Friday, we get to Friday.” 

Even if the Eagles don’t make a move, they’ll be plenty busy Saturday, the final day of the draft. They have two fourth-round picks and one pick in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. 

Eagles personnel head Joe Douglas showed up to his media availability with a stat ready to go to illustrate the importance of Day 3. 

“We’re excited that we have five picks on Saturday,” Douglas said. “When you look at the Super Bowl, there’s 22 starters that were third-round picks or lower. Of those 22, 18 of them were fourth-round picks or lower. So 18 starters in the Super Bowl this year were fourth-round picks or lower, including six of them that were undrafted free agents. We choose to keep the glass half full.” 

Douglas is right on all those stats — 22 of 44 starters in the Super Bowl were drafted in the third or lower and 18 of them would be considered Day 3 picks. Not bad. 

Here’s how the Super Bowl starters broke down by round: 1-10, 2-12, 3-4, 4-4, 5-3, 6-3, 7-2, UDFA-6. 

The Eagles accounted for seven of the 18 players who were drafted in the fourth round or later, so the Patriots were the ones who found even more value late in drafts. And of those seven, just three were original Eagles — Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jason Kelce and Jalen Mills. 

Of the six undrafted players who started in the Super Bowl, two were from the Eagles — LeGarrette Blount and Rodney McLeod. Neither was an original Eagle, but the Birds also relied heavily on running back Corey Clement, who was an undrafted rookie last season. 

With a dearth of high draft picks, it would make sense if the Eagles attack the undrafted market following the draft, but Douglas thinks it won’t be as easy as many might think. 

“You would think because we’re coming off a Super Bowl, we don’t have a second or third round pick that it would be a lot easier after the draft,” Douglas said. “But my experience coming off a Super Bowl, it’s sometimes harder to get guys to commit to your roster because agents and players have a perceived notion that it’s going to be that much tougher to make the team. I think that’s going to be a challenge. I think that’s going to be a challenge for us and we know it and we’re going to attack it.”

The Eagles in recent years have shown a willingness to pony up significant money to entice undrafted players to sign with them, and if Douglas is right, they might need to do it again to land some this year. 

Either way, the Eagles know how important Day 3 and beyond can be. So when they’re bored on Day 2, they don’t plan on losing focus. 

Eagles reward Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles with reworked contract

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Eagles reward Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles with reworked contract

The Eagles gave Nick Foles a little raise on Friday, reworking the Super Bowl MVP’s contract, a league source confirmed. 

Basically, the Eagles are rewarding Foles after he helped the franchise win its first-ever Super Bowl a few months ago. 

Foles, 29, is still entering the final year of his contract with the Eagles, but the new deal also includes a mutual option for the 2019 season, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. The mutual option will still allow Foles the possibility to test the free agent market next season, but could leave the door open to a possible return beyond this upcoming season. 

Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport from NFL Network first reported the revised contract, which includes a $2 million signing bonus and “several millions in incentives if he’s the starter and hits various benchmarks,” according to Rapoport. 

That part makes a ton of sense. If for some reason Carson Wentz isn’t ready to play in 2018 or if he goes down again, Foles will have a chance to earn what might be closer to starter money. 

Foles was set to earn a base salary of $4 million in 2018, with a salary cap hit of $7.6 million on the contract before Friday’s renegotiation. 

Wentz and Foles grew very close last season — third-string QB Nate Sudfeld too — and have both been very selfless in a situation that would be awkward for many others in the league. But both have been incredibly selfless throughout the entire process. Just this week, Wentz admitted he had to fight jealousy but was truly happy for his teammate and friend, who became the Super Bowl hero (see story)

Earlier on Friday, Foles tweeted out this photo with his wife and daughter from the NovaCare Complex. That’s a $2 million smile.