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."

How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

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How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

When you think about the best wide receivers in the NFL today, names like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins come to mind and rightfully so, but the Minnesota Vikings have a pair of wideouts who have given opposing secondaries fits.

This season, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been the perfect complement to each other. Thielen finished the regular season with 91 receptions (eighth-best in the league), 1276 yards (fifth-best) and his 20 catches for 20 or more yards tied for fifth-best overall. As for Diggs, he finished with 64 receptions for 849 yards.

Together, Thielen and Diggs accounted for 54 percent of the Vikings' receiving yards this season. They also combined for 12 touchdowns. In the Vikes' miraculous playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, they accounted for 66 percent of the passing game. They have been the safety valves for Case Keenum all season long.

Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has the rare luxury of lining up either one of them on the inside or outside on any given play. Both are excellent route runners — whether it's doing deep or intermediate routes or crossing routes, and both are excellent blockers.

So how should Jim Schwartz defend against these two? Some believe help over the top on Thielen and playing single coverage on Diggs is the way to go. We may see that concept occasionally in the NFC Championship Game but I have a feeling Schwartz will come up with some variation we have not seen before. The Eagles are not going to completely shut these two down, but their damage can be minimized. Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and the other DBs will put in a full day’s work shadowing these two.

Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

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Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

As the Eagles practiced on Thursday afternoon, just a few days before hosting the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman stood next to owner Jeff Lurie and watched the team he created. 

Of the 53 members on the Eagles' roster heading into this championship game, 25 weren't on the active roster last season. Roseman had a very busy offseason, molding the Eagles into a Super Bowl contender. 

For his efforts, the 42-year-old Roseman, who began with the Eagles as an intern in 2000, has been named the NFL Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. 

Roseman helped turn over a roster that went 7-9 last season into a team that went 13-3, earning the first-overall seed in the NFC. He built the team with enough depth to survive major injuries to Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis. 

Never afraid to make a trade, Roseman came back from his time away from football operations more aggressive than ever. He claims his year away from GM duties while Chip Kelly took over was both humbling and eye-opening. 

For this season, Roseman traded 25 spots in the third round to bring in veteran defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, traded away Jordan Matthews and a pick to bring in cornerback Ronald Darby and pulled the trigger on a midseason move to bring in Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi. 

In free agency, he signed Alshon Jeffery, Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount, Nick Foles, Patrick Robinson and Chance Warmack. He brought in several of those players on one-year prove-it deals, and for the most part, the team has gotten more than their money's worth out of them. 

He also helped hire VP of player personnel Joe Douglas to revamp the scouting department. That hire of a top personnel man was one of the conditions when Lurie reinstated Roseman to power following Kelly's dismissal. 

Roseman and Douglas spearheaded drafting a class that included Derek Barnett in the first round, an injured Sidney Jones in the second and some other contributors in the next five rounds. 

Aside from just bringing players in, Roseman has been able to manipulate the salary cap better than anyone in the league. It's been a strength of his since his arrival in Philly, so that should be no surprise. 

You could actually argue that Roseman's 2016 was more impressive. That's when he laid the groundwork for this playoff season by moving up and drafting Carson Wentz. But 2017 is when it all came together.