Donnel Pumphrey

Even with Jay Ajayi, Eagles still 'counting on' LeGarrette Blount

Even with Jay Ajayi, Eagles still 'counting on' LeGarrette Blount

Frank Reich's message to LeGarrette Blount was a simple one.

"'Keep doing what you're doing,'" Reich said. "'You're a big reason we're 7-1. You're a big reason we've made the strides we've made in the running game.

"'Your tenaciousness running the football, the attitude that you've brought, the toughness that you've brought, the unselfishness that you've brought, is a big part of our identity.'"

Blount, the Eagles' leading rusher the first half of the season, suddenly found his role up in the air Tuesday when the Eagles made a trade-deadline deal to acquire Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi from the Dolphins in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2018 (see story).

Other than the Chiefs game, when he mysteriously had no carries, Blount has gotten between 12 and 16 carries in every game this year. Blount and Ajayi rank 10th and 12th in the NFL in rushing yards, although Blount's 4.7 average is much higher than Ajayi's 3.4.

But Ajayi ran for nearly 1,300 yards in his 2016 Pro Bowl season, and the Eagles didn't bring him here to ride the bench.

So what happens to Blount?

And what happens with promising rookie Corey Clement, second-year pro Wendell Smallwood and veteran Kenjon Barner? Not to mention injured rookie fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey?

There are a lot of backs and only one football.

"LeGarrette continues to be our starter and [we're] just really excited to have that group and add a good player," Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said.

"We like our running back group. This was an opportunity that came to us. We thought [he] was a good player who could add to our team. He’s a young player who's under contract for the next couple years (through 2018).

"At the same time, everyone has seen the way LeGarrette has run. Wendell has had really good games for us. Corey. We brought Kenjon back, as well. It just adds to the group, and all that stuff with playing time is sorted out by the coaches.”

Roseman said he spoke to Blount as soon as the deal was finalized to reassure him that he wasn’t being replaced.

“LeGarrette's awesome,” Roseman said. “He wants to win. He's won. He's all about winning. He's been in situations before where there have been productive backs on the team. He's been a tremendous team guy since he's walked in the building and a leader for this football team. Nothing changed today.”

The Eagles, who own the NFL's best record at 7-1, have the fourth-ranked running attack in the NFL, although they've been held to 3.8 yards or lower in each of the last four games.

Smallwood has 143 yards and a 3.8 average, Clement 131 yards and a 3.6 average and Barner 34 yards and a 2.8 average (see story).

"LeGarrette has been productive when he's gotten the ball," Roseman said. "He's a warrior. He's a two-time Super Bowl champion and we're really glad to have him.

"So, you know, I really shouldn't get into starter roles. That's really up to the coaches, but we are counting on LeGarrette going forward here.

"This [trade] is no reflection of any of those running backs. This was a good opportunity for the Philadelphia Eagles, and our job is to add good players who fit what we do and we believe Jay Ajayi does that."

Blount, who turns 31 in a few weeks, wasn't available for comment on Tuesday. The Eagles return to practice on Wednesday.

But Reich said he isn't concerned at all about Blount.

"The guy is a pro, man," Reich said. "He's a big part of why we are where we are right now, the leadership, his attitude.

"I really give him a lot of credit. Because you understand, personally — you can say all you want about team, but we all know [running backs want the football]. We all know. So a lot of credit to LeGarrette."

So what does the rotation look like moving forward? Reich wouldn’t speculate but insisted the Eagles are happy with all the backs on the roster (there are seven, including injured Pumphrey and Darren Sproles).

"We’ll have to see how it all plays out," Reich said. "I think that’s the only fair way to say it. We are happy with all the guys that we’ve got in the building.

"This business is a very competitive business. To get a spot in this building is not easy, and when you get a spot in this building, it means we love you and you're ours. You're our family and you get treated like that, with the respect that you've earned your way here.

"So every person, whether it's the top guy or the quote-unquote bottom guy on the roster, every spot is valuable."

And how do you keep five running backs happy?

"Keep winning," Reich said. "Winning has a way of keeping everybody happy."

Eagles Injury Update: Rookie RB Donnel Pumphrey tears hamstring

Eagles Injury Update: Rookie RB Donnel Pumphrey tears hamstring

Rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey probably wasn't going to play anytime soon.

Now he won't even have the chance.

During Wednesday's practice, Pumphrey tore his right hamstring on running play with the scout team. His rough rookie season hit yet another rough patch.

On Friday, the Eagles placed him on injured reserve, possibly ending his season. The Eagles could bring Pumphrey back after eight weeks if he is healthy enough, but they can do that with only two players this season. Kicker Caleb Sturgis could be one of them. Pumphrey said the doctors told him it's a four to six week injury, but he'll be out for at least eight. 

"It didn't really pull or anything," Pumphrey said on Friday. "It just felt like it grabbed twice. I did it twice in the same practice. And I was able to walk off the field and not limping or nothing. I got the MRI and they said it was torn." 

During training camp, Pumphrey had injured the same hamstring and was out for a few days. On Friday, he said while his hamstring felt better after the initial injury, he never lost the tightness in it.  

"It's definitely disappointing," Pumphrey said. "Gotta deal with it." 

Even when he was healthy, Pumphrey wasn't very good. In fact, had he not been a fourth-round pick, he probably wouldn't have made the team. The Eagles did something very rare to keep him: they kept five running backs.

The hope was to develop the 5-foot-9, 176-pound running back while keeping him inactive on game days. That plan is now obviously on hold.  

"Well, it'll set him back because he won't be able to run and do all the things that we want him to do," Pederson said. "It's unfortunate. We know it's part of the game but we'll keep him plugged in, in the meeting rooms and around the team and keep him plugged in that way."

Pumphrey is one of three players who has already been ruled out for Sunday's game in Kansas City. The other two are Ronald Darby (ankle) and Destiny Vaeao (wrist). Darby is obviously out for a while with a dislocated ankle; Pederson said Darby is "week to week."

With Vaeao out, there's a chance rookie sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls might play. As the fourth-string defensive tackle, Vaeao got 12 snaps in the opener.  

"There's a chance," Pederson said about Vaeao's possibly playing. "We've worked him this week in practice. He definitely has an opportunity to play in this game, sure."

Thanks to the hip injury to Caleb Sturgis, who is on IR, this Sunday will be the debut of kicker Jake Elliott. Elliott was a fifth-round pick of the Bengals, but the Eagles signed him earlier this week.

Pederson said he has been impressed with the new kicker during the week of practice and having Elliott instead of Sturgis won't affect his decision-making.

"That's a great question because that's something we discussed during the week," Pederson said. "This place Arrowhead, the winds obviously can be, they can swirl around in this place. I just have to trust my gut and trust my instinct and trust the players. I've said that all along. I can't go in here second-guessing myself or a decision. I have to pull the trigger. If I feel like we're going to kick a field goal, then we'll kick it. It's not going to change my decision-making one way or the other."

Eagles Inactives: 4 draft picks to sit out season opener vs. Redskins

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Eagles Inactives: 4 draft picks to sit out season opener vs. Redskins

LANDOVER, Md. — The Eagles have four draft picks on their inactive list for the season opener. 

Rasul Douglas, Donnel Pumphrey, Shelton Gibson, Elijah Qualls, Chance Warmack, Dexter McDougle and Steven Means are all inactive for Sunday's game against Washington. 

The Eagles were completely healthy heading into Sunday's matchup in Washington. Every player on the 53-man roster practiced in full all week. 

Pumphrey expected to be inactive. After a terrible preseason where he averaged just 1.9 yards per rushing attempt, Pumphrey made the 53-man roster but said during the practice week that he would be inactive. He was right.

With Pumphrey, Gibson, Douglas and Qualls inactive, four of the Eagles' eight draft picks are on the inactive list Sunday. (Sidney Jones is on NFI and Nate Gerry is on the practice squad.) The only active draft picks are Derek Barnett and Mack Hollins. 

Undrafted rookie running back Corey Clement is active. 

McDougle might eventually have a role on the Eagles' defense, but for now, he's still the newcomer after the Eagles traded for him in late August. 

The Eagles kept just seven of their eight offensive linemen active, which makes Warmack the odd man out. Their backup offensive linemen are Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Stefen Wisniewski. 

The Eagles technically have just three cornerbacks active: Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Patrick Robinson. But Jaylen Watkins, while technically listed as a safety, has been playing corner and Corey Graham can play corner as well. 

Washington's inactives: Mack Brown, Joshua Holsey, Tyler Catalina, TJ Clemmings, Anthony Lanier, Jeremy Sprinkle and Josh Harvey-Clemons.