With Corey Clement placed on IR, Eagles' newest running back Boston Scott is ready for anything

With Corey Clement placed on IR, Eagles' newest running back Boston Scott is ready for anything

Boston Scott’s job is essentially waiting.

Waiting for a teammate to get hurt. Waiting to get signed to the active roster. Waiting for a chance to play on Sundays.

And being prepared once that happens.

With Darren Sproles out indefinitely with a quad injury and Corey Clement’s shoulder injury now sending him to Injured Reserve, the Eagles promoted Scott on Friday from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

Along with a raise from $8,000 to $33,529 per week comes the opportunity Scott’s been waiting for since the season began.

It’s been a long time coming,” Scott said. “Just been trying to do my best to keep my head down and just keep working. I’ve been getting great work against the No. 1 rush defense in the league, as of right now. So it’s been some really good work and I’ve been getting in some catching extra. You never know when that opportunity may come, but when it does I’m going to be ready.

Scott opened a lot of eyes in training camp with his tough inside power running and his knack for catching the ball and eluding tacklers after the catch.

But with Sanders, Howard, Sproles and Clement, there was no room on the roster.

Now there is.

It’s all about your preparation,” Scott said. “Your preparation leads to your success. Whether you’re on the bottom of the depth chart, I was a walk-on at Louisiana Tech, no matter bottom of the depth chart or you’re a starter, you’ve just got to be ready for that opportunity, so it’s all in your preparation and how you handle each day as though you were playing.

Scott, originally a sixth-round pick of the Saints last year, spent most of the 2018 season in New Orleans before the Eagles signed him in mid-December. He played in each of the last four games, handling kick returns and contributing some reps on special teams

His role Sunday in Minneapolis?

We'll see.

But Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard are the only healthy running backs on the roster right now. Clement, Sproles and Nelson Agholor have been handling punt returns, but ideally the Eagles would like to have Agholor focus on offense, so you could see Scott out there fielding punts.

I don’t even necessarily know what my role is going to be just yet, it’s still kind of fresh,” he said. “So my answer to that is however they want me to contribute, that’s what I’m looking to do. Just coming in ready to help.

Scott knows his stay on the 53-man roster could end Monday or could continue the rest of the year.

He’s already gone from the Saints’ practice squad to the Eagles’ roster back to the Eagles’ practice squad and back to the 53, all in the span of 10 months.

As a sixth-round pick making minimum wage, he knows nothing is guaranteed.

It’s ups and downs, but it really comes down to being in the NFL you try to control what you can control and that’s your work habits and what you do outside the game,” he said. “Opportunities are going to come, opportutnies may not come, at the end of the day you don’t want to have any regrets, so pretty much give it all you got and if the opportunities come let it come.

I don’t know if Scott can play in the NFL. I don’t know if he’ll help the Eagles Sunday in Minnesota. I don’t know if this will be the last time I ever write about him.

But I do know he’s got the perfect mindset for all this. And I know that if he does get a chance to play, he’ll be ready.

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Jalen Mills, the man who saved the Eagles' secondary

Jalen Mills, the man who saved the Eagles' secondary

It’s no coincidence the Eagles’ defense has suddenly started playing light years better the last few weeks.

That’s when Jalen Mills showed up.

For some reason a large segment of the Eagles' fan base has decided Mills isn’t any good.

Maybe because he was a seventh-round pick. Maybe because he doesn't have typical NFL cornerback wheels. Maybe it's the green hair.

But if you forget your assumptions and actually watch him play, you see a tough, physical, smart, fundamentally sound cornerback who has helped transform the Eagles’ defense from a disaster the first month and a half into the season into a legit unit today.

Mills came back for the Cowboys game and Ronald Darby a week later for the Bills game. Along with safeties Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins and slot corner Avonte Maddox, it's the first time the Eagles have had their full projected starting secondary together since Week 3 of last year.

Jalen is playing at a high level all across the field,”defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “He's tackling well, he's covering well. He's up to the challenge of covering guys, and he brings us a lot of spirit and a lot of competitiveness and toughness. I think you've seen the level of defensive play increase since he's been back. He's always been a respected member of our defense and a guy that the coaches and players both have a lot of confidence in. He was down for a while. He worked really hard to get back, and I think all that hard work is paying off for him. I'm really proud of him.

The Eagles are 22-8 over the last three years when Mills starts and 15-6 when both Darby and Mills start.

Mills missed over a year with a foot injury. Darby missed the stretch run last year with a torn ACL and then four games this year with a hamstring injury.

Let’s take a look at the Eagles this year with and without Mills. The difference is astonishing:

Passing yards allowed

Before Mills: 280 per game (27th)
With Mills: 174 per game (3rd)

Opposing completion percentage

Before Mills: 64.3 percent (14th)
With Mills: 56.9 percent (3rd)

Opposing passer rating

Before Mills: 94.5 (20th)
With Mills: 81.1 (11th)

Opposing TD passes

Before Mills: 13 (27th)
With Mills: 4 (6th)

Opposing net yards

Before Mills: 353 per game (15th)
With Mills: 174 per game (3rd)

Obviously there are other factors. But after missing 16 games, Mills has picked up right where he left off.

“I feel good,” Mills said. “I’m running round, playing a lot of different positions for sure, more this year than I did in my previous years.”

Mills has gotten some work in the slot over the past few weeks, something he did at LSU but hasn’t done here since his rookie year in 2016.

At the end of the day I pride myself on being a defensive back, I don’t pride myself on just being an [outside] corner,” he said. “Whatever the game plan is, Schwartz needs me to play on the outside, inside, weak side, strong side, it doesn’t matter, I feel like I can do it.

With Mills and Darby holding it down at corner as opposed to Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas and all the others who've come and gone, Schwartz is able to call a much more aggressive game. You can’t blitz if you don’t trust your corners.

Finally, Schwartz does.

“It never hurts to have your guys back in there,” Schwartz said. “It does give you a little bit more flexibility and be able to match up different ways."

You saw that Sunday, when the Eagles harassed Tom Brady throughout the afternoon. The Eagles lost, but the defense held Brady to a pedestrian 67.3 passer rating, just 216 yards and no TD passes.

It was only the fifth time in 172 games over the last 10 years Brady has had a passer rating under 70, fewer than 220 yards and no TD passes.

You think that’s happening without Mills?  

The most remarkable thing is that Mills literally did not play football from Oct. 28, 2018, until Oct. 20, 2019.

As soon as he got back, he was back to his old self.

Jalen has never checked out, so you could say, ‘Yeah, it's surprising because it's a tough thing to do,’ but I also recognize all the work that he's put into it, and it hasn't just been sit around for a year waiting for it to come back," Schwartz said. "He's been actively engaged in every one of our meetings and every one of our game plans. Even if he wasn't playing, he sits right over there and he's into the game taking notes like if he was playing. And that's paid off for him. We've had other players, not just Jalen, injured players, but we've had guys on the practice squad that have been that way, and generally the guys that succeed are the guys that stay ready so they don't have to get ready, and Jalen certainly personifies that.

Things don’t get any easier Sunday when Russell Wilson and the mighty Seahawks come to the Linc.

But with Mills and Darby back there, at least the Eagles will have a chance. Without them? They would have none.

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Jay Ajayi eager to show rest of NFL that JayTrain still has it

Jay Ajayi eager to show rest of NFL that JayTrain still has it

During the first half of the 2019 season, Jay Ajayi spent his Sundays in Southern California, keeping his mind occupied.

As the NFL’s slate of games kicked off every Sunday afternoon, Ajayi would train.

“To be honest,” Ajayi said on Tuesday, “I really didn’t try to watch too much football because I knew just my competitiveness, I knew it would kind of get me upset that I wasn’t playing yet.”

While he didn’t play against the Patriots on Sunday, just two days after signing back with the Eagles, Ajayi’s schedule is now full for most of the remaining Sundays in the 2019 NFL season.

And after an ACL tear ended his 2018 contract year early, Ajayi is looking forward to showing the rest of the NFL that the JayTrain still has it.

Ajayi, 26, on Tuesday confirmed that his contract with the Eagles includes a “right of first refusal,” which could potentially keep him in Philadelphia past the 2019 season. But the former Pro Bowler on Tuesday claimed that, for now, he is just trying to worry about showcasing his talent for at least the next six games.

“I think it’s just an exciting prospect for me to just get back onto the field,” Ajayi said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve played football, in my mind, so I’m just excited to get back out there and just showcase who I am and what the JayTrain can do.”

That’s right … Ajayi pulled into the station with a third person reference to his nickname before getting on the practice field. But that’s a good sign; Ajayi has always been a confident player and it seems like that confidence is back.

Ajayi tore his ACL on Oct. 7, 2018, ending his contract season prematurely and ruining any hope he might have had about finally signing a significant deal as a free agent. Because Ajayi was a fifth-round pick and because of his long-term knee issues, it seems unlikely he’ll ever really cash in as an NFL player.

On Tuesday afternoon, Ajayi said he didn’t know how many more years he wants to play football.

“I just take it every day at a time,” he said. “Not really looking too far into the future. I just count my blessings every time I step on the field.”

After the injury last year, Ajayi began the long process of rehabbing. He did his rehab in El Segundo, California, and wasn’t cleared until late August or early September. And he didn’t really start to feel like himself again in October, which is when he began to prepare for re-entry into the NFL.

Ajayi got a call from his agent last Thursday, the day after Darren Sproles suffered a season-ending injury, telling Ajayi to get to Philly for a workout. He worked out and took a physical on Friday before signing a contract. He said he would have been able to play on Sunday, but it was a coach’s decision to not get him on the field.

That should change this Sunday in South Philly against the Seahawks. His role will likely depend on the health of Jordan Howard.  

But either way, he won’t have to avoid football on Sundays anymore. He’s back and Ajayi has six games to prove he’s still got it.

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