Duce Staley confirms Eagles will have a lead running back

Duce Staley confirms Eagles will have a lead running back

Earlier this spring, Jay Ajayi said he was looking forward to being the Eagles’ lead running back in the 2018 season. 

Turns out, Duce Staley is looking forward to it too. 

The Eagles’ running backs coach on Monday confirmed that Ajayi is going to take the top role for the Eagles this season, but it will be done as a part of a continuing committee. 

“I think he will (be the lead back),” Staley said. “If you just go back and study us for the last couple of years. A lot of that comes from being that guy. You look at LeGarrette (Blount), he was that guy. You look at (Darren) Sproles. When we have a group of backs, we’re going to start off with a back, he’s going to go out there, he’s going to run until his tongue is hanging out and here comes the next guy.”

Ajayi, 24, is certainly excited about being back in that role. Remember, he was a Pro Bowler just a couple of seasons ago when he rushed for over 1,200 yards with the Dolphins in 2016.

Staley already liked what he saw from Ajayi in limited time last season. Ajayi was traded to the Eagles in the middle of the year but put in extra work to get caught up and saw his workload increase as the season went on. 

During the regular season, Ajayi averaged 5.8 yards per carry (408 on 70) in the final seven games before the playoffs. That’s the best average per carry for an Eagles running back (minimum 50 attempts) in the modern era. And then he started the first two playoff games before Blount started in the Super Bowl. 

But it was pretty clear as last season went on that Ajayi was starting to be groomed for that starter role and now with Blount gone — to Detroit in free agency — Ajayi will have the top spot. 

“Him being focused coming in,” Staley said, “knowing he’s the guy that’s going to step up there and put everything on his back and we’re going to ride with him.” 

Now, it’s important to remember that even though Blount was the lead back for most of the 2017 season, that didn’t mean he led the team in carries every week. Remember way back to Week 2 of the season in Kansas City when Blount didn’t have a single rushing attempt? It was a big deal at the time, but he came back and ended up averaging over 6.1 yards per carry over the following four weeks. 

That’s the type of committee that makes the Eagles happy but can be a nightmare for fantasy football owners. 

What's most impressive is that it appears all the Eagles’ running backs have bought into that committee — even Ajayi, who had a less-than-stellar reputation when the Eagles traded for him. Staley somehow seems to make everyone happy. 

How does he do it?

“Just by telling them it’s not about them,” Staley said. “I think that’s the most important thing for them to understand. And you have that conversation with them as soon as they walk through the door. It’s not something you hold back.”

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Eagle Eye podcast: Just how bad is this loss?

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Eagle Eye podcast: Just how bad is this loss?

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro break down the Eagles’ 27-24 loss to the Lions at home. 

The mistakes were just horrible: Drops, fumbles, penalties. The Eagles couldn’t score on late drives and now they’re 1-2 with a tough game in Green Bay looming. 

The guys go over their biggest concerns with the Eagles with Thursday Night Football coming in a few days. 

• Mistakes just killed them 
• Why are the Eagles 1-2? 
• What happened on those late drives? 
• The guys pick their biggest concerns
• The Packers will be a tough test 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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No excuses from Eagles' Miles Sanders after fumbles: 'I have to play better'

No excuses from Eagles' Miles Sanders after fumbles: 'I have to play better'

Someone tried to ask Miles Sanders after the game if he had trouble hanging onto the football because it was so hot and he was sweating and the football was slippery.

He just shook his head and was like … come on, man.

No excuses.

He knows he has to be better. He knows he has to solve his ongoing fumbling problem.

Sanders, the Eagles’ rookie second-round pick from Penn State, finally did some good things on offense in the Eagles’ loss to the Lions Sunday, but they were more than offset by two fumbles, one of which he lost that led to a Detroit field goal (see observations).

Whether you’re a 10-year vet or a rookie, you’re in the NFL for a reason,” Sanders said. “I have a job to do. … All I can say is got to put it behind me and keep moving forward and continue to grow and get ready for next week.

Sanders fumbled midway through the second quarter, but guard Isaac Seumalo recovered and the drive continued.

Just four plays later, it happened again. This time Lions defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson fell on the football near midfield, and five plays later the Lions took a 17-10 lead with a field goal.

Sanders is the first Eagles running back to fumble twice in the same game since Bryce Brown against the Cowboys in 2012.

It’s a long season, a long game,” Sanders said. “I got back in and tried to make the most of my opportunities. Put it behind me. I’m not perfect, but I’m definitely going to work my ass off this week to get better.

Brown, also a rookie, rushed for 169 yards in that 2012 game against the Cowboys. Sanders didn’t pile up quite that many yards, but after another slow start he did put up 126 yards from scrimmage — the most by an Eagles rookie running back since that same game.

Sanders was on the receiving end of Carson Wentz’s two longest passes — a 40-yarder in the first quarter and a 33-yarder in the fourth — and ran 13 times for 53 yards, a respectable 4.1 after he averaged just 2.5 yards in his first two games.

His 73 receiving yards are the most by an Eagles rookie running back in a regular season game since Robert Drummond had 74 against the Chargers in 1989, although Corey Clement had 100 in the Super Bowl.

There’s always positives in every game,” he said. “But got to come out with a win. I’ve got to play better. I put us in some tough situations.

Sanders fumbled 10 times in 308 touches at Penn State, which is once every 31 touches.

And that’s way too many.

He now has two fumbles in 40 touches as an Eagle.

Wayyyyy too many.

Continue to keep working,” he said. “I’m not perfect. Try to be perfect. On to the next game.

The first couple games, Sanders held onto the ball but didn’t produce.

This time there were some positives signs … but he fumbled twice.

The challenge for the Eagles and for Sanders is getting the production without the fumbles.

Because as talented as Sanders is, if he can’t hang onto the football, he's not going to play.

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