Eagles

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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Howie Roseman says there's plenty of time for Eagles to add a RB

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Dave Zangaro

Howie Roseman says there's plenty of time for Eagles to add a RB

PHOENIX — Howie Roseman’s attitude toward the running back position mirrored the shady patch of grass from which he spoke on Monday afternoon at the NFL’s annual meetings. 

The sun was scorching, but it was cool under the shade of a big ol’ tree in the lawn of the luxurious Arizona Biltmore. Similarly, heat from Eagles fans has risen about the lack of moves at the running back position. But Roseman is staying cool about that too. 

Roseman’s message was pretty simple: Relax. 

“The three running backs who played in the Super Bowl were guys we acquired after the 2017 draft,” he said. “The talent acquisition period continues to go; we want to have the best possible team. We’re going to look into everything, that’s our job. And at the same time, we’ve got to grow and develop our players.”

The Eagles have a need at running back and it would have made sense for them to make a play for one of the running backs in the free agent market, but they haven’t gotten any yet. Mark Ingram signed a three-year, $15 million deal and Tevin Coleman’s deal with the 49ers is two years for $8 million. Both of those backs signed relatively reasonable contracts and it was somewhat curious the Eagles weren’t more involved. 

But Roseman said the Eagles have simply stayed true to their internal philosophy. They wanted to first shore up the offensive and defensive lines and then get weapons for Carson Wentz. That includes all the skill position players. And other parts of the offseason were unforeseen; like how they were able to re-sign some of their own free agents, including Ronald Darby. 

So if running back got pushed to the back-burner, so be it. 

We’re pretty set in how we believe we should build this team and we’re going to be committed to that until something shows us that there’s a different way.

For now, the Eagles’ running back group includes Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams and Boston Scott. Some decent pieces for a rotation, but clearly missing a top guy. 

Jay Ajayi is still a free agent, but is coming off a torn ACL. Still, it’s possible he could return on a one-year deal if the price is right. But if that’s the case, it might behoove the Eagles to draft one in conjunction. The Eagles have kept those lines of communication open. 

Roseman praised the guys who are still on the roster and it didn’t seem like lip service. He likes them, but that also doesn’t mean he’s prepared to go into a season with the group he has. The Eagles’ de facto GM was quick to point out there’s a long way to go before the season. 

Roseman was asked if he doesn’t add a running back in the next month, if he’d feel obligated to use a high draft pick on a running back in late April. It doesn’t seem like he’s going to let a need force their hand. 

I just go back to our history over the last couple of years. We’ve been fortunate to win a lot of games with the running backs we have on the roster. And to have opportunities also to acquire backs, not just before the draft but after the draft process.

The Eagles haven’t used a first- or second-round pick on a running back in 10 years. The last time they did, they used a second-round pick on LeSean McCoy back in 2009. They haven’t drafted a running back in the first round since Keith Byars in 1986. 

This draft class offers one possibility in the first round at No. 25 in Alabama’s Josh Jacobs, but there are plenty of options in the second round, starting with Penn State’s Miles Sanders and Iowa State’s David Montgomery. With picks 53 and 57 in the second round, this could finally be the year the Eagles buck that trend. 

Or maybe they won’t. Either way, Roseman was quick to point out there’s still time to figure out what might be the last big piece to their offensive puzzle. 

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A look back at Jeremy Maclin's short but impressive career with Eagles

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AP Images

A look back at Jeremy Maclin's short but impressive career with Eagles

Jeremy Maclin announced on Sunday that he’s officially retiring after eight seasons in the NFL, five of them spent with the Eagles. 

Maclin’s stay in Philly wasn’t extremely long, but he did put up some big-time numbers in his five seasons. 

(He would have played six with the Eagles, but a torn ACL took his 2013.) 

Overall, in his eight NFL seasons, Maclin caught 514 passes for 6,835 yards and 49 touchdowns. Really solid numbers. 

In an Eagles uniform, Maclin caught 343 passes for 4,771 yards and 36 touchdowns. He played just 75 career games with the Eagles, but the former first-round pick in 2009 put himself in the record book. 

• Maclin’s 343 receptions rank 10th all-time in Eagles history. The only other player in the top 20 with fewer games played is Jordan Matthews, who is all the way at No. 20. 

• His 4,771 receiving yards also rank 10th. 

• His 36 touchdown catches rank seventh all-time in Eagles history. He actually has four more than DeSean Jackson. 

• During his time with the Eagles (2009-14), he was one of just 15 players in the NFL to put up his stats or better. And that includes the season he missed. 

• Maclin’s 2014 season is one of the best seasons an Eagles receiver has ever had. In that season, coming back from a torn ACL, he caught 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s the only 85/1,300/10 season in Eagles history. 

• The two best games of Maclin’s career came with the Eagles. On Oct. 26, 2014, he caught 12 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. On Sept. 18, 2011, he caught 13 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Those are two of the three 12/170/2 games in Eagles history. The other belongs to Harold Carmichael in 1973. 

Aside from the numbers, Maclin made some huge plays while with the Eagles. And even though he played for the Chiefs and Ravens after he left Philly, he’ll be remembered as an Eagle. 

Maclin signed a five-year, $55 million deal to join the Chiefs before the 2015 season, but played just two of those years. His first season, he went over 1,000 yards, but he was hampered by injuries in 2016 and had just 536 yards the next year. Maclin’s only season in Baltimore was 2017, when he caught 40 passes for 440 yards and three touchdowns. The Ravens cut him a little over a year ago and Maclin wasn’t in the league during the 2018 season. 

Now, he’s retired. But even though he didn’t play for the Eagles very long, he definitely made his mark. 

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