Eagles have liked Jay Ajayi since August

Eagles have liked Jay Ajayi since August

The Eagles had a pretty close look at Jay Ajayi just a few months ago when the Dolphins were in town for joint practices in August. 

And they liked what they saw. 

"He's one of the guys that when we came back after those practices, we said, 'That's our kind of guy,'" Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said on Tuesday. "He's got the mentality that we're looking for. He brings the presence and he plays the kind of way we want to play and we want to represent our football team with and our fans with."

While Roseman said the Eagles didn't have a sense that Ajayi would be available for a trade just a couple months later, the Eagles did use those practices to scout the Dolphins. So they watched Ajayi, came away impressed and tucked that information away. 

They brought it back out on Monday when they began discussing a trade that would bring the running back to Philly. The move, which sends a fourth-rounder next year back to Miami, was completed on Tuesday.

While the Eagles were impressed with what they saw from Ajayi on the practice field in August, they couldn't possibly have seen inside the Miami locker room through the first seven games of this season. According to a report from the Miami Herald, Ajayi had become a chemistry problem, even storming out of the locker room after wins because he didn't get enough carries. 

For a team with a head coach who, as recently as Monday, was concerned about negatively affecting the chemistry of a 7-1 team with a new face, this could seem like a pretty big problem. 

But the Eagles did their homework, Roseman said, and came away feeling good about the move. 

"We weren't going to bring anyone here that would disrupt team chemistry," Roseman said. "We feel very confident and comfortable about the player."

A couple times on Tuesday, Roseman mentioned "trust" when talking about making deals with Miami. The Dolphins are run by Roseman's friend Mike Tannenbaum, and it was their close relationship that helped the Eagles make the move from 13 to 8 in the 2016 draft. 

So when the Eagles made the decision to go ahead with the trade on Tuesday, they probably leaned on the information they gathered from the Dolphins as well as their own talks with Ajayi, who they interviewed at the 2015 combine. Ajayi was a fifth-round pick out of Boise State. 

Another major question mark about Ajayi is his health. He has struggled with knee issues dating back to college and the pre-draft process, and those issues aren't past him. He has been listed on the Dolphins' injury report this season. As of Tuesday afternoon, Ajayi still needed to pass a physical. 

Even if Ajayi's knees don't make him a candidate to fill the void at running back for the long term, he can at least help the Eagles make a Super Bowl push over the next two seasons. He's just 24 — as Roseman eagerly pointed out a few times on Tuesday — and is cheap for the rest of this season and next. 

After a Pro Bowl season last year, Ajayi's 2017 hasn't gotten off to a great start. He's averaging just 3.37 yards per carry this year, the second-worst average among backs with at least 100 carries. Even taking the Dolphins' poor offensive line into account, there has been a pretty clear numbers drop for Ajayi this season with two pretty notable exceptions. 

"I think you look at the Chargers game and the Falcons game and you could argue he put the team on his back," Roseman said of Ajayi's two 100-yard rushing performances in 2017. "That was this season."

What the Eagles can hope is that he returns to the form that sent him to the Pro Bowl in 2016. He was great last season, rushing for over 1,200 yards and averaging 4.9 yards per attempt. He averaged 3.46 yards per attempt after contact. 

His yards after contact average from last year is actually better than his yards per attempt average through seven games in 2017. 

But if the Eagles can get the 2016 version of Ajayi, they got a steal. 

"This is a physical, downhill running back, he can run after contact, he can make people miss," Roseman said. 

Sure, adding a piece to a team that is already in control of the NFC East and is the frontrunner to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs is a risk. Chemistry is a real concern and it's why Doug Pederson seemed so hesitant on Monday. 

The Eagles are in a unique position at 7-1 and maybe acquiring Ajayi will help them get to the Super Bowl and bring the city its first major football championship in over half a century. For a fourth-round pick, the Eagles took that gamble. 

"I think you take into account where you are," Roseman said. "It's certainly different when you're 7-1 than if you're having a losing season. But at the same time, we're not going to do anything that puts us in a bad spot going forward. Again, a big part of this trade, this is a 24-year-old back that's not just on a one-year deal. But if there are opportunities to improve our team and improve where we're at, we have a responsibility to the people on the field, the people off the field, our fans, to evaluate everything."

When do players know their football days are over?

USA Today Images

When do players know their football days are over?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Father's Day weekend. What kind of basketball parent is Barrett? The guys give their 53-man roster after spring practices. Tom Brady says he can feel his playing days are getting numbered. When do players first start realizing that the end is near and what makes that reality most difficult? Also, how should the Giants handle Odell Beckham Jr.'s contract situation?

"I think that Saquon [Barkley] is going to be better than [Ezekiel] Elliott." — Barrett Brooks.

1:00 - What kind of basketball parent is Barrett?
3:00 - Father's Day weekend recap.
5:00 - Eagles' 53-man roster after spring practices.
15:30 - Tom Brady tells Oprah the end is near ... when do players start seeing that reality?
20:00 - The hardest part about having to say goodbye to football.
23:00 - Odell Beckham Jr.'s contract situation.

Press Taylor was right choice for Eagles' QBs coach

Press Taylor was right choice for Eagles' QBs coach

The Eagles were just a few days away from the Super Bowl and there was a clear indication of just how loose the team really was. 

On Feb. 1, Carson Wentz tweeted out a photo proving it. 

So, what’s the point of this? Why show a photo that Wentz sent out from an escape room well over four months ago?

Well, because it was a little glimpse into the future. Because the five guys in that photo are going to be the five guys in the Eagles’ quarterback room this season. 

Along with Wentz, Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld, the other two are Press Taylor (sitting) and Spencer Phillips. This offseason, after John DeFilippo left Philadelphia to take the offensive coordinator job in Minnesota, the Eagles promoted Taylor to take his position as quarterbacks coach and then promoted Phillips to take Taylor’s spot as the assistant quarterbacks coach. 

It was probably a no-brainer. 

And it’s crazy to think, but just a year after the Eagles blocked DeFilippo from leaving the organization, DeFilippo has left … and the Eagles are going to be just fine. 

At the time, before the 2017 season, it made sense to block DeFilippo. He was seemingly integral to the development of a young Wentz and he certainly deserves plenty of credit for the big jump in Wentz’s play last season. But now, without him, the Eagles are going to keep a finely-tuned machine running. And they’re going to do it with a very young and very promising coach. 

Taylor is just 30 years old, which seems incredibly young for a coach who is supposed to lead the most important position room for the Eagles and possibly the most important position room in the entire league. He’s just one year older than Foles. 

He might be young, but Taylor is uniquely positioned to handle this responsibility. And aside from his football acumen — which has been touted by his superiors — it’s his relationship with the players in the room that made him such a no-brainer replacement for DeFilippo. 

“I feel really close (to Wentz, Foles and Sudfeld),” Taylor said last week. “I know what makes them tick going into it. And then we all had our own relationships. Obviously, I wasn’t their quarterbacks coach at the time, but I was in the room, sat through those conversations, had my own conversations out on the practice field. I feel like I know the things they like, the things they didn’t like. And then was able to learn from the other guys, the other coaches in the room.”

After the Super Bowl, Taylor is probably best known in the city for bringing the Philly Special to the Eagles. In his position last year, it was his job to mine gadget plays from around the league and found that play being used by the Bears the season before (see story). And that’s great. But all the stuff we don’t know about last year is what’s going to make the most difference for the Eagles this season. 

Taylor has been with the Eagles since 2013, when Chip Kelly brought him to town. And then Doug Pederson was smart enough (and without ego) to keep Taylor in 2016. The brother of Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, Press has quickly worked his way up the ladder. 

Last week, Wentz was asked if the team wanted his opinion before promoting Taylor. 

“I think it was pretty much known how we felt about Press beforehand,” Wentz said. “We’ve seen Press behind the scenes the last couple years and how hard he works. A lot of guys have a ton of respect for him as a person and as a coach. I know that’s where I sit. So far, it’s been great. He understands the game extremely well. We’re very like-minded, both on and off the field. The relationship I have with him personally and the relationship he has with all the quarterbacks has been tremendous so far.”

The relationship between Taylor and the QBs is so important. Relationships for this entire coaching staff are so important. Really, that’s what has made Pederson so special. He has that “emotional intelligence” and understands how to deal with his players. 

Taylor seems to have that too. And really, that’s why the Eagles’ QB room won’t miss a beat. 

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