Jay Ajayi's ride maybe the wildest of them all

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Jay Ajayi's ride maybe the wildest of them all

Less than three months ago, Jay Ajayi was wearing a Dolphins uniform. Now the starting running back for the Eagles, Ajayi is one game away from the Super Bowl.

Ajayi's road to the NFC Championship Game was unusual but he isn't yet ready to reflect on the midseason trade that brought him to this juncture. And he certainly isn't satisfied just to be here.

"I don't want to look back yet because, in my mind, I'm not done, and we're not done," Ajayi said Thursday. "It's about staying on course with what we want to do, which is take care of business this weekend and put ourselves in that Super Bowl and get ready to bring it back to Philly.

"After that, then I can look back and enjoy all the craziness that went on this year and have something to be proud of."

Even before the surprising trade went through, Ajayi was on a unique path. He was born in England and lived overseas until the age of seven. Widely considered a potential first-round talent, the Boise State product fell to the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft over reports of a chronic knee ailment. Then the Dolphins apparently had their fill of Ajayi after 2½ seasons, sending the Pro Bowl running back to the Eagles amid rumors he had become a malcontent.

Ajayi has already gone through more than most 24-year-olds, even as far as professional athletes are concerned. Though he acknowledged it feels "weird" to suddenly prepare for a conference championship game, he's probably become somewhat accustomed to the extraordinary, too.

"It hasn't really hit we have two games left," Ajayi said. "It still feels like the regular season. We've just been in the routine of everything.

"Just getting ready to play the biggest game of my career so far. It's exciting. I know we're all ready because we're so close, and it would be a shame not to get it done."

It's a tempered enthusiasm, however, as Ajayi is clearly still stewing over a costly fumble in the Eagles' divisional round playoff win over the Falcons.

Since joining the Eagles, Ajayi has been as advertised — a big, bruising ball carrier with the explosion and vision to hit home runs. In nine games, including postseason, he racked up 597 yards from scrimmage on 98 total touches for a 6.1 average.

Ajayi has also fumbled three times — once every 32.7 touches. If he continues to give the ball away against the Vikings and the league's No. 1 defense with the NFC title on the line, the Eagles will not advance.

"Us as a running back room, we know that for us to win this game, we're going to have to make sure we don't have any giveaways, hold on to the ball and run hard," Ajayi said.

Something about Ajayi's demeanor affirms it won't happen again, not in the biggest game of his career.

"They're just another opponent, and they're in the way of what we want to do," Ajayi said.

"It's going to be a physical game. We know it's going to be a dogfight."

Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

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Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

On Thursday, before the final practice of the long spring, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked if there were any players lower on the depth chart who have stood out over the last few weeks. 

Pederson started by mentioning some players who came into the league last year. Eventually, he named six guys. 

Let’s take a look at each of them. 

Rashard Davis
The first name to come out of his mouth. Not bad for a first-year player from James Madison. Davis is 5-foot-9, 175. The receiver also has the ability to return, something we’ve seen him do since he’s been with the Eagles. 

Davis was signed as an undrafted free agent a year ago and spent most of the 2017 season on the practice squad. He was signed to a futures deal after the completion of the season. 

At JMU, Davis was a standout receiver and returner, on his way to being named an FCS All-American. Davis returned four punts for touchdowns and had 42 catches for 530 yards and three more touchdowns as a receiver. 

With the Eagles, he faces an uphill battle to make the roster, but they seem to like his versatility. 

Greg Ward
Pederson mentioned Davis and Ward in the same breath and it’s easy to see why. Both are smallish slot receivers who were a part of the same undrafted class. Ward’s story is slightly different though. At 5-11, 186, Ward was a prolific quarterback at the University of Houston but is making the transition to receiver at the NFL level. 

He was signed as an undrafted player last year and spent the season on the Eagles’ practice squad, at times taking over scout-team QB reps to imitate mobile quarterbacks. 

While at Houston, he proved to be a dual threat. He was a good passer, but his legs made him dangerous. This spring, Ward got some run with the first-team offense and the Eagles seemed to like his trick-play potential. This past week, we saw the offense run some trick plays with him, where he became the passer. On one, he even threw the ball to Nick Foles, sort of like the Philly Special. 

Shelton Gibson 
Last year, Gibson was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, but he didn't get to play a ton. He caught just two passes all season and they came in that regular-season finale against the Cowboys. 

But Gibson has looked good this spring (see story). That's a really good sign because he had a terrible spring and terrible summer as a rookie. It was probably in part because he came from a really simple college offense and had to pick up the Eagles' complex scheme. 

This year, he's thinking less and making more plays. 

Rasul Douglas 
It seems a little weird to put Douglas on this list after he was a third-round pick a year ago and then started five games in the Super Bowl season, but he’s buried on the depth chart. 

The thing that hurts Douglas is his body type. He’s strictly an outside cornerback. So while Sidney Jones, De’Vante Bausby and D.J. Killings have gotten first-team reps in the slot, Douglas is planted firmly behind Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby at outside corner. He’s probably behind Jones either way. 

That’s gotta be tough for Douglas, going from starter to being back on the bench. But he’s the perfect example of the depth this team has at the position. Pederson says Douglas has “emerged” this spring. 

Dallas Goedert
It’s no surprise Pederson is bullish on Goedert, whom he said is “going to be a nice fit for us as a tight end.” The rookie from South Dakota State had a great spring. He caught everything and is an athletic specimen. 

There’s a really good chance Goedert can be a monster in the red zone (see story).

Still, a long way to go, and we’ll see what happens when the pads go on, but there’s no reason to think Goedert can’t be a huge contributor as a rookie. 

Aziz Shittu
Probably a name you haven’t heard in a while, but Shittu has stood out as much as any defensive tackle can in non-padded practices. 

Shittu came to the Eagles as an undrafted free agent from Stanford in 2016. But thanks to that stupid college graduation rule he missed all those spring practices. That allowed another undrafted rookie (Destiny Vaeao) to get in front of him and Shittu never recovered. He was brought back to the practice squad in 2016 and then signed a futures contract before last season, but then suffered a knee injury in May and was placed on IR. 

It appears he’s healthy now and is showing some of that burst that made him intriguing to the Eagles in the first place. 

Eagle Eye: The Eagles got some really big rings


Eagle Eye: The Eagles got some really big rings

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss the Eagles' Super Bowl rings. How does it compare to what Barrett got with the Steelers championship winning team in 2006? How will the players spend these coming weeks off? And the guys get you ready for the weekend.

1:00 - Eagles get their rings.
5:00 - Should Gunner and Barrett have gotten rings?
8:30 - What are those parties like?
11:00 - How hard is it to move on from last year and look ahead?
13:00 - This is when Super Bowls are won.
15:00 - Guys get you ready for the weekend with some weird news stories over this week.

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