Jay Ajayi

Jay Ajayi’s transition to pro gaming is not going well

Jay Ajayi’s transition to pro gaming is not going well

Former Eagles running back Jay Ajayi switched from football to virtual soccer this week when he signed with the Philadelphia Union’s eMLS League Series One team, signaling a new branch for the 26-year-old’s pro sports career.

After one day of play with the Union… well, Ajayi needs a little work if he wants to add a new title to pair with his Super Bowl win:

Oh, Jay, no.

Every other competitor won at least two games, while Ajayi didn’t manage a draw. He tied for last place in goals scored, with 11, but gave up a whopping 72 goals, 31 more than anyone else.

Now, here’s the thing: it’s easy to clown Ajayi for getting steamrolled in his debut, and part of that teasing would be warranted. Athletes often believe they can switch sports and continue to succeed, but they overlook the need for a host of specialized skills. Sports are complicated and hard!

Plus, video games lower this bar even further. Everyone has a friend who dominates friendly round-robin video game tournaments, and thinks they can take in the world.

This is a nice reminder: pro gamers are on another level, just like any other athlete.

But it’s also easy, for me, to feel for the former Eagle. It’s his first day in an entirely new world, and he didn’t back down (though he probably should have at some point). Now, I’m excited for Ajayi to get his first pro win.

Despite the fact that he is dead last in the eMLS standings, Ajayi is still playing in Friday’s knockout rounds at Union Transfer - his spot was guaranteed ahead of time. Which is good, because he clearly needs some time to find his feet.

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Jordan Howard set to return for Eagles against Giants; Jay Ajayi released

Jordan Howard set to return for Eagles against Giants; Jay Ajayi released

As the Eagles prepare to try to win a game to clinch the NFC East, they'll be getting a big boost.

Running back Jordan Howard is set to return against the Giants, NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark confirmed. And since Howard is going to return, the Eagles are also releasing Jay Ajayi.

ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the news on Monday.

Howard suffered a stinger in the Bears game before the bye week and has missed the last six games. During that time, Miles Sanders has assumed the role of the Eagles' feature back and has been a revelation. Howard had not been cleared for contact during the last month-plus. He will have to be cleared for contact before he plays, which is reportedly happening.

So Howard will be back, but it's likely the Eagles will have a different role for him this time around. Now, Sanders should be the lead back and Howard can be his complement.

Either way, the Eagles just have to be thrilled to be getting back and offensive weapon in a season where they've lost so many. This could be a big boost for Week 17 and the playoffs if the Eagles get there.

In nine games before the injury, Howard had 525 rushing yards on 119 carries (4.4 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. So he was playing well in a contract season.

But Sanders has been great in his absence. In the six games without Howard, Sanders had rushed for 430 yards on 94 attempts (4.6) with two touchdowns and has also had 25 catches for 205 yards and two more scores. In those six games, he's averaged 105.8 yards from scrimmage per game and has looked more and more comfortable as his rookie season has gone on.

It'll also be worth monitoring just how much strength Howard will have. He's been away now for over a season, so the Eagles might have to ease him back into action. 

Meanwhile, Ajayi, 26, just didn't seem to have anything left in his surgically repaired knee. He carried the ball just 10 times for 30 yards and didn't play a single snap in either of the last two weeks. So he basically became an unplayable option. That's why getting Howard back is so huge.

It'll also be interesting to see how Boston Scott still fits into the mix. He has become a solid option for this offense. While his role will likely be decreased, he has probably earned the right to still get some playing time.



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Doug Pederson hoping to mix new face Jay Ajayi into Eagles' running attack

Doug Pederson hoping to mix new face Jay Ajayi into Eagles' running attack

Doug Pederson said he hopes to get recently re-acquired running back Jay Ajayi more involved in the offense as the Eagles head into the stretch run.

Ajayi has eight carries for 25 yards and a 3.1 average in two games since returning to the Eagles following a year layoff. 

A Pro Bowler in 2016 with the Dolphins and a stud down the stretch during the Super Bowl season, Ajayi suffered a torn ACL in Week 5 last year and didn’t play from Oct. 7, 2018, until Nov. 24, 2019, when he made his 2019 debut against the Seahawks.

Ajayi didn't have OTAs or a training camp and didn't even practice until the Wednesday before the Seattle game. 

It's a process with him, but we understand who he is and the injury that he's coming off of, so we're careful with that,” Pederson said. “But at the same time, he's a bigger, powerful guy that we can use in spots.

With Jordan Howard missing the last three games with nerve damage in his shoulder, rookie Miles Sanders has essentially been the entire running attack. But the Eagles are so hesitant to increase his workload significantly that it’s created a situation in which the Eagles just haven’t run the ball very much during their three-game losing streak because they haven’t had a viable second option.

During these last three games, Sanders has 40 carries, Ajayi eight and Boston Scott seven.

This is the first time the Eagles have leaned this heavily on one back in a three-game stretch since 2012. 

During a late-season three-game stretch in which LeSean McCoy was hurt, Bryce Brown got 52 carries and Dion Lewis had four.

The Eagles ran 45 percent of the time in the nine games Howard played and 31 percent since he got hurt. They’re 0-3 without him.

Miles has done a great job,” Pederson said Saturday. “I’d love to get Jay a few more touches and get Boston in the mix so we're not obviously wearing Miles down here this last month of the season.

The current stretch is the first in franchise history that the Eagles have thrown at least 40 times and run the ball 23 or fewer times in three straight games.

Howard hasn’t played since before the bye week and is out for the Eagles’ game Monday night against the Giants. 

Pederson said earlier in the week he doesn’t expect this to be a season-ending injury, but will Howard be able to pick up where he left off after such a long layoff even if he does return?

The Eagles began the season with Howard, Sanders, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles in what looked to be a deep running back rotation. 

Sanders is the only one of that group left. Can Ajayi make a difference after such a long layoff? Sounds like Pederson wants to find out.

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