Jordan Howard

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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Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Updated: 3:39 p.m.

Derek Barnett and Nelson Agholor will likely be game-time decisions for Monday Night Football, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Saturday morning. 

Barnett (ankle) and Agholor (knee) both missed all three days of practice this week and are listed as questionable.

Meanwhile, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He was just placed in protocol on Thursday and won't play Monday night. 

And Jordan Howard (shoulder) has still not been cleared for contact; he can’t play until he is and that’s not happening before Monday. He's officially questionable. 

Lane Johnson also missed practice on Friday and Saturday for a non-injury reason but is expected to play on Monday. 

If Agholor is unable to play, the Eagles would be left with just three healthy receivers on the roster: Alshon Jeffery, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward. 

“We’re very comfortable, obviously, with the guys we have,” Pederson said. “So if it’s three, it’s three. We brought up [Josh Perkins] a week ago to help us there, so it’s an addition there. We go and we go play. We’ll discuss those over the next couple of days leading up to the game. If we have to make a decision we will. We feel good with the guys we have in that receiver role.” 

If the Eagles do decide to make a roster move, they have three wide receivers on their practice squad: Robert Davis, Marcus Green and Marken Michel. 

While Agholor had his knee injury before last week’s game, Barnett got hurt during the loss in Miami, but was still able to play through the injury and play 50 snaps. Barnett has played the third-most defensive snaps on the team this year, so losing him for this game wouldn’t be insignificant. 

If Barnett can’t play, expect Josh Sweat and Vinny Curry to get more reps. After that, Genard Avery, Daeshon Hall and even Shareef Miller could see a few snaps. 

For the Giants: 

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How the loss of Jordan Howard has damaged the Eagles

How the loss of Jordan Howard has damaged the Eagles

Jordan Howard still hasn’t been cleared for contact nearly five weeks after he hurt his shoulder, and at this point it certainly seems more likely than not that he will miss a fourth straight game when the Eagles face the Giants Monday night at the Linc.

A lot of factors have contributed to the Eagles’ three-game losing streak, but Howard’s absence is an under-rated huge one.

The Eagles were 5-4 and averaging 23 points per game with the fourth-year running back, and they’re 0-3 and averaging less than 17 points without him.

With Howard on the field, the Eagles were controlling the clock and keeping defenses off-balance. Doug Pederson spoke more than once about how an authoritative running attack had become the team’s identity.

That identity no longer exists.

Howard injured his shoulder in the win over the Bears on Nov. 3.

Pederson didn't mention Howard's injury after the game or the next day, and when the Eagles went into the bye there was no reason to believe it was serious.

Pederson first referred to Howard's injury as a “stinger,” or nerve damage in the shoulder area, on Nov. 15, nearly two weeks after Howard first got hurt.

Howard has practiced on a limited basis since the injury, but Pederson said Thursday he still hasn’t been cleared for contact and said there’s no change in his status.

Although rookie Miles Sanders has played very well, the Eagles miss Howard tremendously.

Through nine games, he was 14th in the NFL with 525 rushing yards and averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

Most importantly, he was moving the chains and getting in the end zone.

Going into Week 10, he had rushed for 28 first downs, 14th-most in the league (despite averaging just 13 carries per game), and he had six rushing TDs, 6th-most in the league.

In the three games Howard has missed, Sanders has averaged 4.6 yards per carry but has only 40 carries as Pederson has moved away from the running game.

The Eagles don’t have a rushing touchdown since Howard got hurt.

Interesting to note that in the nine games Howard played, the Eagles ranked 5th in the NFL in time of possession at 32:13 per game. Without Howard, they’re 13th at 30:44.

There are obviously other factors, but the Eagles’ offensive scoring is also down dramatically without Howard, from 23.3 to 16.7.

And most notably, instead of increasing Sanders’ workload with Sanders out, Pederson has simply decided not to run nearly as much.

In the nine games with Howard, the Eagles had the 6th-most rushing attempts in the NFL and a 55-45 pass-run ratio.

In the three games without Howard, the Eagles have the 3rd-FEWEST rushing attempts in the NFL and a 69-31 pass-run ratio.

The Eagles, who have lost running backs Corey Clement and Darren Sproles to season-ending injuries, signed Jay Ajayi a few weeks ago, but he’s only averaging 3.1 yards on eight carries so far.

When can we expect to see Howard?

It’s impossible to tell.

Pederson said Thursday he doesn’t expect this injury to be season-ending, but the season is over in 24 days, and Howard hasn’t played in 32 days.

Adding to the equation is the fact that Howard is scheduled to become a free agent after this season and the Eagles need to decide whether to offer him a long-term deal or not.

The season is slipping away, the Eagles haven’t won a game in over a month and one of the players they miss the most remains sidelined with an injury that won't go away.

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