Eagles Mailbag: Jay Ajayi's numbers; is Donnel Pumphrey a goner?

Eagles Mailbag: Jay Ajayi's numbers; is Donnel Pumphrey a goner?

It’s hard to believe but we’re less than two weeks away from the start of training camp. Doesn’t it seem like the Eagles won the Super Bowl, like, last week? 

Anyway, the entire team will report to the NovaCare Complex on July 25 and the first practice of the summer is the next day on July 26. The first preseason game is Aug. 9 against the Steelers. 

The season opener is Sept. 6 and it’ll be here before you know it. 

Let’s get to your questions:

If Ajayi puts up 1,200 and eight touchdowns, the Eagles would be thrilled. The last Eagle to do that was LeSean McCoy in 2013. In fact, there have only been seven seasons in Eagles history where they’ve had a running back put up those numbers. Shady in 2013 and 2011, Ricky Watters in 1996 and 1995 and Wilbert Montgomery in 1981, 1979 and 1978. So it’s hard to do. Think about this … as good as the Eagles’ offense was in 2017, they had just nine rushing touchdowns as a team

So I don’t see Ajayi putting up 1,200 and eight, but I’m down with a 1,000-yard season. I think that’s possible. There’s still going to be a rotation in 2018, but without LeGarrette Blount taking carries, I think Ajayi will have enough opportunity. Remember, Blount led the team with 766 yards last year but lost his chance at a 1,000-yard season when Ajayi was traded to the Birds in the middle of the year.

I think with another year under his belt and without Blount taking carries now that he’s in Detroit, Ajayi will get over 1,000 in 2018. 

I’m not ready to completely write Pumphrey off, but I also haven’t seen anything that lets me know he can play in the NFL. There’s no sugarcoating it … Pumphrey was terrible last summer and if he’s that bad again this year, the Eagles might have to just give up on him. But if he shows some promise, things get trickier. Then they might have to find a roster spot for him. 

Either way, it’s hard for me to envision him really seeing time on the field this season. Is he really going to improve enough to take Ajayi, Darren Sproles or Corey Clement off the field? I just don’t see it. 

No, during a handful of spring practices, Sidney Jones hasn’t done enough to take a starting corner job from Jalen Mills or Ronald Darby. And unless one of those two really struggles, I think the Eagles will stick with them. But I expect Jones to prove himself plenty this season and to play a decent amount. I’m a complete believer in his ability and his recovery from injury. Before that Achilles injury, he could have been the first cornerback taken in the draft; he was that good. And even if he needs to shake off rust, that talent is going to show itself. He might not be a starter this year, but he’s the future of the secondary. 

I don’t remember receivers running free in the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings scored seven points in that one. As for the Super Bowl, yeah, that wasn’t great. The Patriots put up 613 yards and 500 of them came through the air. It was just the 16th game in NFL history where a team has put up 500 passing yards in a regular season or playoff game. So not great. 

But that was against the greatest quarterback in NFL history and the Eagles still won the game. I understand why you might rewatch that game and be concerned (actually it’s impressive you can watch that game and be concerned. They won the freaking Super Bowl), but that was an anomaly. They gave up 195 yards passing to the Falcons and 263 to the Vikings who trailed for most of the game. 

The Eagles bring back Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod and essentially add a first-round pick in Jones. I think they’ll be good.

See: Snowball + Hell. 

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Jay Ajayi's future, Super Bowl euphoria in this Eagles mailbag

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Jay Ajayi's future, Super Bowl euphoria in this Eagles mailbag

It wasn’t all that long ago that the Eagles won Super Bowl LII in Minnesota, but it’s time to turn the page. 

Their Super Bowl defense begins next Monday. 

The Eagles will begin their offseason workout program for the 2018 season on April 16 and OTAs will begin on May 22, before the mandatory minicamp and eventually training camp will be here before you know it. 

In the meantime, you have questions, I have answers: 

In the short term, this is an easy answer. Ajayi will be the Eagles’ top running back in 2018. He finished up the 2017 season strong and will have an entire offseason in Philly; that’ll help. The 24-year-old is just a year removed from his Pro Bowl season in Miami, so there’s a chance he can be something special again this season. 

The real problem for the running back is his health. He has a long-term knee injury that has been labeled as “chronic.” That’s a scary label for any player’s knees, but especially a running back who was a workhorse in his one stellar season. There are reasons the Dolphins were willing to give up on him. The big one was reportedly his impact in the locker room, but it’s fair to wonder if the Dolphins thought they were never going to bring him back for a high salary because of his knee problem. That’s a question the Eagles will have to answer soon enough, especially if Ajayi has a big 2018. 

It’s going to take a long time. A couple weeks ago, when I flew to Orlando for the owners meetings, I was at the airport and wasn’t sure which carousel the baggage from Philly was going to. I didn’t need to look it up. Instead, I just found the one with about 20 people wearing Eagles Super Bowl gear. Those people are everywhere. I imagine the NFL sold a ton of it. 

Another story: I shared this on Twitter, but I’ll share it here too. I was in Southeast Alaska on vacation last week and stopped into the small town of Coffman Cove, Alaska (population 200). The bartender at the only bar in town, “The Dog House,” happened to be an Eagles fan. When she told me that, we chatted about the Super Bowl win and I showed her my photos from the celebration. Eagles fans are everywhere and they’re going to enjoy this for a long time.

Bald eagle. I saw over 100 of them in Alaska last week. It never gets old. Locally, Noah the Eagle from the Elmwood Park Zoo comes to training camp every year and Challenger sometimes flies before games. 

Guice is an interesting prospect. He’s fun to watch and is an explosive, tough runner. He would seem to fill the void from losing LeGarrette Blount. I tend to think Guice will be off the board before the Eagles pick at 32, but he would be an option. He doesn’t have a pass-catching background, but neither did Corey Clement and he had 100 receiving yards in the Super Bowl. 

I’m not sure which Hurst you mean. There’s DT Maurice Hurst from Michigan and there’s TE Hayden Hurst from South Carolina. Maurice Hurst is probably gone by 32 and it might be too early for Hayden Hurst. Don’t sleep on either position in the first round though.

Depends. I give a free pass for anything right now because they won the Super Bowl. And I actually like it as a boo. Like, if the Phillies stink and you want to let them know by chanting the name of the other team in town, cool. But there better not be any during the Sixers’ or Flyers’ playoff runs. That’s their time. 

Eagles mailbag — Celek situation, bust to contributor, biggest need

Eagles mailbag — Celek situation, bust to contributor, biggest need

I know you're still celebrating the Eagles' Super Bowl win. There's a good chance you haven't even gone a day without wearing Super Bowl champion gear.

The NFL world hasn't stopped though. 

You guys gave me so many good questions this week, we split them all up into several posts this week. Let's start here: 

This is an interesting question. I guess we have to first figure out which guys even qualify as a "bust" or could become busts. Just two guys remain from the 2015 draft class and they're Agholor and Jordan Hicks. Neither of them count. From the 2016 class, Isaac Seumalo and Wendell Smallwood could possibly fit. And even though it's really unfair to call anyone from the 2017 class a bust, Donnel Pumphrey and Shelton Gibson might count. 

If I had to pick one right now, I actually wouldn't say Seumalo even though he was a third-round pick. With the line returning as a whole unit, I don't think there's going to be much opportunity for him and I didn't like what many deemed as a lack of confidence. Sure, Agholor got out of that, but it's troubling. 

The guy I'd pick is Gibson, who had an absolutely terrible spring and most of the summer and was inactive for the first part of the 2017 season. Gibson had trouble catching the ball as a rookie, which is obviously a problem but it's a problem he can fix. What he does have is speed and that just can't be taught. With Torrey Smith likely gone this year, Gibson should have a chance to fill the void as a deep threat. 

I think he has that potential. Halapoulivaati Vaitai did a fine job filling in for Jason Peters this year and he's come so far from that first terrible game against Washington and Ryan Kerrigan. 

The thing I've noticed about Big V during his two years in the league is that confidence is really important for him. That's why we've seen, at times, him get much better as games go on. That's why after he strung a few good games together, he wasn't a concern anymore. He has all the physical tools to be a good tackle in this league for a long time and with the right coaching, he can be an answer at one of those spots. 

It's a really tough situation with Brent Celek, because this is Celek we're talking about. He should go down in the books as an all-time Eagle. But there's a problem. 

There's just no way the Eagles can bring him back on his current deal, with a $5 million cap hit. Can't do it. They really need the $4 million in cap space it would save. And really, they don't need Celek back at all. The Eagles are probably hoping he wants to retire. Tough situation. 

Based on the way the Eagles want to build their team, offensive line is always going to be a need. Considering they needed to add Will Beatty of the street as a depth piece in this season, yeah, they could probably stand to add some depth at tackle and it wouldn't hurt to add interior help too, although Chance Warmack is a decent backup. 

The other two positions I think worth a look are linebacker and defensive tackle. I know the Eagles have Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan locked up, but Beau Allen is about to be a free agent, which leaves former undrafted player Destiny Vaeao as the top backup. And at linebacker, Jordan Hicks' injury history makes him a big question mark and Nigel Bradham is set to be a free agent. If the Eagles don't bring Bradham back, that could be a big problem.