Jay Ajayi could turn into workhorse for Eagles in playoffs
Philadelphia Eagles' Jay Ajayi (36) runs for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
By Rob Maadi, Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jay Ajayi has fit in nicely with a rotation of running backs on the Philadelphia Eagles since his arrival from Miami at the trade deadline.
The playoffs could turn him into a workhorse.
Ajayi was the only regular on offense who sat out the final game because the Eagles (13-3) had already secured the NFC's No. 1 seed. That was an indication of his value and coach Doug Pederson's plans to use him more in the postseason. Plus, Ajayi has a quirky knee.
"I think that's a possibility with what he's shown us down the stretch here and giving him rest last week, and we'll see where he is this week health-wise," Pederson said. "I think he's one of the guys that we can rely on. Again, I don't want to get away from the things that got us to this point, too. That's the other thing is you don't want to just abandon ship on everybody else. I do think there could be a little more role for him down the stretch."
Ajayi had 408 yards rushing , one touchdown and an average of 5.8 yards per carry in seven games for Philadelphia. He had 465 yards rushing and averaged 3.4 yards per carry with no touchdowns in Miami. Last year, Ajayi went to the Pro Bowl after running for 1,272 yards, including three 200-yard games.
LeGarrette Blount led the Eagles with 766 yards rushing. He had four rushing TDs and averaged 4.4 yards. Undrafted rookie Corey Clement chipped in with 321 yards, four TDs and an average of 4.3 yards.
Blount, a two-time Super Bowl champion with New England, has accepted his diminished role and put the team first since Ajayi's arrival.
"LeGarrette has embraced his role," Pederson said. "He's been a pleasant surprise, particularly with the younger guys. He understands his role. He's going to be a big part of the success, and has been a big part of the successes this year already. He has been to the pinnacle. He's been there and understands it, what it takes. Those are the things I'm going to lean on him with our team and with the guys that haven't been there, how to practice, how to prepare. So he's really done a nice job in his role."
The Eagles finished the season with the NFL's third-ranked running offense. But they struggled down the stretch, especially after Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14. They averaged 147.5 yards rushing in the first 11 games and only 98.6 in the last five.
Opponents focused more on stopping Philadelphia's run when Nick Foles replaced Wentz, and the team averaged just 61.3 rushing yards in the last three games. Foles and the starters only played one quarter in the 6-0 loss to Dallas last Sunday, and Ajayi watched from the sideline.
"We have to get better in the run game," Pederson said. "That helps any quarterback, obviously, so we have to get better there. We have to make sure we're doing our due diligence as a staff to put our guys in successful positions."