New levels, new devils. A saying that will naturally follow any entity on a journey that ends in a long-term goal. For the Eagles, running back production has been sky-high this season and the addition of Jay Ajayi to the unit has only propelled that further. Philadelphia finished their week 12 win with 176 rushing yards, including a game-high 97 yards on 15 carries by LeGarrette Blount. The Eagles have rushed for 175+ yards in 3 consecutive games for the first time since 1990. But as Blount still churns away as the bell-cow back, there were reported false frustrations.
Jay Ajayi met with the media following the win. Short answers, simple answers. Answers that were simply passive. The consensus was that that the Brit was frustrated at his lack of carries and potentially his performance in the game. Despite his huge 30-yard run that ended in a fumble, Ajayi struggled all day and was kept completely silent. Ajayi took to Twitter to make a statement that it was all a completely false narrative…and that says a lot about the culture of the Locker room.
— finesse (@FinesseNBF) November 27, 2017
It’s not something that happens overnight…nor does it happen by chance. Without Darren Sproles, the Eagles were left with the two-time Super Bowl champion, an undrafted rookie free agent and Wendell Smallwood. A young running back room in need of guidance. From the passionate coaching of Duce Staley to the impact of Blount’s presence, the Eagles have provided them that.
“Well, again, a lot of it came down to the style of defense the Bears ran this afternoon.” Doug Pederson’s answer was simple when asked why Blount saw the Lion’s share of carries. “They got into a little bit of a five-man front with a five-down, really a sixth guy being the linebacker. We had several run schemes again in the game plan like we normally do, and the ones were a little more conducive for him to run sort of downhill at them and attack them that way, so he was obviously the back of choice.”
It would be understandable for any player to be frustrated, especially if they are a Pro Bowl running back who decimated defenses just one year ago and has since seen his production plummet, with screams of character concerns and injury setbacks flying around his name. The Eagles have done a fantastic job to take all individual ego’s out of the locker room and instead focus on the heart of the team…and that all starts with a back who’s been there and done it.
“Well, obviously I didn’t know him personally until he came, just what I’ve seen on film, and loved his style of running, obviously, and [that is a] part of the reason why he’s here.” Pederson said on what makes Blount so valuable before opening up further. “And then once you get to know him, you just — from the beginning of the season to now, there’s been really great, great improvement with him. You’re seeing him [be] explosive through the hole. You’re seeing him pull away from runners. He feels fresh. He understands that it’s a role player, and yeah, probably limited touches, but it’s the longevity of guys like that.”
We hear every week about the unselfishness of this Philadelphia Eagles team and why they are so successful on offense. Their 10 game streak of 100+ rushing yards is now the longest in the NFL and again that doesn’t happen with a stroke of luck. One minute, it’s everyone’s favorite underdog in Corey Clement bursting in for a touchdown that sees him rank among the top rookies in scoring this year. The next, it’s Blount barreling his way through tackles. The Eagles do a fantastic job of mixing it up and playing under one banner.
“Who knows how it’ll end up playing out.” Frank Reich seemed just as perplexed as to who will lead the Eagles in carries as we did. “Hopefully we keep things rolling the way they are. But as we know and we’ve seen it happen here, next week it could be [RB] Jay [Ajayi] getting the bulk of the carries. So we’ll just keep mixing it up, and as long as he keeps working and looking as fresh as he looks, that’s good for all of us.”
Perhaps the comments were misunderstood, but if Ajayi wasn’t even a little bit ticked off that he wasn’t on the field making plays, and the ones he was in for he made mistakes, then it would be beyond concerning. Frustration is one thing. Damaging a locker room with an ego is an entirely different beast…and that’s what the Eagles, through some brilliant coaching and inspiring leadership, have been able to eradicate. There’s no I in team…and for the Eagles to continue be successful it has to stay that way.
Ajayi is a bruiser. A hard-running hurdler who rips through tackles with a tenacious mentality. The former Miami Dolphin has proved his toughness and explosiveness consistently throughout his career and has even done so in his short time with the Eagles. A dream debut against Denver was followed by a brilliant performance under the Sunday Night Lights. Adjusting to an ever-changing backfield as opposed to always being “the guy” is going to take time, but it will only make him run harder…and the Eagles have everyone behind him to push him to that next level. With a chip on his shoulder, this will only make Ajayi better…and that’s a terrifying prospect for opposing defenses.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports