Eagles sign Jay Ajayi to help depleted running back position heading into Week 11 vs. Patriots
The Eagles lost Darren Sproles for the season and Jordan Howard is questionable with a shoulder injury
The Philadelphia Eagles are accomplishing the rare feat of returning from the bye week more injured from when they came in, especially at the running back position. Philadelphia signed Jay Ajayi for his second stint with the team this weekend, giving the team much needed insurance at the position for Sunday's game vs. the New England Patriots in Week 11.
The Eagles were dealt a blow at running back Friday as punt returner Darren Sproles was lost for the season with a torn hip flexor muscle in practice Wednesday, which prompted the team to sign Ajayi. In addition to Sproles being out, No. 1 running back Jordan Howard is listed as questionable for Sunday's game with a shoulder injury. Howard was limited in practice all week, but Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said he hasn't been cleared for contact as of Friday's practice. That's not a good sign for his status this Sunday.
If Howard is unable to go, the Eagles will have Miles Sanders and Ajayi as the top two backs with Boston Scott as the No. 3 running back and the punt returner, which he will be for the rest of the year. Pederson didn't rule out another option for the Eagles if Ajayi won't be able to go Sunday due to the quick turnaround.
"Yeah, I think so. Don't lose sight too, RB De'Angelo Henderson is on our practice squad, he's another candidate that has been working really hard in our offense, knows our system, and has been here too, so we have a couple of options there," Pederson said. "If it's Jay and really if it's either one, I think we can give them a little bit of work."
Ajayi has been out of the league since tearing his ACL in Week 5 of the 2018 season, but he has the resume that many teams covet after having 562 carries for 2,516 yards and 13 touchdowns in four seasons -- averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Ajayi began to look like the running back that had a breakout 2016 season with the Miami Dolphins after he was traded to the Eagles in 2017, when he had 260 carries for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and earning a Pro Bowl berth.
Providing an excellent combination of speed and power for the Eagles during their Super Bowl run, Ajayi finished with 70 carries for 408 yards and a touchdown in seven games with Philadelphia, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He was the Eagles' No. 1 back in the postseason that year, carrying the ball 42 times for 184 yards (4.4 yards per carry) and having six catches for 70 yards. ACL surgery ended an injury-plagued 2018 season for Ajayi, who ran 45 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns (4.1 yards per carry) in five games.
The Eagles are preparing to face a Patriots defense that ranks 26th in yards per carry allowed (4.7) and has allowed 184.5 rush yards a game over the last two games. Whether that has Howard involved or not, the Eagles are ready to see Sanders get his opportunity with more carries.
"I think we would handle it fine. I do," Pederson said. "It's obviously -- again, he's played a lot of football for us. I mean, a little bit more in a number two role, but he's played a lot. But I think we have to be smart as coaches and make sure that he doesn't wear out say in the second half of the game or whatever.
"I think he's capable and very capable of handling the load."
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