The Eagles may have to turn the keys of the run game over to a familiar face Sunday. Don’t worry, they are in good hands.
Starting running back Jordan Howard was a limited participant in practice for a third straight day. He hasn’t been ruled out against the Seahawks, but there is growing concern about his availability for Sunday. If Howard is out, look for Jay Ajayi to have a much bigger role in the Eagles’ rushing attack.
Ajayi, who was signed last Friday, has been slowly getting re-acclimated to the team he helped lead to a Super Bowl in 2017.
Doug Pederson addressed the media Friday afternoon to update reporters on player injuries and starting roles. It sure sounds like Ajayi may be taking on a heftier part of the game plan. Despite being dressed for last week’s game, the veteran rusher didn’t see a single snap. Boston Scott served as the backup running back behind starter Miles Sanders.
“Good. Great,” Pederson said when asked how Ajayi looked this week in practice. “Got him mixed in with the offense this week and got him up to speed. He’s up on protections and up on the run game and so we expect to play him a little bit more, possibly, yes.”
Jordan Howard Still Not Cleared for Contact
Jordan Howard’s status for Sunday appears to be in doubt. He has been a limited participant at three straight practices and still hasn’t been cleared for contact.
Howard has been a key part of the offense after racking up 525 yards on the ground in nine games this season, including seven total touchdowns. He suffered a “stinger” against the Bears and mysteriously disappeared from practice. Doug Pederson called it a “tricky injury.”
“He can do individual stuff. It’s a tough injury. It’s a tricky injury,” the head coach said. ““Until he is cleared for contact and I get further updates from our medical team, doctors, right now, he is still day to day and working through the individual portion of practice.”
The running back hasn’t offered any updates, but an anonymous teammate seemed to indicate the injury could be more serious than previously anticipated.
Run Game Coordinator versus Pass Game Coordinator
The Eagles have a clear delineation of power among their coaching hierarchy, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has the title of “run-game coordinator” and calls the protections and run plays. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Mike Groh has charge of the Eagles’ passing attack as “passing-game coordinator.” It’s an interesting dichotomy to think about considering the team’s struggles in the passing game.
On Friday, Pederson clarified that Groh is indeed the passing-game coordinator.
“That’s the black and white version, yeah,” Pederson said.
Then, the head coach attempted to explain how his relationship with Groh has developed and evolved over the years. The two work hand-in-hand on creating the aerial game plan each week. His faith in Groh has never wavered.
“I didn’t have a relationship with Mike prior to hiring him a couple years ago as receivers coach,” Pederson said. “And really liked what I saw in that role, in what he did with Frank [Reich] on third downs. He was part of the third-down menu and things like that.”
“Now he and I are in dialogue all the time on the practice field and in games,” Pederson continued. “It’s just gotten stronger, our relationship has gotten stronger, and I’ve got a lot of trust and faith in him.”
The Eagles rank 23rd in the league in total offense and average 337.8 yards per game and 23.4 points per game. However, the passing game ranks slightly worse at 24th in the league and averages 215.1 yards per game.
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