DeSean Jackson is out for the year, Alshon Jeffery looks likely to miss Sunday, and now Darren Sproles will miss the rest of the 2019 season as well with a torn hip flexor.
Luckily for the Eagles, a replacement running back with familiarity and experience in the Philadelphia offense is on the way back. Former Pro-Bowl running back Jay Ajayi is expected to sign with the Eagles on Friday after working out for the team later that morning, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Ajayi has not played yet in 2019 after spending the parts of the last two seasons with the Eagles. He was traded from Miami in 2016 and made a splash with Philadelphia during its 2017 Super Bowl run. While Ajayi’s rushing ability has never really been in question, his receiving ability hasn’t been on par with the likes of Sproles.
Whether he can help replace Sproles having not appeared in a professional game in over a year remains to be seen, but it’s a strong option for the Eagles to have back in their offensive arsenal.
What Ajayi Can Bring?
The Eagles have been among the top rushing offenses in the league so far in 2019. Ranking 11th with an average of 127 rushing yards per game, the Eagles have the ability to mix things up when in possession.
How exactly does Ajayi fit the plan?
With Jordan Howard taking the bulk of the carries and second-year rusher Boston Scott earning a little more trust with the rock, Ajayi will still have to earn his carries in a crowded backfield. Ajayi’s dimensions are similar to that of Howard which could create quite the problem for opposing defenses.
With the two likely to share some of the workloads in the backfield, opponents will essentially be forced to stop a bruising back for an entire game which could end up taking a toll. Ajayi’s speed and cutting may come into question coming off ACL surgery, but what he lacks in edge speed he makes up for in his strength to plow through defenders.
When Will He Debut?
Ajayi is already accustomed to the Eagles offense, for the most part. Most of his work upon arrival will be to familiarize himself with anything new that has been added since his last action a year ago.
It might be too early for him to debut on Sunday against New England, but with Sproles already shelved and Howard looking doubtful, the Eagles may have no choice.
Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson is optimistic that if Ajayi is forced to play he will handle the work and responsibility well. Should he play, this also throws a wrench into the Patriots’ preparations for Sunday as well.
While New England is familiar with Ajayi from his time in Miami and from facing him in Super Bowl LII, it will still require some tinkering with the game-plan against Philadelphia.