When the Eagles traded for Jay Ajayi prior to the trade deadline, a lot of fans, including myself, wondered what type of role he would play in the running back rotation. The back field was already crowded before Ajayi came to town, and the fact that he’s a volume runner means, ideally, he would touch the ball about 15-20 times per game. The Birds have still dominated in the run game for the most part since Ajayi’s arrival, but this team lacks an identity in the back field and I think that could hurt them in the playoffs. I touched on this in my last piece, but the identity of the back field is especially important now that Foles is under center. While Foles did play very well in the win over the Giants, it was the Giants, and it goes without saying that every team the Eagles play from here on out will be much better than them.
The running back rotation just leaves me scratching my head sometimes. For example, this past week against the Giants Kenjon Barner got the first two carries of the game and gained 21 yards, he then proceeded to stand on the sideline for the rest of the game. I get that he’s technically the 4th string running back, but why would you not give him another carry for the rest of the game after starting off like that? It just doesn’t make sense. It feels like Duce tries to get a fresh back in the game on almost every other play, and none of these running backs can get into a rhythm because of it. Not to mention, the Eagles have two volume runners in Blount and Ajayi, meaning they need to get a high volume of carries in order to be effective. Since Ajayi came to town, neither of them have gotten over 16 carries in a game and neither of them have had over 100 yards rushing. That’s the key issue I have with the rotation, neither of these guys ever seem to get into a rhythm. These guys have the same type of running style as well, so having a one-two punch of Ajayi and Blount seems kind of pointless. If it was up to me, I would give Ajayi the bulk of the carries and have Corey Clement as the relief back since he can catch the ball out of the back field unlike Blount.
Collectively as a team, the Eagles still statistically dominate the run game. Since the bye week in week 10 they’ve rushed for over 100 yards in every game except one (98 yards against Seattle). So maybe I’m just making a big deal over nothing, but I can’t help but wonder what this running game would look like if Ajayi or Blount were workhorse backs. I think our ground game would be more dominant than it already is. Sprinkle in some Corey Clement and this rushing attack would be much more balanced as well. Time will tell if this is a true concern for the Eagles, or if I’m just overthinking it. But I have faith that Doug and company will make the right decision, just like they’ve been doing all season.