The Eagles‘ current plan does not involve a running back-by-committee approach. Instead, Jay Ajayi is the clear No. 1 ball-carrier coming out of Philadelphia’s offseason activities. Corey Clement, Darren Sproles and a to-be-determined cog will fill out the backfield behind the former Dolphins starter.
“Came in last year and obviously proved to us that he can handle it,” Doug Pederson said, via Zach Berman of Philly.com. “He’s definitely going into camp as the No. 1 guy. It takes nothing away from what Corey did or what Sproles has done here, Wendell [Smallwood], [Donnel Pumphrey] is coming back, Matt Jones. You’ve got guys that are going to compete in that role.”
Ajayi played well post-trade last season, averaging 5.8 yards per carry after gaining just 3.4 per tote in seven games with the Dolphins in 2017. No Eagle back averaged more than 11 carries per game last season, but Berman expects Ajayi to exceed that mark this year. Berman, though, does not anticipate the Eagles will re-sign Ajayi after this season due to the money he could well command after his contract year. This scenario would leave the Eagles in need come 2019, unless they view Clement as a potential every-down back.
Here’s the latest from the defending Super Bowl champions:
- Nate Sudfeld has impressed during the Eagles’ offseason program. The No. 2 quarterback while Carson Wentz recovers, Sudfeld has given the impression he could handle backup responsibilities, Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia writes. This would come into play if the Eagles do decide to trade Nick Foles — for what would have to be a hefty haul considering their offseason-long reluctance on this front. But Sudfeld, a former Redskins sixth-round pick, has only thrown 23 passes — all in Philly’s Week 17 game last season. He did serve as the Eagles’ backup during the Super Bowl run, which is a fairly strong indicator of the franchise’s view of him at this point.
- The Eagles finally moving on from Mychal Kendricks has left them a bit thin at linebacker. Although Jordan Hicks is currently expected to be back and resume a three-down role, his injury history (having missed 17 combined games in his three-year career) can’t leave Philly too comfortable. However, converted safety Nate Gerry is firmly in the mix to claim Kendricks’ old job at weakside ‘backer, per Zangaro. A college defensive back, Gerry spent last season on Philadelphia’s practice squad. He, former Broncos special-teamer Corey Nelson and Kamu Grugier-Hill represent the viable competitors to line up in base sets alongside Hicks and Nigel Bradham, Zangaro notes. A 2016 Patriots sixth-rounder, Grugier-Hill’s worked as a special-teamer for the Eagles the past two years.
- Ronald Darby‘s experience, and the Eagles’ positioning as one of the favorites to win Super Bowl LIII, doesn’t add up to a preseason trade, Andrew Kulp of NBC Sports Philadelphia writes. The Eagles have Darby under contract for one more season, at an affordable $1.1MM, and boast a less experienced cornerback contingent than last season’s. Patrick Robinson departed, and Sidney Jones has played in one game. Darby inserted himself in the Jameis Winston saga, perhaps creating a slight off-field hiccup. But the former Bills starter graded as by far the Eagles’ best corner last season, in the view of Pro Football Focus.