Jay Ajayi

Injury Notes: Titans, Mariota, Falcons, McKinley, Colts, Doyle, Eagles, Ajayi

Marcus Mariota‘s injury remains a mystery. It hasn’t been disclosed exactly what he’s dealing with although it has reportedly caused him to lose some feeling in his hand. Blaine Gabbert started, and won, for the Titans last week, and it’s possible he’s asked to do so again this week against the Jaguars.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters that he would make the decision between Gabbert and Mariota within the next “24 hours” and that he would let them know then according to Jim Wyatt of the Titans’ official website (Twitter link). If Mariota can’t go it would be a huge blow for Tennessee against the league’s top defense. One thing that could make their matchup a bit easier is that Jalen Ramsey was added to the injury report Friday with an ankle injury, although it’s unclear if he’s in any danger of missing the game.

Here’s more injury updates from around the league:

  • The Falcons just can’t seem to catch a break. It was already known they’d be without Devonta Freeman and several other starters, but it was announced today that they’d also be without talented pass-rusher Takkarist McKinley. McKinley is currently dealing with a groin injury.
  • The Colts will be quite shorthanded for their trip to Philadelphia as the team ruled out tight end Jack Doyle, running back Marlon Mack, defensive tackle Denico Autry, and right tackle Anthony Castonzo. Doyle’s injury is a big blow, as he formed an effective tight end duo with Eric Ebron through the first two games.
  • The Eagles will also be significantly shorthanded on offense, with their backfield being particularly banged up. Running backs Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles have been ruled out, while Corey Clement is questionable. If Clement isn’t able to go, the running back situation would be dire. Alshon Jeffery is questionable, but reporters have written that he’s very unlikely to play.

AFC Notes: Dolphins, Bortles, Coleman

Frank Gore may be competing for touches with fellow running back Kenyan Drake, but that doesn’t mean the veteran isn’t impressed by his Dolphins teammate. In fact, Gore told Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post that he understands why the organization moved on from their former starter in order to give Drake more reps last season.

“I was like, ‘Man, I kinda see why they traded Jay Ajayi,’” Gore said. “He’s very talented. Jay Ajayi was a great back, too, but Kenyan is a very talented guy. He’s smart. He can do everything on the field. I think that me and him can really help this team be successful this year.”

Ultimately, Gore is expected to be a mentor to both Drake and fourth-rounder Kalen Ballage. Despite running for at least 850 yards for the 12th-straight season in 2017, the veteran is willing to have a larger impact off the field than on the field.

“People said that I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t (last) more than three years, and I’ve been blessed going into my 14th year,” the 35-year-old said. “Now I want to go out here and be successful, have fun and do whatever it takes with my team and try to get some wins.”

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the AFC…

  • Blake Bortles is looking forward to his first healthy season in several years. The Jaguars quarterback told ESPN’s Michael DiRocco that he’s been tolerating a right wrist injury for several seasons, forcing him to have three cortisone injections in 2017. Bortles finally opted for surgery this offseason to repair a partially torn ligament on the outside of his wrist, and the 26-year-old said the operation helped him have the best offseason and training camp of his career. “When you do not have to worry about going to rehab or going to get treatment, you have to make sure you warm it up the right way, you have to take anti-inflammatory [medication] and do all of that stuff. … It is just a lot of process to be able to go out there and do what you should be able to do without any pain,” Bortles said. “To be able to do that now finally is pretty awesome.” Despite the injury, Bortles managed to complete a career-high 60.2-percent of his passes last season for 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
  • The Bills traded for former first-round wideout Corey Coleman last night, and Joe Buscaglia of WKBW.com believes the receiver could have an immediate impact on his new team. The writer points out that Kelvin Benjamin and Jeremy Kerley are the only two players locked in at the top of the Bills depth chart, and this was emphasized when the coaching staff add recently-recovered Andre Holmes to the first team during camp (Zay Jones has since recovered from his injury, as well). At the very least, Coleman will provide the Bills with unmatched speed, a skill set that the team’s fellow receivers are lacking.
  • When the Patriots released wideout Malcolm Mitchell earlier today, many assumed the former fourth-rounder was still battling a nagging knee injury. While that could be partly true, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the receiver was waived as a healthy player. This means Mitchell passed his final physical with the organization. After making six starts as a rookie in 2016, Mitchell sat out the entire 2017 campaign due to injury.

NFC Notes: Redskins, Scherff, Ajayi, Saints

With Zack Martin recently signing a six-year, $84MM contract ($40MM guaranteed) with the Cowboys, Kareem Copeland of The Washington Post says Redskins guard Brandon Scherff is line for a big extension. The lineman has already earned a pair of Pro Bowl nods during his two seasons in the NFL, and he was rated as one of the best guards in the league per Pro Football Focus. Furthermore, with the organization looking to protect their investment in quarterback Alex Smith, it only makes sense to lock in their offensive line.

Fortunately for Scherff, it sounds like the team is more than willing to keep him around.

“His work ethic is off the charts,” said offensive line coach Bill Callahan. “He’s a guy that continually challenges you as a coach and every day wants to get better, wants to know specifically what he needs to work on to improve. We go over that list continually.

“He’s a guy that you just love to coach because you tell him one time and he gets it and he’s got it. You can do a lot of different things with him because he has that type of versatility and that type of adaptability as well.”

Scherff is set to earn $705K in 2018, but that will be bumped to $12.525MM in 2019 when the Redskins presumably pick up his fifth-year option.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Jay Ajayi is expected to sit atop the Eagles depth chart next season, but Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia says that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll have have 20-plus carries per game. Rather, the writer expects Ajayi to collect less than 200 total carries on the season, especially when you consider the team’s depth at the position and Ajayi’s persistent knee issues. Acquired in a trade with the Dolphins midseason, the running back ultimately appeared in seven games (one start) for the Eagles in 2017, compiling 408 rushing yards and one score on 70 carries. He also collected 42 carries in the playoffs, including a nine-carry, 57-yard performance in the Super Bowl.
  • After being released by the Panthers in February, safety Kurt Coleman quickly signed a three-year deal with the Saints that contained more than $6MM in guaranteed money. It sounds like the organization had high hopes when they signed the defensive back to the contract, as Larry Holder of NOLA.com says Coleman could end up replacing Vonn Bell in the starting lineup. The 30-year-old played in 12 games for Carolina last season, compiling 76 tackles and three passes defended. On the flip side, Bell, 23, was plenty productive last year, finishing with 83 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
  • We learned yesterday that Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham is facing a one-game suspension.

Eagles’ Jay Ajayi Changes Agents

Eagles running back Jay Ajayi has changed agents in advance of his walk year. Ajayi has left Select Sports Group to join up with Drew Rosenhaus, according to an announcement from his agency. 

Ajayi played well after coming over in a midseason trade with the Dolphins. With Miami, he gained just 3.4 yards per carry. In Philly, he averaged 5.8 yards per carry in seven regular season games and was also effective in the postseason.

The Eagles would probably like to keep him for the long term, but that’s easier said than done. The Eagles have one of the tightest cap situations in the NFL and Ajayi will likely command a deal that will put him near the top of the running back market. As a former fifth-round pick, Ajayi is averaging $625K per year on his four-year rookie deal. That’s well below the league average of $1.38MM for running backs and far below what he’d command as a free agent. His alignment with Rosenhaus is a signal that he’s looking to get the biggest payday possible.

The Eagles may have an in-house replacement for Ajayi in Corey Clement, but they’d have to give him a larger workload this year in order to find out if he’s a potential third-round back. Otherwise, the Eagles may have to look elsewhere to find a new No. 1 running back next year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Notes: Ajayi, Darby, Sudfeld, LBs

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.

Spring Practice Notes: Jets, Darby, Ebron

Now that mandatory minicamps have wrapped up around the league and players have returned home for a few weeks, the NFL will experience something of a lull until we get closer to the start of training camp in July. In the past couple of days, however, beat writers have shared some lessons learned during spring practices, offered some insight as to what OTAs and minicamp revealed about the upcoming season, and discussed some questions that remain unanswered. So let’s dive right in:

  • Terrelle Pryor‘s injury concerns have been well-documented, but as Darryl Slater of NJ.com observes, the Jets are also dealing with injuries to CB Morris Claiborne and OLB Jordan Jenkins. Both Claiborne and Jenkins are expected to be ready for the start of training camp, while the status of Pryor and starting free safety Marcus Maye is still up in the air. Slater also wonders who will start at OLB alongside Jenkins. David Bass and Josh Martin are candidates, as is Lorenzo Mauldin, though Slater suggests Mauldin is on the roster bubble.
  • Slater also indicates that Henry Anderson may have the leg up in the battle for the Jets‘ starting defensive end position opposite Leonard Williams — New York desperately needs someone to take double teams away from Williams — and that Andre Roberts appears to be leading the competition for Gang Green’s punt returner job. He adds that wideout Chad Hansen has impressed this spring after being a non-factor in his rookie campaign last year.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPN.com also likes what he sees from Hansen, and he says TE Neal Sterling and RB Elijah McGuire are other under-the-radar players to impress for the Jets this spring. Sam Darnold, meanwhile, is very much on the radar, and Cimini says Darnold has done nothing to suggest he cannot be a quality starter in the NFL.
  • The most important lesson learned during the Eagles‘ spring practices, per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, is that Carson Wentz is progressing in his recovery from an ACL tear and could be ready to go in Week 1. However, as Berman points out, the defending champs have plenty of injury concerns outside of Wentz, though no key players appear at risk of missing any regular season time at this point.
  • Berman also writes that Jay Ajayi is the Eagles’ unquestioned No. 1 running back — in stark contrast to the summer of 2017, when the team was emphasizing a committee approach to the offensive backfield — and he names De’vante Bausby, Nate Gerry, and Dallas Goedert as young talents who have stood out in the spring. Gerry, a 2017 fifth-rounder who converted from collegiate safety to professional linebacker, could compete for a starting LB job this year, Berman says.
  • Speaking of Bausby, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com is also impressed with the 25-year-old’s work this spring, which may be enough to allow the Eagles to trade Ronald Darby.
  • Seahawks‘ 2018 seventh-round pick Alex McGough stood out this spring and has a legitimate chance to be Russell Wilson‘s backup this year, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Condotta also notes that Seattle’s first-round choice, Rashaad Penny, has looked the part and has also shown improvement in his pass-blocking technique, which will help him see more of the field this year.
  • TE Eric Ebron has been perhaps the most impressive newcomer for the Colts this spring, per Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, who also says 2018 fourth-rounder Nyheim Hines was the most exciting rookie to watch. Hines, a running back from NC State, has the explosiveness and versatility to thrive in new head coach Frank Reich‘s scheme.
  • Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com says Harold Landry, the Titans‘ second-round draft choice this year, is living up to his draft pedigree and that, while he may have a hard time unseating veterans Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo as a starting OLB, he should see plenty of action as a situational pass rusher to begin his career. Wyatt also says Tennessee’s cornerbacks have been the most impressive position group of the spring.

2018 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Jay Ajayi (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.908MM in 2018. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2018 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Trent Brown, T; Eli Harold, LB

Bears: Adrian Amos, S

Bengals: Tyler Kroft, TE; Josh Shaw, DB

Bills: John Miller, G

Broncos: Max Garcia, G; Trevor Siemian, QB

Browns: Duke Johnson, RB

Buccaneers: Kwon Alexander, LB

Cardinals: David Johnson, RB; J.J. Nelson, WR

Chargers: Kyle Emanuel, LB

Chiefs: Chris Conley, WR; Steven Nelson, CB

Colts: Henry Anderson, DE; Mark Glowinski, G; Denzelle Good, OL

Dolphins: Bobby McCain, CB

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, RB; Jordan Hicks, LB

Falcons: Grady Jarrett, DT

Jaguars: A.J. Cann, OL

Lions: Quandre Diggs, CB

Packers: Jake Ryan, LB

Panthers: Daryl Williams, T

Patriots: Trey Flowers, DE; Shaq Mason, G

Raiders: Clive Walford, TE

Rams: Jamon Brown, G

Ravens: Za’Darius Smith, LB

Redskins: T.J. Clemmings, OL; Jamison Crowder, WR

Saints: Tyeler Davison, DT

Seahawks: Tyler Lockett, WR

Steelers: Jesse James, TE

Vikings: Stefon Diggs, WR; Danielle Hunter, DE

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

NFC East Notes: Z. Brown, Eagles, Giants

Much of the conversation in Redskins country has understandably revolved around how the team will proceed with quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets that the team is working to extend linebacker Zach Brown. Brown’s one-year pact with Washington is among the best one-year deals that was signed last offseason, as he has started all 12 of the team’s games and has been a key component of its defense. After a strong 2016 campaign in Buffalo, Brown surprisingly had to settle for a modest contract with the Redskins, but the 28-year-old should be in line for a more lucrative multi-year deal this time around.

Now for more from the NFC East:

  • The Eagles signed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to a four-year extension yesterday, which will further limit their 2018 cap space. Per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, Philadelphia will go into 2018 with just $1.7MM in cap room, so obviously some cuts will need to be made. Shorr-Parks names Vinny Curry, Jason Peters, and Nick Foles as players who could be on the way out, though the rumored Brandon Graham extension would likely provide some cap relief as well.
  • Eagles RB Jay Ajayi and head coach Doug Pederson did meet this week, but according to Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia, it was not to discuss the limited playing time that Ajayi has seen since being traded to the Eagles (he has just 20 carries in his three games in Philly). Ajayi exhibited frustration and a sulky mood after last Sunday’s win over the Bears, which led to speculation that he was upset with his relative lack of action. However, he said he was merely disappointed that he lost a fumble at the goal line in the fourth quarter of the Chicago matchup, and there are no issues between him and his coach. When asked if he would like more carries, Ajayi said he just does whatever the coaches ask and will be ready when his number is called.
  • The Giants have been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the last week, from Eli Manning‘s controversial benching to Ben McAdoo‘s possible in-season ouster. But as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com writes, the team has not had any talks with any of its key upcoming free agents like Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg. Of course, there could be any number of reasons for that, but Schefter says the situation in New York has grown “depressing and dysfunctional,” and players on expiring contracts are happy to accept the team’s unofficial invitation to test the open market.

East Notes: Giants, McAdoo, McDaniels, Dolphins

Has Ben McAdoo lost control of the Giants? Two unnamed players told Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link) that McAdoo is no longer the right coach in New York.

McAdoo has lost this team,” one of the anonymous players said. “He’s got going 80 percent on Saturdays before we get on a plane to play a game, it’s wild. Changed our off day. He’s dishing out fines like crazy. Suspended two of our stars when we need them most. Throws us under the bus all the time. He’s ran us into the ground and people wonder why we’ve been getting got.”

The Giants are 1-7 heading into Sunday’s game against San Francisco.

Here’s more from the East divisions:

  • If the Giants fire McAdoo, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY speculates that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will be among those considered for the job. If GM Jerry Reese is also canned, the Giants could move to put together an ex-Pats tandem of Scott Pioli and McDaniels. Of course, it will take a lot to lure McDaniels away from New England where he might be the eventual successor to Bill Belichick. Besides McDaniels, Vacchiano lists Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith, Alabama coach Nick Saban, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Eagles OC Frank Reich, Stanford coach David Shaw, and Lions DC Teryl Austin as other names to keep in mind.
  • The Jay Ajayi trade was puzzling to some within the Dolphins organization, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears. One Dolphins person who in the locker room frequently said he never saw malcontent behavior from Ajayi.
  • Practice squad quarterback Brandon Doughty was passed over for a promotion a couple of weeks ago when the Dolphins signed David Fales as a backup. But, the team made it up by giving him a raise from $7,200/week to $15,200/week, Jackson writes. “It was a good raise,” Doughty said, adding he appreciated it. “He put his money where his mouth is. He said he wanted a veteran backup with experience. At the end of the day, you want to be on the 53.” Doughty is in his second year with Miami.
  • Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has threatened to sue the NFL over Roger Goodell‘s pending extension.

AFC Notes: Dolphins, Green, Ramsey

Just a day after activating offensive lineman Ted Larsen, the Dolphins have decided to make him inactive for their Sunday night affair versus the Raiders. Larsen, 30, was forced onto the injured reserve for the first two months of the season after suffering a torn biceps in the offseason. It remains to be seen how long it’s going to take until Larsen returns to the starting lineup, but he’s expected to replace left guard Jesse Davis at some point over the next few games.

  • Just as a key starter is returning in Larsen, Miami said goodbye to lead running back Jay Ajayi when they dealt him to the Eagles for a fourth round pick on the day of the trade deadline. The move came as a surprise to many Dolphins fans given the importance of the 24 year-old to the team’s offense. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald opines that the deal was just another in a series of questionable decisions that the franchise has made over the last few years. Salguero points out the team’s moves to get rid of Vontae Davis, Brandon Marshall, Mike Wallace and Karlos Dansby as points in time where the team gave up too early on talent. The trade does open up more playing time for the likes of Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams, but the Dolphins’ offense will certainly look a lot different without Ajayi in the backfield.
  • One of the many brawls as a part pf today’s slate of games came from an incident between Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Green. After Ramsey pushed one of the league’s best receivers after the whistle, Green unleashed a flurry of punches onto the Jaguars second-year defensive back, which prompted both sidelines into a shoving match. Both Green and Ramsey were ejected after the scuffle. However, Green was apologetic about the incident after the loss, as Michael DiRocco and Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com pass along. “I shouldn’t have reacted that way. I apologize to my teammates, [Bengals owner Mike] Brown, and everybody, because that’s not who I am. It just got the best of me today.” We’ll see how the league reacts to the situation as a suspension could be in order given the severity of Green’s reaction.
  • While both players were forced to leave the contest, many around the league pointed out that Ramsey did not actually throw a punch. However, there was some clarity given out on that front after the game. Apparently, the officials said that Ramsey was ejected because they thought he did throw a punch, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapoport reports that the Jags cornerback was informed by league officials after the team’s win that he was sent to the locker room because they thought he engaged Green too, even though it appears that Ramsey did not punch back. We’ll have to see how the Jacksonville players and coaches react to the apparent officiating mistake.