Eagles Counting on Culture to Embrace Ajayi
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — On Monday Doug Pederson said any potential addition to the 7-1 Eagles as the trade deadline would have to be a "special fit."
By Tuesday Jay Ajayi was on his way to Philadelphia, leaving a trail of character concerns emanating from South Florida where he was a 2016 Pro Bowl selection after breaking out with three 200-yard rushing performances.
On the surface, those two things seem to clash but to the Eagles coach, they are not mutually exclusive.
"In this business nobody's perfect," Pederson said when discussing Ajayi, a 1,272-yard back in that 2016 season who became a bit of whipping boy for Adam Gase as the young coach's offense went south in Miami.
Whispers of wanting the ball more and failure to do the extra work needed to maintain success in the NFL, coupled with an on-the-record criticism of always pressing for the home run followed Ajayi out the door in South Florida.
Pederson, however, believes things will be different in Philadelphia.
"We've established a culture of how we do things around here," the coach said. "We have got to be open and honest and say 'this is how we do things around here' and welcome him in and get him up to speed."
Pederson also went back to his playing days and referenced the Green Bay Packers embracing a player (presumably Andre Rison) with character concerns in 1996 en route to winning a Super Bowl.
"There were reports of character issues and all kinds of things but there wasn't one issue with this player [Rison] and we went on to win a Super Bowl," the coach explained.
As far as how Ajayi will fit into his offense, Pederson is in a wait-and-see mode.
"He's got to learn our system first," the coach said. "You can't just throw him out there."
So just how difficult is it to pick up a new system in the NFL when you arrive in Week 9.
"It's hard," Pederson surmised. "All he's known is Miami and we got to get that out of him. There will probably be a little carryover with a couple of things. It's just the terminology and picking it up. The footwork could be a little different and the way we teach it compared to them."
Ajayi is expected to be on the practice field Wednesday but Pederson refused to speculate whether the 24-year-old would play Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
“I can’t answer that right now,” said Pederson. “I have to see how the week goes. It goes back to how fast Jay can pick up our system and get comfortable with the things we’re doing."
As far as the running back room as a whole, the coach is counting on the iron-sharpens-iron mentality.
“Those that embrace it [competition] and challenge themselves individually are going to get better,” Pederson assessed, “and those who don’t fall by the wayside and it sorts itself out.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen