Eagles Not Budging Off RB By Committee
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - With six days to the NFC Championship Game, you can probably put to rest the thought that the Eagles will be reversing course from their running back-by-committee approach in favor of Jay Ajayi carrying the load.
What has changed, however, is that the trade-deadline acquisition is now officially the lead dog of the quorum but LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement are also going to get plenty of playing time.
In the 15-10 divisional-round win over Atlanta on Saturday, Ajayi was the guy at the outset of the game despite fumbling on his first carry. A strong start, however, settled into a disappearing act for most of the second 15 minutes and when all was said and done Ajayi played in 29 of the team's 67 offensive snaps (43 percent).
Blount was next with 20 repetitions (30 percent) followed by Clement fitting in as the pass-catching back, snaring five receptions in 16 snaps (24 percent).
There was some thought that the Eagles would start leaning on Ajayi more in the playoffs where a strong running game is paramount to put a limited quarterback like Nick Foles in the best situations possible.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson explained that Ajayi's usage was part of the game-plan going in.
"I ultimately control the personnel," Pederson explained. "...I call on different guys in particular situations. A couple of times you come off a long run, or a big pass, it can be a good time to go a little [up-tempo, in that case, whoever is the back at the time, we just keep him on the field.
"At that point, [in the second quarter, Blount] was heating up a little bit. We wanted to get him going, too. It's just the way it goes."
The way it goes is the way it has been going in that Pederson has said he isn't interested in fixing what isn't broken and since Dec. 3 Ajayi has been playing between 41 percent and 51 percent of the offensive snaps. His number against the Falcons obviously fits into that range.
"Every back knows the running game," Pederson said. "They know the passing game. The way it is set up is by design, by scheme-design, a particular back might be good in a particular run-scheme, so we put that back in on certain plays. However, if we break off a long pass or a run, there is a chance that I'll go hurry up-tempo, which is why they have to know the full complement of the offense."
Running with anybody against the Minnesota Vikings defense doesn't figure to be easy. Mike Zimmer's top-ranked unit is No. 2 vs. the run (behind only the Eagles) and nose tackle Linval Joseph is one of the most dominating run defenders in football.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen