Philadelphia Eagles: Jay Ajayi brings back 2017’s winning formula

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

With Jay Ajayi back in the fray, the Philadelphia Eagles should double-down on the run-heavy assault that won them a Super Bowl in 2017.

It happened, it finally happened: After months and months of waiting, ex-Philadelphia Eagles running back Jay Ajayi has found a new home in the NFL.

Well, kind of.

After announcing his full recovery from a 2018 Week 5 ACL injury earlier this season, Ajayi is heading back to the City of Brotherly Love for his third-straight season in midnight green on a one-year, vet minimum contract.

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But the addition of Ajayi isn’t just retreading the same old talent; wait, actually, it kind of is, but in the best way possible.

You see, with Darren Sproles‘ season over and Corey Clement now on IR, the Eagles now have four running backs on their active roster in Ajayi, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and return man Boston Scott.

Now, what does that remind you of? Oh yeah, the Eagles’ 2017 runningbacks rotation.

That’s right, the dominant, chain moving, clock running, rushing assault that engined the Eagles all the way to U.S. Bank Stadium is back and better than ever – seriously.

Filling LeGarrette Blount‘s role as the Birds’ number one option is Howard, a similarly violent runner with an ability to ground and pound the rock between the tackles. While Blount was absolutely essential to the team’s success in 2017, Howard is without a doubt a better player and should run his way into a new, big-money contract somewhere next season.

And then there’s Sanders, who should be able to remain a dynamic Alvin Kamara-esque offensive weapon as the Birds’ pass-catching specialist. Again, no knock on Sproles, and eventually Clement – who has a wonderful four-catches for 100 yards showing in the Super Bowl – but Sanders has already proven himself to be a unique weapon in Doug Pederson‘s offensive arsenal and should remain a vital cog in both the passing game and rushing game with or without Ajayi.

Factor in Scott, who can easily take over the role Barner filled in 2017, and Ajayi’s addition effectively brings back a winning formula to South Philly.

Much like in 2017, Howard and Ajayi can form a relentless tandem of thunder-and-thunder one-cut runner to beat down a defensive front, with Sanders subbing in to make plays in space and manufacture big plays in the open field – that is, if Pederson can finally swallow his pride once and for all and commit to running the ball with authority.

A quarterback by trade, accepting that the Eagles are built to dominate in the trenches has been a tough pill for Pederson to swallow, but an essential one if the team is going to reach their full potential – especially with Ajayi back in the rotation.

With no deep-threat on the outside to take the top off of opposing defenses, the Eagles have struggled at times to keep the ball moving in 2019 despite having one of the best offensive lines in the business. While the team can’t totally pass on the passing games, especially with Carson Wentz low-key playing at an MVP-level, running the ball early, often, and most importantly in the second half of games with a lead (if that ever happens) can power the team to new heights while contrasting the pass-happy spread offense that has become in-vogue as of late.

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Now granted, the signing of Jay Ajayi could simply be with Week 11 in mind, as Howard hasn’t been cleared to return to the field after suffering a stinger against the Chicago Bears, but I’d like to think his return is a sign of things to come. With the NFC East pennant still very much in play thanks to a Week 10 Dallas Cowboys loss (more on that here), maybe Doug Pederson and company have accepted what fans have known for three years now: The Philadelphia Eagles win games by running the ball.