By Fixing What Wasn't Broken, Eagles Got Even Better - NBC 10 Philadelphia

By Fixing What Wasn't Broken, Eagles Got Even Better



    By Fixing What Wasn't Broken, Eagles Got Even Better
    By fixing what wasn't broken, Eagles got even better

    BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - The Eagles were 7-1 with the sixth-best running game in the NFL. 

    The old adage about not fixing what ain't broke? The Eagles laughed in its face.

    With LeGarrette Blount established as the Eagles' No. 1 running back and the Eagles rolling through the league, all of a sudden here's 2016 Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi in the middle of the season.

    And like everything else the Eagles have done? It worked.

    "It can be difficult coming to a new team in the middle of the season, but I just tried to be myself, be true to myself, and I knew that with my personality and the way I play the game, hopefully, the team would gravitate toward me," Ajayi said Wednesday.

    "There was a little bit of a period where we were all feeling each other out, but the running back room was really welcoming and the locker room was really welcoming."

    How well have Blount and Ajayi worked together? The Eagles are in the Super Bowl.

    And they actually had the fourth-best running game in the league after the Ajayi acquisition.

    "Doug (Pederson), Howie (Roseman) and Duce (Staley) brought me in that day, and they told me about the trade, the whole ordeal, and I was cool with it," Blount said.

    "They didn't make it seem like he was coming in to do this, that and the other, they just said, 'We got another playmaker,' and I said that's perfect.

    "You can never have too many playmakers on the team. That's how we got here. So I accepted it. Although there really wasn't anything to accept."

    Blount finished with 766 yards and a 4.4 average, and Ajayi added 408 yards in half a season with a 5.8 average. Undrafted rookie Corey Clement also contributed 321 yards and a 4.3 average.

    Ajayi has gotten the bulk of the carries in the postseason, with 127 yards and a 3.8 average. Blount has 15 carries and is at 2.7 but with two touchdowns.

    The only reason this works is because Blount and Ajayi respect each other, like each other and ultimately want what's best for the team.

    "Me and L.G., we have a high respect for each other," Ajayi said Wednesday. "I respect him very highly. He's a winner, he's won Super Bowls.

    "We understood coming in we'd be in this position where we both get carries here and there and it's really about competing with each other and pushing each other to be great, helping each other on the sideline with keys and things one or the other don't see and also just being great teammates to each other. It's been a great ride so far."

    This is only the second time in franchise history the Eagles have had three running backs with 70 or more carries and a 4.3 average or higher.

    The first, not surprisingly, was 2003, when the famed Three-Headed Monster of Staley, Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter did it.

    Now Staley is coaching the next group to do it.

    "Why does it work? It's all about communication, it's all about respect, it's all about treating men like men," Staley said. "First thing I did was I brought in LeGarrette and I told him, 'Hey, we're bringing in Jay Ajayi and this is why we're doing it.'

    "I told him you guys can be that tag-team 1-2 punch so we won't miss a beat when he's off the field and we won't miss a beat when you're off the field. LeGarrette, he wants what's best for the team. And it's working."

    Ajayi's 5.8 average is highest by an Eagles running back with 70 or more carries since Bosh Pritchard averaged 6.0 yards per carry for the 1949 NFL Championship team.

    "Obviously, he made our team better," Blount said. "He's a great player. Obviously, I'm a great player. "

    The Eagles acquired Ajayi on Oct. 31 in exchange for the Dolphins' 2018 fourth-round draft pick.

    Five days later, he made his Eagles debut, rushing for 77 yards and a 46-yard touchdown in a blowout win over the Broncos.

    "I think it was great to get into that first game against the Broncos so that the team could actually see what kind of player I am, and I think that helped kind of show guys what I can do and how I can help this team," Ajayi said.

    "It's really all about the team. I knew that my role would be to come in and whatever Coach asked, get it done and be a spark for the team and it's been a great, great time so far and now we're here at the Super Bowl trying to finish it the right way."