Duce Staley Expects ‘Bumps Along the Way' With Eagles' RB Rotation

Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley will flat out admit there might be an occasion when one of his guys isn't satisfied with his workload after a game. Staley doesn't seem to think that's a problem or a bad thing, either.

How the Eagles juggle their suddenly crowded backfield will be one of the biggest story lines to follow in the second half of the season. Both Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi and alleged starter LeGarrette Blount are known to have displayed their displeasure over a perceived lack of carries in the past. Now they're on a roster together, along with three other ball carriers.

Blount had seized the lead-back role before the trade for Ajayi. Yet, in their first game together, Ajayi was on the field for one more snap than Blount - though Blount finished with one more carry. Corey Clement wound up with more touches and snaps than both!

There were no signs of any problems after the contest, in part because the Eagles beat the Broncos 51-23. Perhaps management was able to smooth things over beforehand, too.

"It's all about communication," Staley said last week. "You have to be able to communicate with them on every level. If you communicate with them and be honest with them on every level, everything else will pretty much fall in line."

The question is whether the peace and harmony in the running backs room can last for the next seven weeks, plus playoffs - because even Staley wouldn't promise that.

"Now, not saying there won't be any bumps along the way," Staley said. "Who knows? That's just a part of the game, and that's a part of them being competitive."

"I want a guy that wants the ball 100 times. You want that guy."


Bumps? What about the bumps? What kind of bumps?

Part of the reason Ajayi was available for trade in the first place is that the Dolphins reportedly grew tired of his complaining about carries - even after wins. Blount was famously released by the Steelers in 2014 after leaving the sideline before a game ended, upset he had not received a single carry. And these are just the most glaring examples.

But these are the Eagles. The team is 8-1, and the locker room is filled with leaders, unlike what Ajayi was probably used to in Miami.

And the year is 2017. When Blount didn't record a carry in a Week 2 loss to the Chiefs, he showed maturity and took the situation in stride.

"I don't have any problems in my room, and I don't think we're going to have any problems in my room," Staley said. "Those guys are highly competitive, which I love, and moving forward, I just think they'll all be able to help the Eagles chase the ultimate goal."

It may help that Staley has firsthand experience with this type of situation.

A veteran of 10 NFL seasons, Staley was the Eagles' primary back for roughly half of those. Then, in 2003, Brian Westbrook's role in the offense began to expand, and Correll Buckhalter was healthy and had a big piece of the pie as well.

Staley scoffed at the idea he was unhappy at the time, though some reporters seemed to remember differently. The one aspect that was definitely true is the Eagles made it to the conference title game that year.

"I have a little history with it," Staley said. "It worked when we were here. All three of us had a chance to play. We were productive, we won a lot of games that way.

"There's no reason why this can't work, and it will."

The "how" is still a little fuzzy, and the Eagles are no doubt still figuring that out themselves. It may be something that has a way of solving itself as the season moves along.

At least, that's sort of how Staley sees it, suggesting the Eagles could take the "hot hand" approach and stick with whichever back is having the most success. However the rotation winds up working, Staley is up to the challenge.

"I love the task myself," Staley said. "It's like a big puzzle you're trying to put together, and once you get it together, you're happy about it."

It should be noted that Staley no longer has autonomy over the running-back rotation, as previous head coach Chip Kelly always liked to fall back on. Those decisions are now made collectively, with current coach Doug Pederson making the final call, according to Staley.

So should the Eagles hit any of those so-called bumps along the way, Staley may have to carry those complaints back up the chain of command. If that's the case, it will be interesting to see whether the type of communication he's preaching will work both ways.

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