The Jay Ajayi the Eagles signed six weeks ago was not the same fierce, slashing runner who helped them win Super Bowl LII; ACL surgery last year on an already iffy knee seems to have robbed Ajayi of his burst.
It was not a surprise Monday when a league source confirmed a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that said the Eagles are releasing Ajayi. This was good news for the running back corps, since it was an open secret that the Eagles were waiting to make the move until Jordan Howard was cleared from his shoulder injury. Ajayi has been active but hasn’t taken the field the past two weeks. He finishes 2019 with 10 carries for 30 yards.
Howard, who has missed six games since suffering a stinger while keying a victory over his former Bears teammates, presumably will play Sunday as the Eagles try to lock up the NFC East title at the New York Giants.
It will be interesting to see how many snaps and carries Howard gets. He hasn’t been able to do a lot of strength work while trying to regain full range of motion in his shoulder, and more to the point, while Howard clearly was the team’s lead back (119 carries, 525 yards) when he went down, in the interim, rookie Miles Sanders has moved far past Howard’s level.
Sanders provides the speed, explosiveness and passing-game versatility the Eagles’ offense needs, especially with all three of the top wide receivers injured. He has 766 rushing yards on 170 carries and 510 receiving yards, on 47 catches.
Freeing up a roster spot by releasing Ajayi might allow the team to bring another wide receiver up from the practice squad, assuming Nelson Agholor (knee) hasn’t been cleared. The Eagles have gone into their last three games with just three healthy wideouts, a gamble that got dicier when tight end Zach Ertz suffered a broken rib against the Cowboys. Of course, if Ertz isn’t able to play this weekend, the Eagles could fill the Ajayi roster spot with practice squad tight end Alex Ellis. Dallas Goedert and Josh Perkins are the other two tight ends on the 53.