Good morning, Eagles fans. Finally, after a two-week wait, there's football in Philadelphia. The Eagles will host their first playoff game since January 2014 on Saturday afternoon. If they win, they play again next Sunday. If they lose, the season's finished. The beat writers are split on their predictions; what do you think will happen?
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— Zach Berman
Here's what I'll be watching once the ball is kicked on Saturday afternoon:
Zach Berman: What clicked for you when playing the Falcons earlier this season? Can that be a resource for this game?
Jay Ajayi: "Just running hard. That was our plan. We knew we were going against a good defense. Attack them with the run game, stay with it throughout the game, and it was a good game. …You watch the film. Obviously, it's a different scheme. But definitely some good things you can watch in that film that we can use."
Zach Berman: What's the background of the "Jay Train" nickname?
Jay Ajayi: "'Jay Train' started at Boise State. I was a redshirt sophomore and I was starting, looking for that alter-ego on the field to go to, that persona to take my game to the next level. I'd seen a picture, someone Photoshopped me on a train. I thought it was kind of clever. I've stuck with the Jay Train celebration when I scored. It became my persona on the field where I'm kind of a nice guy off the field, real chill. When I'm on the field, I can turn into the Jay Train, become kind of violent, physical. I always say, it's almost like you can be violent on the field and it's legal a little bit because it's football. That's kind of where I can go with that persona and use it to be physical, to be a dog on the field. Use all those emotions to run and make plays for the team."
Zach Berman: Other players have an alter-ego. Brian Dawkins had it in Philadelphia. Is that important to transform into something else on the field?
Jay Ajayi: "I think certain guys, it's just like that. You've been seeing this videos that we've been putting out this week with Dawk. Those videos are intense. You kind of see that 'Weapon X' alter-ego in those videos. When you speak to B-Dawk around the building, he's a calm, cool guy you can talk to. But that's not the same guy on those videos. That guy, he'll take anyone's head off. It doesn't matter who it is. That's Weapon X in those videos. Some guys, you kind of get in your zone where everything is instinct and you're out there, emotions, you're just playing football. For me, it's being the Jay Train. I use that and it's been great for me. I just go into an ultra-competitive mode, where it's like I'll get mad at my own mom if she was out there. It's just how I am, I guess. You get in that ultra-competitive mode and you just want to do everything you can to succeed."
Good question. So you mean other than the obvious of Jay Ajayi and Fletcher Cox, like I mentioned above, and Lane Johnson and Nick Foles, who both have been written about often this week? Here's one: Malcolm Jenkins. Go back and watch the Falcons game last year, and he starred. It was as well as he played since he's been with the Eagles. He was credited with six tackles and a tackle for a loss, but he was all over the field and was menace on third downs. Jenkins' versatility has been underrated this season; he's played better against the run this year than in past seasons, and my guess is he's used in that all-around role again on Saturday. He'll help against Julio Jones on one play and square up against Devonta Freeman on the next. Jenkins is the Eagles' vocal leader, but don't overlook how important he is on the field.
That's a little on the high side, but I can see it being 55-45 in favor of the run. In their best running games (Chargers, Broncos, first Cowboys game), they weren't 60-40. It was usually in the mid 50s. Nick Foles is going to have to throw the ball and challenge the Falcons even if the run game is the priority. He needs to make plays, there's no getting around that. If they're in the 52-58 percent range for running the ball, that would make sense. If they're favoring the pass, it's either because they're trailing early or Doug Pederson was too aggressive.