Jay Ajayi continues to get more playing time as the playoffs approach | Early Birds
Jay Ajayi's role in the Eagles offense increased for the third straight game on Sunday against the Giants.
Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles don't practice on Tuesday, but the coordinators will hold news conferences at 1:30 p.m. Jim Schwartz will discuss a defense that allowed 504 yards in Sunday's win over the New York Giants.
Jay Ajayi's playing time increased on Sunday for the third consecutive game, proving that Ajayi should be viewed as the Eagles' top running back. (Here's the playing time distribution for the whole team.) Ajayi took 35 snaps, which was 51 percent of the offensive plays. After playing fewer than 30 percent of the snaps in his first three games with the Eagles, Ajayi has increased from 41 percent to 47 percent to 51 percent during the last three. Look for this to grow in the postseason; his production warrants it: Ajayi is averaging 6.4 yards per carry with the Eagles and has become more of a factor in the passing game. Other playing-time takeaways: Chance Warmack took every snap at left guard; Joe Walker did not enter the game on defense; Bryan Braman stepped right in as a core special teams player, tying for the team lead with 81 percent of the special teams snaps.
At Doug Pederson's day-after news conference, he was asked whether he would rest his starters if the Minnesota Vikings lose on Saturday and the Eagles clinch the top seed before playing Monday against the Oakland Raiders. Pederson said he's not able to think like that because the Vikings game is out of his control, so he's preparing the Eagles like normal. That's the answer I expected Pederson to give, but it makes sense to have contingencies this week. The best approach is prepare as if they need to win the game to clinch regardless of what happens with the Vikings. That way, Nick Foles and the starters get a full week of work. But if the Eagles clinch on Saturday night, I'd consider taking some key players out at halftime on Monday to avoid injury and give playing time to some down-the-depth-chart players. Pederson has done this when the Eagles had big leads in the fourth quarter this season. I'd consider treating the second half that way during the next two games. What would you do? (Of course, this discussion is pointless if the Vikings win.)
Malcolm Jenkins and six teammates joined 30 police officers and Strawberry Hill Police Athletic League officers on Monday afternoon to pack and deliver food baskets and toys to 140 Philadelphia-area families as part of the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation's Holiday Dinner Basket Surprise. Fellow defensive backs Rodney McLeod, Patrick Robinson, Jalen Mills, Jaylen Watkins, Corey Graham, and Sidney Jones also participated. They surprised the families with the food and gifts, hand-delivering them to homes. It's the third year Jenkins' foundation held the event.
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What you need to know about the Eagles
Will Doug Pederson rest his starters? He doesn't need to make that decision yet, but he might soon.
What does Pederson think about a defense that has allowed 88 points during the last three games? Les Bowen's day-after story breaks it down.
Marcus Hayes thinks Pederson is the coach of the year.
What did Jeff McLane learn in the Eagles' win?
Paul Domowitch offered five reasons the Eagles won.
In the latest Birds' Eye View podcast, McLane and I discussed Nick Foles' first start, the defensive breakdowns, the accomplishment of a first-round bye, and more.
If you missed Monday's newsletter, there's reason for both celebration and concern.
From the mailbag
They need to clean up the defense, but it's not broken. So I'm not overly concerned, but I'm watching closely. I don't think they'll give up 400-plus passing yards every week, although this defense is not as effective as it was earlier this season. The midseason stretch against struggling quarterbacks might have created an unrealistic standard for the defense. It's built around the defensive line, which must get more pressure. That's harder to do against a quick passing game. More of a concern is the coverage, with the cornerbacks playing closer to the way they were expected entering the season than the way they did through much of the first three months. I think they need to focus on what they did best earlier in the season — play off-coverage, keep the receivers in front of them, tackle, and get off the field on third down. That needs to be the emphasis. It was a good recipe because it forced teams to try to beat them with long drives. The Giants went 10 of 18 on third down on Sunday, and penalties didn't help. It's OK to give up yards, and the Eagles will do that in the playoffs against good quarterbacks. But they need to get off the field on third down, and they can't allow big plays.