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Big Question: Should The Eagles Give RB Jay Ajayi A Bigger Workload?

Posted Nov 22, 2017

Ahead of Sunday's showdown with the Chicago Bears, the PhiladelphiaEagles.com writers answer your questions below!

Dave Spadaro: Jordan Howard is an outstanding running back. In his second season, he’s run for 841 yards and he’s averaging 4.4 yards per carry for an offense that lacks complementary weapons. The Eagles will see a lot of Howard and Darren Sproles-clone Tarik Cohen, at times together in the backfield. But there will be no surprises. The focus is stopping Chicago’s running game. The Eagles have been doing it all season, and the task is to do it again on Sunday.

The Eagles will be well aware of Howard in the ground game (as well as Cohen, who also leads the Bears in receptions). Jim Schwartz and the defense are geared to stop the run. The Eagles have an advantage at the line of scrimmage, so I would expect Howard to have trouble getting into gear on the ground.

Fran Duffy: Howard is a big, physical back. He’s the focal point of the offense and he’s built to be a foundation piece of an NFL offense. The Eagles have to be very disciplined in their gaps against the Chicago zone run game. That’s imperative to keeping Howard and their scheme under wraps. Secondly, it’s not enough to just be in your gap, but you have to be able to get him to the ground. The Eagles' defense, at all three levels, will have to be prepared to bring their "big boy pants" and make one-on-one tackles on Sunday.

Chris McPherson: The Bears' offense is limited vertically. Chicago ranks 31st in passing yards and 31st in explosive pass plays. Howard is the focal point of the offense and the Eagles know it. What's impressed me about this defense is how it flies to the ball and tackles. The relentless pursuit has been impressive. I recall from defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's press conference how he praised cornerback Ronald Darby for his tackling, saying it is usually the last aspect of the game that comes along. This is a tough and physical defense. I believe the Eagles will be more than up to the task on Sunday.

Fran Duffy: Doug Pederson has consistently preached a "one week at a time" mantra, and with players like Carson Wentz, Malcolm Jenkins, and Fletcher Cox furthering that message in the locker room, I don’t see this Eagles team "looking past" anyone. Everyone knows that each week is a fight in the NFL, regardless of what the records are on either sideline. That doesn’t mean the Eagles can’t lose this game, but if they do, I’d be shocked if it was because they took the Bears lightly.

Dave Spadaro: This team has done a fantastic job of staying focused all season, and there is no reason to think that will change on Sunday. It’s a home game, and the atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field will be electric. So, no, I don’t expect any loss of focus. There are enough players here who have won Super Bowls (Chris Long, Torrey Smith, Malcolm Jenkins, etc.) who understand that you don’t let down during the season. While the Eagles have a four-game lead in the NFC East, the goal is to have the No. 1 seed for the NFC playoffs and have the postseason come through Philadelphia.

Chris McPherson: What have the Eagles accomplished? Let's be honest. It's great that they're 9-1 and have the NFC East all but secured, but there are bigger goals in mind now. Chicago stands in the way. Plus, the Bears' three wins this season have come against Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Baltimore. Their last four losses have been one-possession games. Lane Johnson compared this week to the buildup ahead of the San Francisco game. Both teams are playing hard despite the effort not showing up in the win-loss column.

Dave Spadaro: Jeffery spent a lot of time on Tuesday meeting the media and talking about playing the Bears, and he is clearly at peace with the decision he made to leave Chicago and sign with Philadelphia. I’m sure he will be excited. I’m sure this game means something to him, as he’s indicated that he “circled” this game once the schedule came out in the spring.

But Alshon is a very composed guy on the field and my sense is that he will treat it like it’s any other game once it begins. He’s excited, yes, and he’s got good memories of his time in Chicago, but Jeffery has his mind and his heart in Philadelphia now. It’s time to get to 10-1.

Fran Duffy: I’m sure there are going to be some moments for Jeffery as the game closer, and there probably would’ve been even more had the game been in the Windy City, but Alshon is a professional. He’s going to prepare for this game just like any other, and I expect his hot streak to continue in this game as he and Wentz become more and more comfortable with each other.

Chris McPherson: In understand that Jeffery isn't putting up monster numbers or has a 100-yard game yet as an Eagle, but he's delivered some big-time catches for the Eagles. He caught a touchdown against the 49ers. He had six catches and two scores in the win over the Broncos. Last Sunday, he had a touchdown which came on fourth down. He had a 22-yard grab for a first down. His other two catches converted third-down opportunities. And he leads the league in two-point conversions after hauling in his third of the season against Dallas.

He's sacrificed to be part of a 9-1 squad. But I wouldn't be surprised to see him get some extra targets on Sunday, just for good measure.

Dave Spadaro: Why more? Aren’t things working great? The Eagles just ran for 215 yards and two touchdowns against Dallas. Ajayi is working his way into the lineup and the Eagles, so far, have masterfully introduced Ajayi into the locker room and the running back rotation and there hasn’t been as much as a hiccup of discontent. The Eagles want to give Ajayi his touches, and they want to keep LeGarrette Blount on point and they want to keep Corey Clement very much in the mix.

Keep ‘em all happy, keep ‘em all productive, and continue to present different looks to defenses down the stretch. It’s a great way to have a running back-by-committee approach down the stretch.

Fran Duffy: With the running back rotation, I truly believe it will be a game-by-game thing. Depending on the situation, you’ll see amounts of LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and hey, we even saw Kenjon Barner come up with two big plays on the opening drive against the Cowboys. Pederson, Frank Reich, and Duce Staley have a clear idea of how to best use these running backs as the team prepares for a tough run down the stretch. If the Eagles are going to make a playoff run, they’ll need each running back on the roster to play a key role.

Chris McPherson: To add to Dave's point, keep 'em fresh for the stretch run! LeGarrette Blount had 201 carries at this time a year ago. He's only got 122 this season. Look at the efficient play the Eagles are getting out of Corey Clement (54 carries) and Kenjon Barner (13), who are able to make the most out of their reps. The Eagles can lean heavily on Ajayi or Blount if they need to in a certain game, but the versatility of this attack - from both a schematic and personnel standpoint - makes it that much harder to defend.

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