The Eagles’ offense has suffered another loss. And this is a major one.
Running back Jay Ajayi on Monday became the fifth Eagle to be placed on injured reserve since the end of the preseason. Ajayi has a torn ACL, according to a person familiar with the situation speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Ajayi rushed eight times for 29 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings and lost a fumble at the Vikings’ 5-yard line early in the third quarter. His last carry was a 6-yard run that was wiped out by a penalty in the fourth quarter, and there was no announcement of an injury.
In fact, Ajayi spoke to reporters afterward, which wouldn’t have been allowed if he’d had a major injury, and said the Eagles didn’t run the ball enough.
Ajayi had been playing out the final season of his rookie contract. He played the last two games despite a broken bone in his back.
Without Ajayi, the Eagles are left with Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and undrafted rookie Josh Adams. Which might be fine if that group were completely healthy. Clement was active Sunday but did not play after missing the loss to the Titans with a quad injury. Sproles has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury.
Fortunately for the Eagles, Smallwood and Clement appear to be a potent combination. Smallwood, who wasn’t a lock to make the team in training camp, rushed three times for 27 yards against Minnesota and had three receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown. He also broke a tackle to score in the 2-point conversion.
Before the injury, Clement looked poised to build on the success he had as a rookie last year. He’s rushed for 112 yards and a TD, averaging 4.1 yards per carry, and has eight receptions for 74 yards.
Adams has seven carries for 29 yards in three games.
Now, will the Eagles go after Le’Veon Bell? Don’t hold your breath.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, the Eagles restructured Fletcher Cox’s contract Friday to create more cap room but do not intend to use it to acquire Bell. Instead, they did it to facilitate the re-signing of their own players over the next couple of years.
“It's 100 percent misleading to think Cox's restructuring was done with Le'Veon Bell in mind,” a league source told ESPN.
Schefter was the first to report that Ajayi’s injury was an ACL tear.
Ajayi finishes the season with 45 rushes for 184 yards and three touchdowns. A chronic knee issue, which may have contributed to the torn ACL, caused him to drop to the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and led the Miami Dolphins to make him available to the Eagles at the trade deadline last season.
With Ajayi joining LeGarrette Blount and Clement last season, the Eagles had a dynamic backfield that helped carry them all the way to a Super Bowl championship.
Ajayi enjoyed his finest period as a pro with the Eagles in the seven regular-season and three playoff games he played for them last season. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry in the regular season and 4.4 in the playoffs.
The Eagles can remove two players from IR, and the candidates seem to be Rodgers, Hollins and Wallace. Rodgers and Hollins will be eligible after Week 8, and Wallace after Week 10.
The Eagles filled Ajayi’s spot by claiming defensive tackle T.Y. McGill off waivers. McGill, a fourth-year pro, spent his first two seasons in the NFL with the Colts and played for the Browns last year. He spent training camp with the Chiefs before being cut and claimed by the Chargers.