PHILADELPHIA — A big opportunity has unexpectedly presented itself, and the Philadelphia Eagles are pivoting accordingly.
That’s the read here following a trade-deadline deal that netted Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi from the Miami Dolphins. It’s an aggressive move that bolsters an offense already ranked fourth in rushing and third overall, providing coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz another playmaker as the Eagles look to parlay their 7-1 start into a deep postseason push.
Even internally, there were few who thought the Eagles would be in a position to seriously contend this early. Jeffrey Lurie told reporters at the owners meeting in March, “We’re not one player away. We have lots of holes,” adding that a string of successful drafts were needed to set up Wentz’s prime years. Team brbad believed it had a potential franchise quarterback in Wentz, but no one could have forecast his quick development. Just 24 games into his career, he’s playing at an MVP level. That has accelerated this franchise’s timeline.
The conditions within the division and conference have added to the urgency. The NFC East was expected to be meaner than this, largely because of the prowess of of the Dallas Cowboys, who were coming off a 13-3 season led by young stars Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. But they were just OK over the first half of the season and now deal with the prospect of losing Elliott to suspension for six games. If it holds, one of those games will be against the Eagles — a Week 11 showdown in Dallas.
The New York Giants and Washington Redskins are both below .500 and do not pose an immediate threat, especially with the Eagles having already swept Washington.
The NFC is not exactly littered with juggernauts, either. Dangerous, experienced squads such as the Seattle Seahawks cannot be discounted, but there aren’t any teams that can be considered a clbad above the Eagles. They have the best record in football. The roster is not perfect, but the same applies to every other team in the NFC.
Taking the long view is still very much a part of the team’s philosophy, but they are pushing more chips in than planned to seize the moment.
“Well, I think you take into account where you are,” said executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman. “It’s certainly different when you’re 7-1 than if you’re having a losing season. But at the same time, we’re not going to do anything that puts us in a bad spot going forward. A big part of this [Ajayi] trade is the fact that this is a 24-year old back who’s not just on a one-year deal. But if there are opportunities to improve our team and improve where we’re at, we have a responsibility to the people on the field, the people off the field, our fans, to evaluate everything.”
The Eagles and Dolphins held joint practices this summer in front of their preseason game against one another. They walked away viewing Ajayi as a player that fit their mold. They see a young, tough, explosive runner with underrated receiving and pbad-protection skills. If the season had gone as predicted, it’s quite conceivable that they would have simply admired Ajayi from afar for the time being. But they’ve since determined that the time to strike is now.