204, 214,111, and 206. These four numbers represented single-game rushing yard totals from the 2016 season when running back Jay Ajayi was the lead back with the Miami Dolphins. Fast forward a year later and Ajayi was jettisoned to the Philadelphia Eagles at the trade deadline for a fourth-round pick.
Ajayi, who started to establish himself as one of the top-15 running backs in the NFL was heading to a situation in Philadelphia where he would be sharing carries. While it took a couple of games for him to get adjusted, Ajayi became a key contributor in helping the Eagles win Super Bowl 52.
Now heading into this season, the former Boise State product wants to be the workhorse running back in Philadelphia.
“I would like to consider myself a workhorse running back, a grinder,” said Ajayi at OTAs last week. “I believe it’s tough for a defense to go against me for four quarters, just getting me running on the attack and pounding, pounding.” (h/t ESPN)
Before being traded to the Eagles in the middle of last season, Ajayi racked up 465 yards on 138 carries in seven games with Miami. But his yards per carry average decreased to 3.4 and did not reach the end zone at all.
This was a far cry from his production in 2016, where he had more yards (646), touchdowns (6), and a high yards per carry average (5.98) in the same amount of games. Luckily for Ajayi, he is playing behind an offensive line that was ranked fourth in second level yards (1.30), according to Football Outsiders.
Therefore, the offensive line is getting a major push on the opposing defensive line and opening lanes for the running backs to explode through.
Ajayi did see some improvement in his numbers with the Eagles, despite lesser carries. In seven regular season games, he had 408 rushing yards and increased his yards per carry average to 5.8.
The 25-year-old back also became a factor in the receiving game with 91 yards and a touchdown.
Just by looking at the numbers, there is no reason why Ajayi cannot have a breakout 2018 season. He is a physical running back with a good combination of size and speed that improves as the game progresses.
Moreover, this is a contract year for the 25-year old Ajayi. He is set to make $1.9 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract.
There is a lot of pressure on Ajayi to perform well, not only for financial reasons, but because the Eagles did not draft a running back.
Nevertheless, Ajayi has all the tools to be successful and for the Eagles’ sake, they hope he can return to his 2016 form.