Even though the Eagles ranked fourth in rushing entering Week 9, there was no running back on the roster that possessed the type of playmaking potency Jay Ajayi brings. They walked away viewing Ajayi as a player that fit their mold. They see a young, tough, explosive runner with underrated receiving and pass-protection skills.
The Eagles, now 8-1, entered the game as the third-ranked offense in the NFL. Still, executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman stayed aggressive at the trade deadline and worked up a deal with old friend Mike Tannenbaum, who holds the same title with the Dolphins, sending a 2018 fourth-round pick to Miami for the 24-year-old Ajayi.
From that moment on, Ajayi resembled the back that gave the Falcons’ defense fits earlier in the season when he rushed for 130 yards as a Dolphin, the most allowed to an individual rusher by Atlanta all season. Ajayi finished the opening quarter 49 rushing yards and 58 yards from scrimmage which were the most he’s ever had in the first quarter of a game. He finished the game with 54 rushing yards on 15 carries and 98 total scrimmage yards.
A span of 20 days will have passed from the last time running back Jay Ajayi carried a football in a game, December 25 against Oakland, to Saturday’s playoff game against Atlanta. Twenty days. Time off to recover cheap Eagles jerseys, to become refreshed. Enough time for Ajayi to feel like he’s got all the energy in the world for the Falcons.
This week’s fantasy blocking breakdown will detail the dominant run blocking of the Tennessee Titans, highlight an upside path for fantasy managers with Todd Gurley on their roster, review whether Jay Ajayi will start to produce anytime soon for his fantasy squads and take a look at what led the Giants’ passing game to post big point totals. 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.
Ajayi was acquired from Miami on Tuesday at the trade deadline. He first practiced with the Eagles on Wednesday. Pederson said he wanted to get through Friday’s session, which features a lot of red zone work, before greenlighting Ajayi to play against Denver. The Eagles and Dolphins held joint practices this summer in front of their preseason game against one another.
Perhaps it was a good omen that running backs coach Duce Staley and Ajayi shared a moment following the joint practices with the Dolphins during Training Camp in Philadelphia. Ajayi remembers Staley during his playing days as an Eagle and believes Staley can bring the best out of him.
Ajayi wasn’t gaining many yards or scoring touchdowns with his ample chances, and that should adjust, in theory, with Philadelphia, but the bottom line is those relying on Ajayi shouldn’t presume his fantasy value skyrockets. Perhaps now he can fulfill the original expectations and at least act as a RB1. Ajayi enters Week 9 tied for 30th among running backs in PPR scoring after being selected as the No. 8 running back and 16th overall in ESPN average live drafts.
Pederson would not speculate on how soon the new back would be able to contribute but expects that he will fit well with the chemistry the Eagles have. After his first practice Wednesday afternoon, Ajayi seems to be relishing the opportunity. Pederson said that Ajayi is being given a “very limited” portion of the playbook, about 10 to 15 plays. The Eagles want to get him comfortable before filling up his plate. So far, Pederson has liked what he’s seen out of his new back.
The intensity has ramped up this week, of course. The playoffs are here, and the Eagles intend to stick around for some time. Ajayi figures to play a significant role if the Eagles want to stress the running game.
That’s especially true when your franchise quarterback goes down. While offensive coordinator Frank Reich and new starting quarterback Nick Foles suggested this week that the offense will stay the same, it would be a surprise if Pederson didn’t tweak the game plan to try and feature the run game, and Ajayi in particular, a bit more starting Sunday at the New York Giants. He’s shown he has durability and the skills to take it to the house for the offense.