One of last season’s biggest surprises was Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi. After the signing of Arian Foster, Ajayi was bumped down on the depth chart to RB2.
After Foster decided to retire, Ajayi became the lead back, and the “Jay Train” took off from there. Ajayi became the fouth player in NFL history to rush for at least 200 yards in three games. He finished the season with 1,272 yards, eight touchdowns and an impressive average of 4.9 yards per carry. The beginning of this season hasn’t had the same result, but was week 6 a fresh start for Jay Ajayi?
Ajayi, along with the entire Dolphins offense, has struggled mightily to start the 2017 NFL season. In five games Ajayi has had 102 rushing attempts to go along with a mere 391 yards. That equates to 3.8 yards per carry, one yard down from last year. Jay Train has struggled against subpar rush defenses like the Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints and New York Jets. Surprisingly, the defenses Ajayi has found success against have been Atlanta and the Los Angeles Chargers.
When given a heavy workload, we’ve seen the production we expect from Ajayi, including 26 carries for 130 yards against the Falcons and 28 rushes for 122 yards against the Chargers. However, his workload is inconsistent. In the other three games of his season, Ajayi didn’t have a game better than 3.8 yards per carry. He is the focal point of the Dolphins offense. When he is used like that, then we see great production.
Some of his inconsistency has come from the poor play of quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler has struggled like he did in his last years in Chicago, but this time it’s affecting not only his receivers, but Ajayi as well. This rough start has affected fantasy owners through the first quarter of the season, but things are looking up.
Fantasy owners were probably annoyed that Ajayi didn’t get a touchdown to cap off his solid day, but things are on the up and up. In the second half of the season, we get to have Ajayi against the Patriots lackluster rush defense twice and the Jets defense another time. Ajayi struggled against the Jets the first time they played this season, but Miami will be looking for revenge especially as a playoff contender.
Again, when Ajayi gets the work he deserves, he succeeds. In two games with over 25 carries, Jay Ajayi has averaged 4.4 yards per carry and 5.0 yards per carry, numbers similar to last season. Now the Dolphins do have the sixth hardest schedule in the NFL, but after they saw the success they had running the ball and with Cutler continuing to struggle, the Dolphins should look to run the ball more and more. The one who can benefit from that is Jay Ajayi.
For fantasy owners who considered shopping Ajayi to try and bulk up the rest of their team, hold off on that. Pro Football Focus gave Ajayi a grade of 91.0 from a game with 130 rushing yards. It is good to note that 96 of his yards came after contact, so when the holes weren’t there, Ajayi made the most of his opportunity and took the Falcons for a ride. Look for Ajayi to continue his success and reap the rewards.
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