Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi is one of the hottest players in the league right now, having become just the fourth running back in league history to reach the 200-yards rushing and having a chance this weekend against the New York Jets to become the first player to hit that mark in three straight games. While that might be a long shot, and the team is likely to control Ajayi’s touches during the remainder of the year, looking to make sure they keep their budding star healthy through the last nine games. Ajayi has said his personal goal is to get to 1,000-yards rushing this season, a milestone that is just 465 yards away.
Over the final nine games, that works out to 51.6 yards per game. Yet, South Florida Sun Sentinel reporter Chris Perkins writes, “It might be a struggle.”
Perkins’ points to why it might be more difficult for Ajayi to average under 52 yards a game the remainder of the season includes Miami looking to manage his carries as well as playing seven of their final nine games against teams ranked in the top-10 in rush defense, including two games against the top ranked Jets. (Again, that third-straight 200-yard game might be a long shot.) He also stresses that the success of the running game is dependent on more than Ajayi, including the health of the offensive line, defenses stacking the box to stop Ajayi, opposing offenses eating enough of the clock to prevent Ajayi from getting enough touches, and the possibility of Miami falling out of games and needing to focus on passing to try to get back into the contest.
Perkins makes good points, but is it really going to be that tough for Ajayi to reach 52 yards a game? He is currently averaging 89.2 yards per game, third most in the NFL. He has a league high 6.4 yards per attempt average. Even if that average falls back toward the rest of the pack at around 5 yards per attempt, Ajayi would need somewhere around 10-11 carries in each of the next nine games. In Week 5, Ajayi surpassed the 10 carries mark for the first time this season, picking up 13 carries against the Tennessee Titans, with 42 yards and a touchdown. Then came the 25 carries for 204 yards and two touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the 29 carries for 214 yards and one score against the Buffalo Bills.
So the Dolphins need to make sure their starting running back picks up about 15 carries to keep him on pace for 1,000 yards - giving him a few extra to make sure he gets to the right side of 52 yards.
Plus, there is one more thing about Ajayi and his incredible explosion onto the NFL running back scene that seems to make averaging 52 yards for nine weeks feasible. Since becoming the “feature” back for Miami, Ajayi has a 63-yard run against the Steelers and a 53-yard run against the Bills.
In other words, to the J-Train, reaching 52 yards a game is one play away.