When Jay Ajayi found out that he would be a healthy scratch against the Seattle Seahawks, the running back was not pleased to say the least. Ajayi thought coming into the year that he would be a starter for the team after getting first team reps for most of the offseason. However, Adam Gase decided to not have Ajayi travel with the team to take some time off. This gave the young player a chance to think.
The weeks following the opening loss against the Seahawks, Ajayi started to gain more carries. Not the number of carries that he would have liked to see, but Gase was giving him opportunities to make plays in a offense that uses multiple players at the running back position.
The running back’s first touchdown of the year was a game winner against the Browns in overtime which was a must needed win for the team. He told Walter Villa of the Miami Herald that the run gave him a confidence boost, something that he desperately needed.
The next two games the team would face the Bengals and Titans which they would both lose. Ajayi’s numbers slightly improved, but he was still looking for that breakout game that would separate him from the rest of the pack. Gase gave him that chance against the Steelers.
Ajayi rushed for 204 yards on 25 carries with a pair of touchdowns. The career game from Jay made him the definite starter for the upcoming weeks. The next week against the Bills, he rushed for 214 yards on 28 carries with a touchdown. These two incredible performances put Ajayi in the national spotlight as he joined OJ Simpson, Earl Cambell, and former Dolphin Ricky Williams as the only running backs to have back-to-back 200 yard games. Ajayi was humble in the locker room following the big win against the Bills.
After the bye week, the Dolphins hosted the number one rushing defense, the New York Jets. I didn't expect Ajayi to make history and rush for a third 200 yard game, however I was surprised he surpassed the 100 yard mark against a top defense. He even rushed for the Dolphins first score of the game. I think this easily shows the improvement from the back and it is extremely impressive how he has played. He continued to wear that defense down and it showed at the end of the game when he broke out for some first down runs to seal the win.
Ajayi’s name is now being connected with the Most Improved Player of the Year award which would be an amazing accomplishment for him. I expect him to continue to be that physical running back who imposes his will on defensive players. He will compete against another candidate for the award, Melvin Gordon who has also played well up to this point.
Ajayi and the rest of the team are looking for a big victory against the Chargers this Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium. The Dolphins hope to improve to 5-4 on the year with the winning streak still alive at four games.