Once the J-Train gets rolling, it is hard to stop. Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, nicknamed the J-Train including his Twitter handle @JayTrain23, burst onto the scene in his second NFL season when he had three 200-yard rushing performances last year, leading to a 1,272 yard, 8 touchdown, Pro Bowl selection season tally. The 2015 fifth-round pick showed that the knee injury that cause so much pre-Draft concern would not impact him over the course of a season where he carried the ball 260 times and average 4.9 yards per carry.
Ajayi ran with speed and, more importantly, power last year. He ran around, over, and through defenders seemingly every time he touched the ball. On Friday, Pro Football Focus backed up that idea, tweeting that Ajayi led the league in broken tackles on inside runs in 2016:
Then, in another tweet, this time about Green Bay Packers running back Ty Montgomery leading the league in running outside the tackles after contact, PFF backed up more of the incredible ability for Ajayi to make things happen even when he is getting hit. While the focus is on Montgomery, it’s Ajayi who shows up with the second highest average:
PFF was not done with adding Ajayi to tweets on Friday, with their post about running backs who gained the most yards on outside runs in 2016, led by Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy, Ajayi shows up again, this time in fifth place with 639 yards:
Their Thursday look at the running backs with the most yards between the tackles was headlined by the Chicago Bears’ Jordan Howard, but there, again, is Ajayi, this time in fourth position with 633 yards:
PFF also tweeted on Thursday the top six players with the most yards after contact in the league. Using the tweet as a way to highlight the Cleveland Browns’ Isaiah Crowell, who had just signed his restricted free agent tender, PFF showed him as the third best player in the league, average wise, in yards after contact. Who led the league in 2016? Choo-choo....
With Isaiah Crowell signing his RFA tender, the Browns bring back a HB who was 3rd in the league in yards after contact in 2016 pic.twitter.com/sMkiD0nJPL— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 11, 2017
Ajayi finished the season with more yards per carry after contact than anyone else in the league. He finished the year with over 1,200 yards rushing - while missing the first week of the season and splitting carries through the first four weeks. He only hit 20 carries five times on the season. And, still, he finished the season fourth in rushing yards and ninth in attempts.
The Dolphins’ starting running back was nearly perfectly split in the yardage he gained on inside runs compared to the yardage gained on outside runs. He has speed. He has power. He has desire. Ajayi is a perfect running back for the Dolphins, and the team realizes that now, even if they started him slowly last year. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Omar Kelly, head coach Adam Gase has said the Dolphins will be looking to get Ajayi 22-25 carries a game next year, which would put him around 350 carries on the season, or 28 carries more than Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had in 2016 when he led the league. The 350 number may not be a literal goal, but it does stress to Ajayi that he is coming in to this season as a true workhorse running back.
Last year, Ajayi showed he can perform like a workhorse back.
Or, better yet, he showed he can perform like a train. And, once he is rolling, good luck stopping him.