The Philadelphia Eagles traded a 2018 fourth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for Jay Ajayi. In order to better get to know the new Eagles running back, here’s some inside insight from our friends over at The Phinsider. Dolphins writer Kevin Nogle was kind enough to answer several questions.
1 - How are Dolphins fans reacting to this trade?
Fans are all over the place with this trade. Some see it as a sign the Dolphins are throwing in the towel for this year. Some see it as Adam Gase overstepping his role to prove a point that he will get rid of anyone who he sees as not doing his job. Some see it as a good move to try to spark the worst offense in the league. It's an odd mix right now, and they are probably all correct - except maybe the throw the towel idea.
2 - Why was Ajayi available?
I'll give you a series of quotes from Adam Gase on Friday, and you can make the inference from there:
“I’m pissed. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of the offense being awful. Guys need to get their heads right. The coaching staff needs to do a better job because obviously our players not knowing is a direct reflection on them.”
“It’s we’re not putting the work in. That’s what it comes down to. If you can’t remember it, you shouldn’t be in the NFL. At the end of the day, guys have got to actually take this stuff home and study it. They’re not going to just learn it all in meetings. We’ve got to find guys that will actually put forth effort to actually remember this stuff and really, it starts with our best players.”
"We’ve got to kind of figure out really what’s best for us to do, how we really want to approach it; or I guess I’ve got to figure it out. I’ll look into it, but I’m done compromising with anybody. I’ll do what I think is best and those that want to come on board, great. Those that don’t, we’ll get rid of them.”
"The majority of the time, the offensive at least knows who to go to and knows what to do. You’ve got to get the other guys to know what to do too. (The offensive line) can’t block the running back’s guy. The running back, we never block the right guy. I don’t even know if we know who we’ve got. We’ve got to get that fixed. They can’t block their guy too. (The offensive line is) trying to do what they can and they’re fighting. There’s times where I wished they would do things better, but at least I’m getting effort.”
(Asked about Ajayi/running backs) “We’ve got to stop trying to hit home runs all the time. How about take the 4 or 5 yards that we’re going to get? It comes down to everybody doing their job. If we actually start doing that, it might help. It’s on the running back. Do your job. That’s what you’ve got to do. It’s not hard.”
"Offensively, it’s a joke. We’ve got too many guys that don’t want to take it home with them. Until our best players actually put forth some effort, it’ll be shit.”
"I’m going to play the guys that know what to do. The fan base might not like it, but oh well. We’re the worst offense in football. It’s hard to go lower than that.”
That was all from one press conference and pretty much points to Ajayi as an issue for the coaches and in the locker room. I don't know how much to pin directly on Ajayi, but Gase was clearly fed up with running backs who do not know their blocking assignments, and are trying to do too much - something that has clearly been an issue for Ajayi this year - leading to loss of yards rather than an easy 4-5 yards.
3 - What are his strengths?
Ajayi is an amazing one-cut running back who can create after contact. He runs hard and has the speed to break away. He is not afraid of getting 20-plus touches a game, and would actually prefer that. He is the type of runner who is actually better later in the game once he has warmed up than he is at the start of the game. Miami always had success when he reached the 15-20 carries mark.
4 - What are his weaknesses?
His knee is a concern, as it was when he was drafted. Not that he has shown any real issues with it, but it has been on the injury report this year and the Dolphins coaches seemed to be allowing him extra rest each week to make sure it does not become a bigger problem. Other than that, it goes back to what the quotes from Gase have said. Ajayi knows he is a good running back, and he is always looking to break the long run - but at times he is going to skip the obvious hole for a shot at the bounce-outside play, which leads to a loss of yards.
Finally, it sounds like there are more issues behind the scenes than we as fans or the media have realized, with Ajayi complaining that he is not getting enough touches, even when the Dolphins are winning games. In 2016, Ajayi got himself left behind for the Week 1 game at Seattle because he was pouting that Arian Foster was named the starter - and it sounds like some of that attitude has started to creep back in as this season has gone on. Nothing confirmed, but that seems to be some of the sense today.
5 - Where would you rank Ajayi among active NFL running backs? (Top 15? Top 10?) Just how good is he?
I think he is probably a top ten running back with the ability to explode into the top five. He has the potential to be elite, but he has to put it altogether. Dolphins fans expected a lot out of him this year, and while it is not all his fault (defenses do not fear Jay Cutler/Matt Moore and the offensive line has not been great) he has not lived up to those expectations yet. He is a fan favorite, and it is sad that he is not going to be in the Dolphins backfield anymore. As he picks up the Eagles' offense, I would expect him to overtake Blount and become a true feature back.
6 - Anything else that Eagles fans should know?
Ajayi is a lot of fun. Get ready to be surprised by his English accent sometimes, but he is such a great guy, loves the fans, and loves his job. He does need to work a little more - part of what Gase was complaining about - but he is a special talent that, should his knee not become an issue, he is going to be someone Eagles fans quickly come to love. Oh, and he is the first NFL player to have his own global Twitter emoji #JayTrain. I will miss tweeting #ChooChoo every week when he breaks long runs. Great pick up for Philadelphia.
Spider graph via Mockdraftable: