Jay Ajayi joined Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson, and Ricky Williams yesterday as the only running backs in NFL history to post back-to-back 200-yard rushing games.
This is not enough for ESPN’s Dan Le Batard, who typically provides smart sports analysis with great perspective, albeit often times irritating the local fan base in the process.
“The offensive line does look totally overwhelming and Jay Ajayi, while he’s a very hard runner, is just a guy,” Le Batard said during the local hour of the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. “What tells me he’s just a guy is the number of ways they tried to not have him be the starter this year. It tells me that that offensive line, when healthy, looks the way it’s supposed to look when you’re the sixth highest paid offensive line and you got four first-round picks on it.”
If you look at Ajayi’s game log you’ll notice the last two weeks appear to go in line with Le Batard’s theory that Ajayi’s two-game dominance can be attributed to playing behind a healthy Dolphins’ offensive line, with the five projected starters at the beginning of the season suiting up these past two weeks.
However, if we dig deeper that’s not the case.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ajayi was their No. 1 overall player of the weekend, with 129 of his 214 yards coming after contact amid 10 broken tackles. Even more interesting is the fact they considered Miami’s run blocking to be poor:
While Miami’s offensive line played well in pass protection, they struggled mightily in run blocking with Ja’Wuan James earning the highest grade in that aspect of the game with 65.7. However, this did not prevent second-year running back Jay Ajayi from running for more than 200 yards and single-handedly winning the game for the Dolphins.
Ajayi currently grades out as PFF’s No. 4 running back on the season.
Football Outsiders regards Jay Ajayi as the No. 2 running back in the league.
The ranking is per Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, “which gives the value of the performance on plays where this RB carried/caught the ball compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage.”
Not a numbers person? Check out Danny Kelly’s piece about Ajayi on the Ringer, where the NFL columnist utilized film study to assess Ajayi.
“The sample size for Ajayi’s breakout is small,” Kelly writes, “but the extraordinary skills he’s shown in his two huge games are damn convincing.
“Ajayi’s not going to consistently run for 200-plus yards, but if he can stay healthy, he has the vision, the power, and the footwork to become a star.”
So not only is Ajayi in elite company based off the raw numbers, but the advanced metrics and the film back up his stellar production through seven games, paving the way for the second-year back to become the type of consistent playmaker this franchise has been thirsting for.
Sorry Dan, but that “just a guy” label — thus far — is erroneous on all counts.
You can listen to a snippet of his take below.