One of the attributes of the 2017 Eagles we’ve been lauding for the past several weeks is the chemistry inside the locker room. Every player has bought in to this team, or, as Chip Kelly might refer to it, the culture here is second to none.
All of which were listed as reasons why the Dolphins were willing to trade Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi.
Nobody can deny Ajayi’s talent as a pure runner. The 24-year-old finished fourth in the NFL last season with 1,272 yards rushing on 4.9 yards per carry, and crossed the goal line eight times. When he’s at his best, Ajayi is a beast.
But Ajayi hasn’t been at his best in ’17 while averaging 3.4 yards per carry. And while a sad Dolphins offense as a whole certainly has been part of the issue, multiple reporters close to the situation have questioned his attitude and work ethic.
Via longtime Dolphins beat Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald:
The reason Ajayi was traded has to do with team culture and locker room chemistry and player buy-in.
And the Dolphins weren’t liking what Ajayi was doing on those fronts. Yes, he was missing holes and assignments on occasions, too. He was among the players coach Adam Gase was referencing when he said players don’t take work home with them.
“At the end of the day, guys have got to actually take this stuff home and study it,” Gase said a few days ago. “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.”
Yes, like Ajayi.
That’s a little vague, but it gets worse – and more tangible.
He complained bitterly about not getting the football. He stormed out of the locker room – get this, after wins – because he hadn’t gotten what he deemed to be enough carries. And, oh yes, he didn’t exactly light it up on the field.
And here’s the thing: All this was done undercover. Ajayi complained to his position coach. And he carried around an attitude around other teammates. But he never took his concerns to the only voice that matters and that’s Gase.
Salguero said the Dolphins view Ajayi’s departure as “addition by subtraction.” In other words, whatever ability he has on the field couldn’t overshadow the off-field issues and behind-the-scenes hysterics that were detracting from the team.
On Monday, Eagles coach Doug Pederson preached cautioned with making a move before Tuesday’s trade deadline. He said any player the club brought in would have to need to be the right fit from a chemistry standpoint because that’s a big reason the Eagles are 7-1.
Perhaps Ajayi will change his tune now that he’s joining what appears to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Unfortunately, most people don’t change overnight.