Eagles Film Study: Jay Ajayi should be able to help


The Eagles pulled off a pretty impressive trade Tuesday, getting Jay Ajayi from the Dolphins for a fourth-round pick. 

On the surface, that seems like a no-brainer. A 24-year-old coming off a Pro Bowl season? Sure!

There are, however, some red flags with Ajayi. There are some maturity concerns, along with a chronic knee issue. All those possible problems are outlined here

How about as just a player, though? 

Ajayi clearly wasn't having a repeat season down in Miami. He was off to a pretty rough start this year, averaging 3.37 yards per carry, which is actually lower than his average after contact from a year ago. That's jarring. 

But I turned on the tape Tuesday night and came away pretty impressed. Sure, there are some concerns with Ajayi, but it looks like the Eagles might have gotten a good player for a mid-round draft pick. 

To the tape: 

All of Ajayi's numbers are down this season, but one quick look at their games and it's pretty clear his offensive line in Miami just wasn't very good. Still, Ajayi would sometimes make things happen on his own. Just check out these three plays from the opener against the Chargers. 

His yards after contact numbers aren't great this season (2.88 average), but at times he's looked like the same guy who was second in the league in that category in his Pro Bowl 2016 season. 


On this play, Ajayi is able to generate plenty of steam running downhill out of the shotgun, which is important for the Eagles too. 

The outside linebacker comes clean and should have Ajayi down in the backfield for at least for a short gain. Doesn't happen. 

Ajayi drags Melvin Ingram ahead for six yards. 


On this play, Jay Cutler was under center, which does help Ajayi get a head full of steam. Ajayi should be down after a short gain, but he's going to run right through a tackler. After this, he drags a couple others ahead for even more yards. 

He turns nothing into an eight-yard gain. 


A little later in the game, Ajayi is able to take contact and simply spin out of it. This defensive back has no chance to take him down alone. Not only is Ajayi powerful, but he's also fleet of foot, which he shows here. 



How about pass protection? 

As the trade deadline approached, there was a thought the Eagles would try to pick up a running back who was strong in pass protection. They've missed that since Darren Sproles went down. That's certainly not Ajayi's reputation. 

But in reading some things coming out of Miami on Tuesday, it seems like Ajayi was willing to block but sometimes wasn't in the right spot or didn't know his assignment. It seemed like there was just confusion at times. 

One thing stands out watching him, though: He certainly has the ability to block in the backfield. The Eagles' coaching staff — specifically Duce Staley and Jeff Stoutland — can work with his skills. It'll be up to Ajayi how good he becomes in this area. 

This first play came in Week 3 against the Jets. The linebacker is coming on an A-gap blitz and Ajayi recognizes it immediately. He nails his assignment here and stands him up.


This next play came in the Week 7 meeting against the Jets. At the time of the snap, the Jets are bringing a safety blitz around the left side of the defensive line. Ajayi sees it and picks it up. 

His form is perfect on this. He uses a wide base, bends his knees and pops the defensive back to his backside, giving Matt Moore plenty of time to deliver the ball. 


While pass protection is one area that has come into question, another has been Ajayi's penchant to go for the big play rather than the sure one. Dolphins coach Adam Gase — without using Ajayi's name — was critical of this aspect of his game. 


There's something to this. 

On this play in Week 7, Ajayi has a few short yards up the gut if he wants it. But he sees a lot of room outside and decides to try it. 

The problem is his offensive line doesn't hold up and gets pushed back into him. Had the line held, maybe he is able to bounce this outside. But it actually goes for a four-yard loss. 


Ajayi isn't a perfect player. He has his flaws and that's not even taking into account the ones he has in the locker room and inside his knees. But the flaws he has on the field are correctable and his talent hasn't gone anywhere. 

Maybe this move won't work out for the Eagles, but there's a really good chance it does. If it doesn't, it won't be for lack of talent.