The Philadelphia Eagles made a splash yesterday, offering up a 2018 4th-round pick for Dolphins Running Back Jay Ajayi. The 2016 Pro-Bowler has not produced like Miami thought he would this season, as he is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and has yet to find the end zone. With the new addition, the Eagles gain a talented back who will contribute for them in specific areas the other running backs lack. Let’s take a look at where Ajayi upgrades the team.
The running back core of the Eagles is now somewhat crowded after carrying five total running backs. LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, and return man Kenjon Barner will all have to fight for reps behind leading MVP Candidate Carson Wentz in the second half of the season. At just 24 years old, and due just $1.3-million over the next two seasons, Ajayi could force others to become expendable. Ajayi upgrades the Eagles backfield in two major areas of concern: Pass Protection and Red Zone Offense (run-specific).
LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood bring completely opposite skillsets to the Eagles offense, but both of them struggle at times in pass protection. In fact, out of the top 44 RBs ranked in pass protection, Smallwood ranks dead last while Blount holds the 33rd spot on that list (According to Pro Football Focus). Ajayi however, ranks 19th and is an immediate upgrade when it comes to protecting Mr. Houdini himself behind the line.
For as much of a reputation as LeGarrette Blount has as a pounding back, he has not converted in the red zone for the Eagles. In fact, Blount has 10 rushes inside the 5-yard line (2nd most in NFL) and has only converted for one touchdown. While Ajayi has not seen the end zone this year, part of the reason why is because he has only been given one carry inside the 5-yard line and the Dolphins have run only 33% of the time in the red zone (28th in the league). The Eagles run nearly half (47%) of the time in the red zone.
Do not expect Ajayi to come out this Sunday and light the world on fire as he will need some time to learn the playbook. Ajayi could see 5-10 carries this Sunday but keep in mind opponents average just 72.9 yards per game against the Broncos (2nd in the league). Luckily, Ajayi will have the benefit of a week 10 bye to put his head down and study the offense.
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