Ajayi Gets Lost in Eagles Offense
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Jay Ajayi has his GPS pointed at the end zone, not the players' parking lot.
The dynamic big back made quite the splash in his first game as a member of the Eagles, running the football eight times for 77 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown run in the second quarter which set off the Lincoln Financial Field faithful during Philadelphia's dominating 51-23 win over the Denver Broncos.
When it was all said and done, however, Ajayi had a much bigger problem to deal with than Denver's second-ranked rush defense.
The newly-acquired RB1 was so new to his surroundings after being traded for earlier in the week that he needed directions to find the parking lot.
Operating with a limited package of plays and just three days of practice under his belt, Ajayi became an Eagle as far as the fans were concerned when he blew through a monster hole on the left side created by Halapoulivaati Vaitai, as well as the pulling Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks. By the time the London native dove for the pylon, the Philadelphia police were likely receiving some pretty significant noise complaints.
"[The touchdown] was special," Ajayi admitted. "First off, it was my first touchdown of the season. And it's exciting for it to have been in Philly in my first game as an Eagle. I don't think it could have been written any better than that."
Hollywood script-writing aside the bigger news for the Eagles is that Ajayi brings something to the offense that was missing, a back capable of hitting the home run.
Ajayi's TD was also the first on the ground the Broncos had given up all season and a number undrafted rookie Corey Clement was able to double later in the game as the floodgates opened.
After spending the first 2 1/2 years of his career in South Florida with the Dolphins, Ajayi was perhaps most impressed by the passion surrounding him.
“Electric," the 2016 Pro Bowl selection remarked when asked about playing at Lincoln Financial Field. "Great football town. It’s exciting to see it for myself. Everyone has kind of spoken about it over the week and it was kind of exciting to see it with my own eyes for the first time.”
Despite the limitations of learning a new playbook on the fly and far less traffic than he's used to, Ajayi managed to lead a team that rushed for nearly 200 yards.
"He's got some explosion, explosiveness," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. "Things we saw on film. Again, didn't want to give him a big workload, but at the same time wanted to get him in the game and see what he could do, and he did a nice job for us. [He] had the long touchdown run there and did some really nice things for us. We'll just keep increasing his workload as we go."
Now comes the heaving lifting for Ajayi, a bye week which can't be about rest and relaxation for him. It's got to be about learning as much of the offense as possible before Nov. 19 and a date with the surging Dallas Cowboys.
And maybe finding his car.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen