Expect a Bigger Role for Jay Ajayi in Texas Homecoming
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Jay Ajayi was born in London but the Eagles' new running back spent his formative football years deep in Cowboys' country, Frisco, Texas to be exact.
Ajayi was put on the fast track to the NFL via Boise State from his time at Frisco Liberty High School and even played in "Jerry's World" as he described it in his British accent in high school so Sunday night's affair between Philadelphia and Dallas is a big one for the 24-year-old.
“This is a special one for me,” Ajayi admitted at his locker on Thursday. “Growing up in Texas, in my household, the Cowboys were on our TV quite a bit. It’s funny, my mom is actually an Eagles fan. She was psyched when I got here.”
Mum as Ajayi calls her was a Donovan McNabb devotee while Dad was loyal to The Star.
“That was her favorite player, so she always rooted for the Eagles,” Ajayi said of DMac. “It’s exciting to be on my mom’s team and to get to come back.
Ajayi stuck his toe in the water of the Eagles offense against Denver in Week 9, rushing for 77 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries in the Eagles' 51-23 drubbing of the Denver Broncos.
The Pro Bowl running back should now be ready to jump in head first after the bye week.
"He's able to handle everything that we give him at this point," Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich told said earlier this week. "As the week went on [before the Denver game], the package of plays we gave him grew. By the end of the week, he was adapting so well and learning so well, we were adding to his number of plays, because he could handle it."
Ajayi of course only had three days to prepare for Denver after being picked up at the trade deadline for a fourth-round pick but he proved to be a quick study.
"It didn't hurt that [running backs coach] Duce [Staley] tells me after the first day that Jay's here that he was in the meeting room with him for several hours getting a crash course ... For Duce to walk out of that meeting and say 'yeah, we're good,' this guy's going to be fine mentally. That's what we've seen," Reich explained.
The Eagles have excelled and raced out to an NFL-best 8-1 record using a RB-by-committee approach and that's unlikely to change. Both LeGarrette Blount and rookie Corey Clement will continue to get playing time but don't be surprised if Ajayi's touches steady increase during the rest of the season.
"When I look at our game plan for this week, I look at it and there's probably not a play on there that I wouldn't feel comfortable putting his number on," Reich said. "As far as Jay learning and knowing what to do. That speaks a lot of him and what he's able to do as a player."
Doug Pederson wouldn't second that thought when discussing Ajayi on Wednesday, however.
"He's come in here and he's proven to pick up our system," the head coach said. "He's a smart guy. We saw it the first couple of days he was here and it carried over into the game against the Broncos. And we'll just keep increasing his role just a little bit."
Pederson stopped short of saying the 24-year-old was ready for a full plate when it comes to his offense.
"We're going into another hostile, loud environment, and I want to make sure that he's well-prepared," he said. "Maybe not the entire game plan, but again a certain role and a certain number of plays that he can function on."
Ajayi isn't the bell cow just yet but two weeks into his Eagles career, he is likely going to be the lead member of the committee.
"I was impressed by Jay right off the bat," Reich said. "Just how quickly he grasped [the system] in the first week. Particularly, in the protections. You just know we've been around this game long enough as coaches when a guy 'gets' it, and Jay gets it."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen