Nostalgic Ajayi Ready for Increased Role in Miami
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Jordan Howard continues to struggle with a shoulder/stinger issue and Miles Sanders is still attempting to figure out the nuances of the running back position in the NFL. That's why Jay Ajayi is back in Philadelphia.
The veteran runner was re-signed 13 months after ACL surgery seemingly ended his Philadelphia tenure but injuries in the backfield -- not only to Howard but also Darren Sproles and even Corey Clement earlier in the season -- had the Eagles doing what they often do, plugging in players who are familiar with Doug Pederson's offense.
Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. The third tenure of Jordan Matthews, for instance, is over after two unproductive weeks at receiver. The jury is still out on Ajayi, who re-signed Nov. 15, less than 48 hours before a home loss to New England in which he was dressed only in case of emergency. Last week in the ugly setback to Seattle was in for nine offensive snaps, carrying it six times for 16 yards.
Howard was still not cleared for contact for Friday's practice, meaning it's more than likely the Eagles leading rusher will be absent for a third consecutive game and Ajayi could get an opportunity to touch it more in the environment where he has his most individual success, Miami.
“I just do the plays when I’m called, so hopefully it’s a little bit more,” Ajayi said earlier this week. “If not, then it is what it is and I’ll do what I can with what I get. I felt good, good to be running the ball again."
Ajayi first arrived in Philadelphia as a trade-deadline pickup in the 2017 season but his prior campaign with the Dolphins was his best when the Boise State product was one of the top runners in the NFL, amassing three 200-plus rushing games and 1,272 yards total. Only Hall of Famers O.J. Simpson (1973) and Earl Campbell (1980), as well as Tiki Barber in 2005 have had that many 200-yard performances in one season.
"I would say that 2016 season," Ajayi said when asked about his favorite Miami memories. "A couple 200-yard games with them alongside with making it to the playoffs for the first time in like 10 years. We were on a roll and we had figured things out in Miami. We were competitive. It was a fun time. I enjoyed my teammates. there was just a buzz around the city. It was a really great time to be a Dolphin."
On Sunday, Ajayi will return to Miami for the first time since the trade which ultimately resulted in his best moment as an NFL player, the Eagles' Super Bowl LII championship.
“It’s like a nostalgic [remembrance]. I get to remember those memories, playing there and the good things I accomplished there.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen