Former Boise State running back Jay Ajayi was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday — after Dolphins coach Adam Gase apparently called out Ajayi in recent days.
Ajayi, who has 138 carries for a disappointing 465 yards and no touchdowns for the Miami Dolphins this season, was traded for a fourth-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft. He could make his debut Sunday at home against the Broncos, then will have a bye week to get more familiar with his new team.
According to ESPN, which first reported the trade, Ajayi fills the Eagles’ need for a better pass blocker and more productive runner in a rotation that was hit hard by a season-ending injury to third-down back Darren Sproles.
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LeGarrette Blount, who leads Philadelphia with 467 yards rushing and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, is expected to remain the starter. The Eagles (7-1), with the best record in the NFL, have the fifth-ranked run offense and have won six straight games.
Ajayi ran for 1,272 yards last season, including three 200-yard games. But he had 74 yards on 36 carries in the past two games.
“We’ve got to stop trying to hit home runs all the time,” Gase told the media Friday, the day after the Dolphins were shut out by the Ravens. “How about take the 4 or 5 yards that we’re going to get? It comes down to everybody doing their job.”
Gase didn’t name Ajayi during his criticism but Ajayi has been on the field for 70 percent of the Dolphins’ snaps, according to Dolphins Wire. Dolphins running backs also have been responsible for allowing at least four sacks this year, according to the Miami Herald.
“The running back, we never block the right guy,” Gase said.
He added: “I’m done compromising with anybody. I’ll do what I think is best, and those that want to come on board, great. Those that don’t, we’ll get rid of them.”
He apparently followed through on that last part Tuesday, hours before the NFL’s 2 p.m. MT trade deadline. The Dolphins are 4-3 but have a minus-60 point differential this season.
The Eagles were happy to land Ajayi, whom they identified as a potential target in a joint practice session over the summer. Ajayi has the most broken tackles among NFL running backs since the start of 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.
“When we came back after those practices, we said, ‘That’s our guy,’ ” Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman told ESPN.com. “He has the mentality we’re looking for. He brings the kind of presence and plays the way we want to represent our football team with and our fans with. That’s one of the benefits of having these scrimmages. When (the trade) came about, we had done our homework.”
Ajayi holds Boise State records for carries in a season (347 in 2014), yards per carry in a season (6.68 in 2012), rushing TDs in a game (5 in 2014, tied) and season (28 in 2014), all-purpose yards in a season (2,358 in 2014) and total touchdowns in a game (5 in 2014, tied) and season (32 in 2014, tied). He was the backbone of the Broncos’ offense in 2014, when they beat Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ajayi left Boise State a year early and slipped to the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, reportedly over concerns about a serious knee injury sustained during his college career. He rushed for 465 yards in seven games as a rookie in 2015, when he missed time with a chest injury. Gase left him home for the 2016 season opener after Ajayi lost the battle for the starting job with Arian Foster. However, Ajayi emerged quickly as the Dolphins’ best back and finished the season with 1,272 rushing yards. He was invited to the Pro Bowl.
That knee injury came up again Tuesday, with team sources telling ESPN’s Jeff Darlington that the Dolphins “believe that his most productive games are behind him, fearing that knee issues stemming from a significant 2011 surgery are finally catching up to him.”
Ajayi was a projected second-round pick before the knee concerns sank his draft stock. He sustained a serious knee injury in 2011 while redshirting at Boise State. All that he accomplished as a Bronco came after that.
“I know with my knee, and the way that I make sure that I handle it, I will play for a long time,” Ajayi said after he was drafted, “and I’m just excited to see how my future unfolds.”
The Associated Press contributed.