A span of 20 days will have passed from the last time running back Jay Ajayi carried a football in a game, December 25 against Oakland, to Saturday’s playoff game against Atlanta. Twenty days. Time off to recover, to become refreshed. Enough time for Ajayi to feel like he’s got all the energy in the world for the Falcons.
“I feel good. I’ve been working diligently with the training staff doing my usual routine of just making sure I feel fresh for the games,” Ajayi said on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex. "It’s been a long season, but I’m only hoping it’s longer than this and we just continue to move forward.
“I feel really good, like, I feel really good.”
In his seven games with the Eagles after being acquired just before the trade deadline in a deal with Miami, Ajayi has 70 rushing attempts and 10 receptions. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry (408 yards and a touchdown) and added 91 yards and a score in the receiving game.
The workload was a far cry from what Ajayi experienced in Miami. In the same number of games that he played with the Eagles, Ajayi had nearly double the rushing attempts (138 for 465 yards) and caught 14 passes. In 2016, Ajayi racked up 260 rushes and 27 receptions, contributing 1,423 yards from the line of scrimmage for the Dolphins in a Pro Bowl season.
Ajayi has pushed aside all of those individual accomplishments with the Eagles. He’s here to win.
“I’m excited. I’m already a round (in the playoffs) further than I’ve been in my career since last year (when his Miami Dolphins played in the Wild Card round of the AFC playoffs). Number one seed team with an opportunity to go get a Super Bowl,” he said. “I’m grateful, I’m blessed, I’m excited for this opportunity because it’s all in front of us and if we really take advantage of what we want to do and execute how we can, we can get it done.”
The Eagles made sure to work with Ajayi and keep him as fresh as possible down the stretch of the regular season. They’ve paid attention to a knee injury that Ajayi suffered in 2011 (a torn right ACL) and that hurt him when it came time for the NFL Draft in 2015.
All of that work for and with Ajayi seems to have paid off as he’s bouncy with a playoff date only a couple of days away.
“It’s interesting because I did get a couple of bye weeks so I guess I got lucky,” Ajayi said of his year with two different teams. “But I feel good right now and I’m excited for this challenge. It’s a one-game season, so for me it’s just leave it all out there on Saturday.”
Ajayi made his Eagles debut against Denver on November 5 and rushed for 77 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown run, on eight carries. It was a memorable first date with Eagles fans and the football-crazed culture in Philadelphia.
“My first experience at the Linc was amazing when I first got here at that Broncos game,” Ajayi said. “I just know if it’s going to be anything better than that … Philly, I know they’re going to show out and it’s going to be crazy. It’s all about them giving us that little X-factor, being loud for us, especially when defense is out there, causing a commotion, making it hard for the other team’s offense. Just helping bring us that energy because it’s going to be a fun one this Saturday.”
The intensity has ramped up this week, of course. The playoffs are here, and the Eagles intend to stick around for some time. Ajayi figures to play a significant role if the Eagles want to stress the running game. He’s shown he has durability and the skills to take it to the house for the offense.
It’s time, then, to lay it all on the line.
“Any time you understand that there’s really no tomorrow after Saturday, it’s always going to heighten your tempo a little bit, your urgency to make sure we’re on everything,” Ajayi said. “At the same time, we’re not getting too distracted by the fact it’s still a football game and you’ve just got to go out there, read your keys, execute like another game. Don’t try to do too much to make the play, because the plays will come and you have to be ready for it. That’s what we’ve been preaching this week, just stay with it. Stay on course. Execute the little details and let’s get ready for a dogfight on Saturday.”
Eagles Practice: January 9
Check out photos from the Eagles' January 9 practice ahead of Saturday's playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons.