Tomorrow morning the Miami Dolphins will put the full gear on for the first time since the end of the 2016 season and Jay Ajayi is ready.
Ajayi has been working hard to ensure that this season goes as well as last season did. He has matured as a runner but more importantly as a person. After starting last season on the sidelines behind Arian Foster, Ajayi is the unquestioned starter heading into the 2016 season.
Can he produce similar numbers to 2016? Maybe but last year will be tough. Ajayi had three 200 yard games in 2016 and this year the Dolphins are hoping to integrate Kenyan Drake into the offense more which will poach touches away from Ajayi.
It is difficult to judge the performance of a running back in camp. Practices that are no contact don’t give a runner the game type of feel but even practices that are full go often don’t include full to the ground tackling of the ball carriers.
For Ajayi it’s not a matter of taking on the hits or avoiding them. His body is conditioned to the NFL now so he will instead focus on the holes which he says will be easier to see once the pads are put on tomorrow.
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Ajayi spoke with media following today’s practice and it was clear that he is ready to go for not only tomorrow’s full contact practice but also the season. The Dolphins will play an inter-team scrimmage next Saturday. The NFL limits the number of contact practices each team can have so taking advantage of every one is important.
Here is the transcript from Ajayi’s interview today. Courtesy of MiamiDolphins.com
Friday, July 28, 2017
Running Back Jay Ajayi
(The pads come on tomorrow. What kind of intensity does that add to a practice?) – “It’s going to add a lot more contact. Energy is going to be up. I know the o-line and d-line, they’ll probably be excited for that. It should be a fun practice.”
(How does it affect you – no pads to pads? You’re a physical runner. I know it’s not always tackling to the ground and everything. How does that affect you?) – “In practice (it is) a little bit different, because you get to see the holes a little bit clearer, the landmarks are a little more easier to read. For me, personally, in practice it’s all about aiming points and landmarks. Making sure I’m consistent with my keys and running hard whether I got pads on or whether I don’t.”
(And the landmarks are easier because there’s contact and it’s more game like?) – “It’s a little bit more game like. Obviously, the line, they can use their physicality a lot better than if they were just in jerseys. They can actually hold onto their blocks better, get good leverage and the holes are easier to read.”
(You had a historic season in many ways last year. Do you find yourself even more hungry for camp?) – “Definitely. I’m a competitor. I’m striving to be the best. Last year was a great season. Now it’s just about starting fresh and building with this team, building on this season and trying to be great.”
(How different is this training camp for you after what you did last season?) – “I’m in a different space mentally now. I know my role. I’m comfortable with what I know. Now it’s just about pushing myself every day, coming out here and striving to be great. (I’m) working on the little details here and there to really stretch my game and really take my game to another level.”
(How would you describe your role?) – “Just to be a leader on this team. I was able to do a lot of good things for the offense last year. It’s just about building off of that, taking the next step on the field and off the field.”
(Last year RB Arian Foster was the starter through camp going into the season. You now know you are. Do you do anything different as camp unfolds as you prepare for opening day?) – “No. Just come in, know what my plays are. Know my assignments. Come out here. Come with energy. Be a leader and try and be consistent and improve my game every day.”
(I’m sure you wanted to be a leader last year, but you got to wait your turn. Is that the way it works?) – “It was opportunity, just waiting. When it finally came, it was about making the plays, keeping your head down and do what you need to do. For me, it was running hard and having great blocking and working. Now, this year, knowing what I was able to do last year, it’s about taking the next step. For me, that’s what it has been all about this offseason, this spring – pushing myself to do even more than I did last year.”
(Can you talk about what we should expect to see out of you as a ball catcher this year, as a pass catcher?) – “I’ve been working hard on it all offseason. It’s something that I’ve been working to get real comfortable (with). I believe I can do it. I know I have the skillset to do it. I’m striving to be that all-around back that never needs to come off the field. That’s what I’ve been working on every day.”
(Attacking the wide-nine front proved to be a little bit difficult in training camp last offseason. Now, you guys seem to be doing a little bit better with it. How much easier was it seeing it the second year?) – “For us, we go against our defense every day – a great defensive front – so it’s always a challenge to go against them. It was about learning the … Go against them, wide-nine technique. You have to read the keys different than if was just a regular defensive end. You have to know what you see in pre-snap. After that, it’s just playing football. It was just about growing comfortable with that as an offense, as a running back room. Now I think that we’re pretty knowledgeable of how to run against different techniques.”
(You went home in the offseason. Did you notice there were more Dolphins fans than ever where you live?) – “I was in London, so I didn’t see as many ‘Fins jerseys all over, but I saw some pictured here and there. People were showing love, and that was fun. I went back home to the U.K., so that was cool.”
(Do you often get recognized on the street there?) – “I got recognized a little bit. It was pretty cool just to be able to go home and enjoy being with my family after having a great year last year.”
(Healthy C Mike Pouncey, healthy QB Ryan Tannehill, offensive line coming in tact. Are you excited about the offense this year, a dynamic offense?) – “You look at our toolbox, I think we’re pretty stacked. Now we know what the weapons are, we all have to contribute. We have to play even more than what’s expected of us and we’re excited to go and do that.”