There are some things you just don’t see coming. A rubber band fired by a mischievous co-worker whizzing by your head. Your toddler son putting edamame up his nose instead of in his mouth. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi rushing for 204 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers.
All of it surprising, and all of it happened.
Ajayi entered Week 6 with 117 yards and two touchdowns in four games. He didn’t travel with the team for the season opener in Seattle because of how he handled losing out on the starting job to Arian Foster. The Dolphins had tried four other running backs before his breakout game, and the Steelers had given up more receiving yards than rushing yards to running backs.
Yet, Ajayi went off. Looking back, there might have been signs of at least a breakthrough rather than a breakout. The Dolphins’ starting offensive line was in place for the first time this season. In the previous game, Ajayi was given the largest percentage of snaps for a Dolphins running back (68) since Foster in the opener (87).
But becoming the first player to rush for 200 yards against the Steelers since the Jaguars’ Fred Taylor (234) in 2000 wasn’t on the radar. That likely was Ajayi’s best game of the season, so the question becomes whether he can be a reliable scorer in an offense that entered the game ranked 31st in rushing and with an inconsistent quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, to put it nicely.
Volume shouldn’t be a problem for Ajayi. He had 25 carries Sunday after totaling 31 in his first four games. Plus, he saw 48 snaps, 36 more than the nearest backfield mate, Damien Williams (six carries). Foster (three carries) had only 11 snaps in his first game back after missing three.
The schedule is hit and miss for Ajayi. He’ll face the Bills’ middle-of-the-road run defense this week. There are favorable matchups with the Chargers and 49ers and tough ones against the Jets and Ravens, although the Jets allowed 171 rushing yards against the Cardinals on Monday, their most since the 2014 season finale.
Ajayi is trending in the right direction, making him a must-own player. He was on only 42.7 percent of rosters in ESPN leagues at presstime. He’ll need more consistency to become a must-start player, but his newfound leading role puts him in the conversation for RB2 status.
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WEEK 7 OUTLOOK
Byes: Cowboys, Panthers.
Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart: He looked great after missing three games with a hamstring injury, carried the load and got the ball near the goal line.
Rams WR Kenny Britt: Granted, he exploited a bad Lions defense, but he’s the No. 1 receiver for an offense that will need to throw as teams aim to stop RB Todd Gurley.
Jaguars running backs: Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon are in a timeshare, and neither is doing much with the carries he’s getting.
Saints WR Willie Snead: He has six points in two games since returning from a toe injury. Michael Thomas has 23 in those games.
Bengals QB Andy Dalton: He’s coming off back-to-back 21-point games, and the Browns have allowed the second-most points per game to QBs.
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson: He should exploit a Lions pass defense that has allowed the most touchdown passes and the highest completion percentage.
Colts RB Frank Gore: The Titans have a tough defense, especially against the run. They’ve allowed the seventh-fewest points per game to RBs.
Eagles WR Jordan Matthews: The Vikings generally have put the clamps on No. 1 receivers, allowing no more than 76 yards to them.