When the 2016 NFL season began, Jay Ajayi was, for the most part, an unknown commodity. He was a fifth-round draft pick in 2015 and played sparingly as a rookie, finishing with 187 rushing yards and one touchdown in nine games.
This past season, however, was a different story. Ajayi started slow – he had just 117 rushing yards though four games – but erupted for 204 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-15 win over Pittsburgh on Oct. 16. He finished the year with 1,272 rushing yards, which ranked fourth in the NFL, and eight rushing touchdowns.
Thats quite a turnaround.
“It was a tough journey at first,” the Dolphins running back said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It was all about moving past the beginning of the season and just putting my head down and remembering what I wanted to accomplish this year and just focus in on that and building on each performance and just trying to improve each game.”
Ajayi finished with three 200-yard games, including two against the Bills. Only 23, he figures to be a key piece for the Dolphins moving forward.
“It was tough because at the beginning, I wasn’t carrying the ball as much,” Ajayi said. “You only get a limited amount of opportunities, so each time you touch it, you got to try and make (an impact). It was just about being consistent and trying to run hard and play my game.”
Ajayi, a London native, believes that Miami, which made the playoffs this year for the first time since 2008, is once again a legitimate contender.
“Yeah, I do,” he said. “I feel like there’s a new culture that’s starting to grow out here. We’ve laid a good foundation after this season of what it takes to make it to the playoffs. It’s about now understanding what it takes to advance in the playoffs and go further and reach our goal of making it to the Super Bowl. It’s about building this offseason, putting the right pieces together, everyone coming together next season and having our minds right to go do it.”
The Dolphins have not reached the conference championship since 1992. They have not played in a Super Bowl since 1984.