Jay Ajayi wasn’t part of the Eagles’ preseason plans. He was around for only about half of the regular season. But now that it’s the postseason, the running back figures to have a prominent role.
With Carson Wentz on injured reserve and Nick Foles providing less than inspiring performances in two of his three games as the starting quarterback, the Eagles might believe that their best chance to beat the Falcons in Saturday afternoon’s NFC divisional game at Lincoln Financial Field will come on the ground. That wasn’t why they acquired Ajayi in a trade with the Dolphins, but it’s working out that way now.
“I’m excited,” Ajayi said Wednesday. “I’m already a round further (into the postseason) than I’ve been in my career. Number 1-seeded team with an opportunity to go get a Super Bowl — 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.”
Ajayi hasn’t been used much by the Eagles, only 70 carries and 10 catches in seven games. That’s about half the number of carries he had in his seven games with the Dolphins (138). His production, though, has skyrocketed. After running for 465 yards for Miami, he’s logged 408 for Philadelphia.
And he comes into Saturday’s game feeling fresh. When he takes a handoff against the Falcons, it will be 20 days since he last did so, dating to the Dec. 25 win over the Raiders.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel really good. Like, I feel really good.”
He also had two bye weeks during the season, one with each of his teams. “I guess I got lucky,” he said. “For me it’s just leave it all out there on Saturday.”
The Eagles come into the game as an underdog. That’s mostly because prognosticators doubt their ability to score points without Wentz, who was having an MVP season before he tore his ACL. The injury and the ups and downs since have shaken Eagles fans hungry for their first Super Bowl title.
Ajayi is new to the scene, but he understands the vibe. He also feels the urgency.
“Anytime 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.
“It’s been a long season, but I’m only hoping it’s longer than this and we just continue to move forward.”