NFL.com has revealed another one, and it deals with Ajayi’s ability to have success even when being the focus of opposing defenses.
According to the league website, Ajayi led all NFL runners in 2016 in yards per carry against stacked defenses (eight or more defenders in the box) in non-red-zone situations. Ajayi averaged 6.36 yards per carry in those situations, almost half a yard more than the second-place running back, Isaiah Crowell of the Cleveland Browns, who came in a 5.88 yards.
The rest of the top 10 featured LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills; rookie Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys; DeMarco Murray of the Tennessee Titans; Melvin Gordon of the San Diego Chargers; Spencer Ware of the Kansas City Chiefs; Jonathan Stewart of the Carolina Panthers; Lavatius Murray of the Oakland Raiders; and former Dolphins running back Lamar Miller, now of the Houston Texans.
Ajayi’s average against stacked boxes compared favorably to his overall 2016 rushing average of 4.89 yards, which was good for the seventh in the NFL.
Here’s what NFL.com said about Ajayi’s work against stacked boxes: “One of the most powerful running backs in the NFL, Jay Ajayi broke tackles left and right this season while leaving defenders helpless in his wake. Naturally, as the year wore on, teams began to dedicate extra attention to Ajayi by stacking the box, but even that was not enough to slow him down. He managed an NFL-best 6.36 yards per carry against eight-plus man boxes, which he saw on 19.3 percent of his non-red-zone carries. He became an expert at making the defense pay for crowding the line of scrimmage by getting loose into the secondary for big plays. Ajayi managed three runs of 20-plus yards when facing stacked boxes.”