The only real concern anyone had about running back Jay Ajayi when he first came out of college at Boise State three years ago centered around the stability of his surgically repaired right knee.
Though he was three years removed from his ACL surgery at the time, there was talk around the NFL that the knee might need constant treatment and attention in order to keep Ajayi on the field.
It’s beginning to look as though those reports were accurate.
Ajayi isn’t injured but he often misses a day of practice each week – usually Thursday – to rest and get treatment on his knee, which has been the source of chronic soreness since at least the end of the preseason.
The good news is that the issue doesn’t seem to be effecting Ajayi as a runner in any way. He went into this week’s action averaging 20.4 carries per game and ranked seventh overall in the NFL with 391 rushing yards.
The bad news is that it does seem to be effecting his development as a pass catcher. At least, that’s what we can derive from what we heard from Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen on Thursday.
“It is kind of an issue (because) he doesn’t practice every single day,’’ Christensen said. “So he probably needs the extra reps in the passing game, but when you get him out there you want to get your runs called.
“I mean, he’s still a million miles ahead of (where he was as a pass catcher) a year and a half ago when we first got here, but he’s not where we want him to be.’’
It’s not just Ajayi’s development that’s suffering. His chemistry with Jay Cutler isn’t where the Dolphins would like it to be either. One look at Ajayi’s stats tells you that.
He’s caught just seven of the 12 passes he’s been the target of so far this year and was 0-for-3 a week ago during the Dolphins comeback victory over the Falcons in Atlanta.
The Dolphins have compensated by making greater use of Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake on obvious passing downs but the belief is they’d be better off with their best back on the field in those situations.
There is no doubt that Ajayi has three-down abilities and the Dolphins would like to tap into Ajayi’s pass-catching skills a bit more but they’ve been slow to do so and it’s largely because of his knee.
For starters, the Dolphins see those third- or obvious passing downs as a perfect opportunity to give the hard-running Ajayi and his knee a bit of a breather, which makes sense.
Secondly, and this is largely because he’s been forced consistently to miss valuable practice time in order to be ready for game day, he’s still not as adept at that facet of the game as they’d like him to be.
“He’s getting there,’’ Christensen said of Ajayi’s pass-catching. “He works hard at it but sometimes when (the trainers) are working on his knee, he has to rest and doesn’t get the extra work. And that takes a toll.’’