Report: Jay Ajayi To Visit Indianapolis Colts
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INDIANAPOLIS – Such a move would not be because the Colts are wavering in their belief of Marlon Mack.
But, at a position that is filled with attrition, a stable of running backs is something that needs to always be filled just in case.
And the Colts appear to be doing their diligence in that regard this free agency, with the reported visit of Jay Ajayi to Indianapolis next week.
First, let’s focus on Mack.
The Colts are big fans of what the second-year runner accomplished last season.
“Marlon had an incredible season,” Frank Reich said at the Combine, stating that Mack can be a ‘feature back’ moving forward. “You look at the production he had in the games, not playing a full year. Came out the beginning of the year, was hurt. We just got so much better in the run game as the year went on. A lot of that was obviously started up front, but Marlon kind of hit a groove and was doing his thing. So we just look to continue to build that with Marlon.”
“We think a lot of Marlon Mack,” Chris Ballard added. “We think he can play on all three downs. We think he can carry the load.”
Mack averaged 4.66 yards per carry in starting 10 games last season, a number that the Colts have longed for in years.
Still, one injury to Mack, who has battled shoulder and hamstring injuries early in his NFL career, and the Colts will be looking for other options around Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins.
That’s where the potential of Ajayi, 25, enters the picture.
When healthy, Ajayi has more than proven himself in his career.
He’s rushed for 4.5 yards per carry in his career, starting 23 games and suiting up for 42 of 64 contests, since joining the league in 2015.
Frank Reich knows Ajayi.
It was a mid-season trade to the Eagles back in 2017 that led to Ajayi being used in Philly’s rotation of backs on their way to a Super Bowl.
With Reich at offensive coordinator, Ajayi rushed for 408 yards in 7 games with the Eagles, averaging 5.8 yards per carry.
Following the Super Bowl run, it looked like Ajayi would cash in on his contract season in 2018.
But a torn ACL in early October last year has the health question back at the forefront of any discussion involving Ajayi.
Knee concerns, and Ajayi’s longevity in the NFL, were there coming out of Boise State in 2015.
Ajayi has now torn ACLs in both of his knees and questions are there if bone-to-bone issues will lead to him being able to play in the NFL much longer.
Clearly, the running back needy Eagles are content with letting Ajayi test the market this offseason.
The medical evaluation from the Colts will be very critical in judging Ajayi’s value.
If healthy, Ajayi can provide a solid complement, with a propensity to be more of a committed in-between the tackles runner, to the current Colts’ makeup at running back.
Plus, Reich has mentioned the goal of improving the run game going into 2019.
"I want to be more boring in the sense of last year we ended up the year being ranked 20th in running the football," Reich said at the Combine. "Chris and I have talked and what I’ve expressed to Chris is if we are going to be a championship football team, we need to be able to run the football. We need to be old school in that regard because when we can do that, our play action game can be dynamic.
"Look at the championship stats of running it and stopping it. If we can run the football, then guess what, our play-action game is dynamic. We are making huge chunk plays down the field off the play action pass. And, oh by the way, when we can run it, all of a sudden we can become the best in the league in the red zone because we have that element to the offense. Those are areas we can grow.”
Involving an additional runner into the game plan is still something we didn't see the Colts employ much last year. Reich was not too keen on using a third running back in weekly game plans as last season evolved. Wilkins was often the odd man out with Mack and Hines leading the way.
However, one nick to Mack (which we saw early last season) would thrust a guy like Ajayi or Wilkins into a much bigger role.
Another Indy connection to keep in mind with this process, Ajayi played collegiately at Boise State, crossing paths with new Colts offensive line coach Chris Strausser.
In 2013, Ajayi rushed for 1,425 yards and 18 touchdowns with Strausser serving as the Boise run game coordinator and offensive line coach.
Ajayi was a 5th round pick of the Dolphins back in 2015. He played in Miami for 2 and a half years before the October 2017 trade to the Eagles.
On paper, running back is not anywhere near the top of the off-season priority list for the Colts. But one injury would greatly change the outlook on things at running back.
Hence the interest in exploring the health of Ajayi.
The Colts currently have 4 running backs on their roster: Marlon Mack (23), Nyheim Hines (22), Jordan Wilkins (24) and Jonathan Williams (25).
Chris Ballard has mentioned Williams as a player the Colts are intrigued by.