By Abraham Gutierrez
After joining an elite class composed of O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams as the only NFL running backs ever to rush for a minimum of 200 yards in consecutive ballgames, Miami Dolphins second-year player Jay Ajayi is taking the league by storm.
“It’s crazy to imagine it’s happening so fast like this,” said Ajayi, who rushed for 187 yards in his rookie NFL season.
Some are calling him the “Breakout Star” of the 2016 NFL season. Others believe he’s “the feature back the Dolphins have been waiting for.” Some have even gone on to hail him as being “A household name,” despite not knowing how to pronounce his distinctive last name (uh-JYE’).
And while only time will determine whether or not he’s worthy of those superlatives, one thing is certain: Ajayi is at the doorstep of becoming the first player in NFL history to rush for a minimum of 200 in three consecutive ballgames.
For the record, Simpson was close to accomplishing the feat in 1973 and 1976, Campbell made his mark in 1980, and, as South Florida fans are well aware, Williams did it in 2002 as a member of the Dolphins organization. However, none of those all-time greats were able to complete the elusive trinity.
O.J. Simpson: Falls Short In Multiple Attempts
For those wondering how the aforementioned running backs faired in their chase for a third straight 200-yard game, Simpson had two chances. In his first try, during the 1973 NFL season, O.J. simply ran out of games as his two 200-yard efforts came in the last and the penultimate weeks of the season (219 yards against the New England Patriots and an even 200 yards against the New York Jets). The following season in Week 1, Simpson was only able to muster 78 yards in a 21-20 win over the Oakland Raiders.
Earl Campbell: Close But No Cigar
The next player to have back-to-back 200-yard rushing yards was Campbell as a member of the Houston Oilers. The former Texas standout rushed for 203 yards and 202 yards in Weeks 6 and 7 respectively. However, he would fall 43 yards short of the magical mark the following week against the Denver Broncos, finishing with 157 yards in a 20-16 win.
Ricky Williams: Runs Out Of Steam In 2002
Finally, “Run Ricky Run” was the last running back to flirt with pro football immortality. Williams ran for 228 yards against the aforementioned Bills in Week 12 and 216 yards against the Bears the following Sunday.
But much like the others, the Longhorn product couldn’t match his previous efforts. Instead, the controversial back was only able to rush for 101 yards in a 23-17 victory over the Silver and Black in Week 14.
History Will Not Be On Jay Ajayi’s Side
Following a stunning defeat of the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, the Fins went into their (Week 8) bye week riding the momentum of a 2-game win streak. On Sunday, Nov. 6, history will be on the line when the Miami Dolphins host longtime AFC East rival, New York Jets, in what is almost guaranteed to be a sellout game.
“I keep reminding myself to stay with him, because he seems to find the right hole and pops it, and it becomes a 10- or 12-yard gain,” said Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said. “That’s my biggest challenge — just staying with it. Sometimes it’s easier to start throwing it around, because the yards come quicker, but staying with him and letting him get into a rhythm is really critical for us.”
Needless to say, history will not be on Ajayi’s side in his improbable quest, as the Jets defense finished Week 7 ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed with 74.1 yards per game.
Furthermore, the possibility of Gang Green’s “D” allowing someone to run for that many years becomes even more unlikely considering they’ve only allowed one player to rush passed the century mark this season when Arizona’s David Johnson tallied 111 rushing yards in Week 6. The remaining six top rushers this season have combined for a whopping 299 yards total versus the Jets resistance.