Through the first five weeks of this season, Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi was barely a blip on opposing teams' radar screens. Then the second-year pro ran for more than 500 yards – including back-to-back 200-plus-yard performances – in three games and became one of the defenses' primary targets.
But Ajayi said his success is not shocking to him.
"Always have belief and confidence in myself and just waited on an opportunity," he said Wednesday during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "Now it's just all about being consistent."
Ajayi, 6-foot, 229 pounds, has emerged as one of the top running backs in the NFL. He's tied for second among qualified backs in yards per carry (5.3), seventh in total rushing yards (847) and tied for eighth in touchdown runs (seven). He is also tied for the league lead in gains of 40 yards or more (three) and ranks second in rushes of at least 20 yards (nine), behind the Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott.
Ajayi burst onto the scene with 204 yards and two touchdowns in Miami's 30-15 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 16. The following week, he ran for 214 yards and one touchdown in a 28-25 win against the Buffalo Bills, and after a bye, rushed for 111 yards and one score in a 27-23 victory over the New York Jets on Nov. 6.
But since that that splurge, Ajayi has yet to crack the 80-yard mark in three games as opponents have attempted to limit him.
"You definitely see a lot more teams stacking the box, stacking the run game, and kind of daring us to pass, and we've kind of been able to do that as well," Ajayi said of the Dolphins, who are riding a six-game winning streak. "So it's been a good time showcasing our balance over these couple of weeks and showcasing what we can do, and we just want to keep executing on offense."
Miami, which owns the league's No. 6 rushing attack at 116 yards per game, will face the Ravens' top-ranked run defense, which has allowed an average of just 74.9 yards.
Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley has been impressed with Ajayi's explosiveness, but said he and his defensive teammates are eager for the challenge.
"We're very confident in what we've done," Mosley said. "Our stats have done most of the talking, but we know what kind of run game that they have, we know the players and alignment that they have. It's going to be the same thing that it has been for us every week. We've got to make sure we stay fundamentally sound in our gaps and shed blocks and make plays."