Arian Foster’s arrival set the stage for Jay Ajayi’s emergence with the Miami Dolphins

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

It was just five short months ago when the Miami Dolphins named Arian Foster the starting running back for the 2016 season. Partially defeated, this is the move which led to eventual starter, Jay Ajayi, being left in Miami for the team’s week one visit to Seattle.

As we all know by now, Ajayi didn’t take the demotion very well and first-year head coach Adam Gase sent a message to the team by leaving Ajayi in Miami. That message was that you’re either all-in with us, or we’ll move on without you. The message clearly hit home for Ajayi and you could say that it sparked a rejuvenated tailback that had one of the better seasons for a Dolphins running back in recent history.

Ajayi finished the season with 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns on just 260 carries; the most yards in a single season for a Dolphins running back since 2003 when Ricky Williams finished with 1,372.

AROUND COVER32

Flip Picks: What will happen in a 50-50 league?

Interview: One on one with Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp

Prop Bets: Where should you put your money this weekend?

Dolphins News: Landry’s new deal should be priority for Miami

Follow us on Twitter here

The successful season Ajayi had put to rest several questions the team had regarding who would be the featured back moving forward the next couple of seasons. To begin the 2016 season there was a lot of clutter in the depth chart with Foster, Ajayi and rookie tailback Kenyan Drake all being considered starter at one time or another; but Ajayi was able to secure a firm grasp as the lead-back, earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and seemingly etched in at starter for the foreseeable future.

But what might have been if Gase didn’t punish Ajayi and instead just let his attitude and the way he handled the situation fall by the wayside?

It’s pretty clear that Foster wasn’t going to be able to remain the starting running back after missing time early with injuries, which ultimately sealed his fate as a player whose career was impacted and cut short by numerous injuries throughout his career.

Besides Foster, it was very unlikely that Drake would have been able to carry the load as an every-down thanks to his injuries issues and the fact that he hadn’t been truly featured as the lead ball carrier since high school.

Ajayi’s emergence, which included three 200-yard performances — including back-to-back 200-plus yard efforts against Pittsburgh and Buffalo — was a huge key to the success of the 2016 season for several reasons.

Without Ajayi leading the way on the ground, it’s safe to assume we would have seen more pressure on quarterback Ryan Tannehill – as we’ve grown accustom to seeing – which would have likely led to more turnovers and not as much success for the quarterback we’re all hoping Gase can turn into a legit NFL starter.

Tannehill has always been serviceable as a starter, but there’s no denying that he’s the type of quarterback who will excel with a solid offensive line and running game. This is exactly what the Dolphins were able to provide him during the team’s six-game winning streak in the middle of the season.

Also, Ajayi was able to help Miami control the tempo of the game, something that allowed the team to not have to rely on the defense to make stops in late-game situations. While the defense still had to make crucial plays late in games in 2016, they would have had to pull off even more late-game heroics if it wasn’t for Ajayi’s efforts in sealing games and protecting leads.

At the end of the day, I think it’s safe to assume that the Dolphins wouldn’t have been a playoff team without Ajayi’s emergence as the team’s leading running back. It seems crazy to think that a guy who was left home week one – due to coach’s decision – would be a key to the team’s success. Everyone should be happy about the way Gase handled the situation and taught Ajayi and his teammates a great lesson about handling all situations with class and respect.

Even if the situation isn’t going in your favor at the time, you never know what some perseverance and dedication to the greater goal will do for the team, and we should all be glad that Ajayi realized this so early in his career.

So while Foster’s stint at starting running back with the Dolphins was short lived, it may have been exactly what the team needed to spark and motivate the team’s actual starting running back for the next few years.

READ MORE: Miami should pursue a cornerback during free agency

The post Arian Foster’s arrival set the stage for Jay Ajayi’s emergence with the Miami Dolphins appeared first on Cover32.