One of the biggest breakout performers of the NFL this past season was Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi. Missing out on the team’s opening game at Seattle due to what I’ll call “attitude problems”, Aayi really turned his season around the longer the year went. Or at least, it appears that way on the surface of his stats.
Serving as the backup to Arian Foster for the opening part of the year, Jay Ajayi was forced into higher amounts of work the longer the season went on. Once Foster retired, the job as an every down back was essentially Ajayi’s. Running for over 200-yards three times this season, Ajayi proved that he has what it takes to be the team’s starter.
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However, removing those three games from his statline, Ajayi’s numbers tell us a very different picture. Playing in fifteen of the Dolphins 16 regular season games, Ajayi recorded 1,272-yards. However, removing his stats from the two games against the Bills and the regular season game against Pittsburgh, Ajayi only has 648-yards. That is around only 54-yards per game on the ground.
His YPG would be even worse if we included his 33-yard performance in the playoff game at Pittsburgh. While one of the factors is the inconsistency and overall thinness of the offensive line, the other was the lack of difference in his running style. Nine times out of ten, he would run the ball inside of the tackles, breaking it outside only when he saw an opening.
There were very few designed runs for Ajayi outside of the tackle box. Mostly, this is due to Ajayi’s tough running style. After all, he’s not a speedback, he is the definition of a work horse. If the Dolphins want Ajayi to remain a powerful force in this league, they need to come up with some other running plays.
To me, this means involving Kenyan Drake more in the offense. While head coach Adam Gase is an every down coach, Drake presents an opportunity for the offense to succeed. While Ajayi is your up the middle, ground and pound back, Drake is the get the the corner and turn up field runner. Combining the two would add another attack for the Dolphins run game.
While such a solution is not likely to give Ajayi direct help, involving Kenyan Drake will help the team’s run game. Getting Drake to burn the defense around the corner, it would also open up some the lanes in the middle for Ajayi due to the defense having to keep its guard up. Alternating too much is not the answer of course. However, giving Drake some more reps in the offense will help the run game, and Jay Ajayi next season.
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