Why The Dolphins’ Opener Showed Signs for Optimism

Sep 17, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) runs past Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) during the second half at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 17, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) runs past Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) during the second half at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

After a mere one week of Miami Dolphins football, we have quite possibly the coldest take on planet Earth, sorry for exposing you KC Joyner (who picked Jay Ajayi to be a bust for the 2017 season).

Sunday’s bout with the newly christened Los Angeles Chargers proved to any doubters that Jay Ajayi is here to stay and seemingly more than capable of shouldering the bulk of the 2017 offensive workload for the Dolphins. Ajayi carried the Miami offense to the tune of 28 carries for 122 yards.

There were 17 teams who had fewer rushing attempts than Jay Ajayi on Sunday, and that’s not a bad thing. Ajayi is the crown jewel of the offense and his performance on Sunday ought to excite Dolphins fans for the 2017 season ahead. In addition to Ajayi dominating on the ground, the human security blanket, Jarvis Landry, amassed a very “Jarvis Landry-esque” stat line with 13 catches for 78 yards.

A much more exciting performance was that of DeVante Parker. This was not due to his 4 catches for 85 yards, but for the underlying reason. Parker’s 9 targets is an extremely promising indicator for the Dolphins offense in 2017. Only 4 times in Parker’s career has he been targeted over 9 times and Sunday shows an increased willingness to allow Parker to make plays and use his impressive physical tools.

Those tools really revealed themselves when Parker unleashed his best Randy Moss impression on 2016 2nd team All-Pro Casey Hayward. On the flipside of the ball, the deplorable run defense from 2016 must have been left in Miami, as the Dolphins held the Chargers to a meager 44 yards on 14 carries, with 26 of those yards coming on a single carry.

Ndamukong Suh was beyond disruptive over the course of the game, and Mike Hull stepped up in a big way with 10 tackles. Miami’s front seven finished the 2016 season ranked 30th in rushing yards allowed. Allowing 44 in the first game of 2017 is a solid start to flipping the script in the run defense department.

For the defensive unit as a whole, you have to admire the sort of “bend but don’t break” mentality. While Rivers had tremendous success Sunday, only allowing 17 points will put the Dolphins in position to win ball games.

Sure, 6 points were left off the board due to the poor performance of Younghoe Koo, but allowing 23 is nothing to scoff at either. Miami’s ability to hold the Chargers to 2-8 on 3rd down kept the Chargers from extending drives, which is something the Dolphins excelled at last year, allowing a league 4th best 36% conversion percentage on 3rd downs.

Someone that cannot go without proper recognition is Cody Parkey, who Miami signed in favor of the limp-footed Andrew Franks on September 3rd this year. Parkey nailed 4 field goals including a clutch 54-yarder with just over a minute left, a distance Andrew Franks has only made from once in his career when he heroically and miraculously made the 55-yarder in Buffalo late last year.

Parkey is only three years removed from a Pro Bowl appearance, meaning the Dolphins may have struck gold in a reliable strong-footed kicker. His ability to bailout head coach Adam Gase’s spineless playcalling at times almost single-handedly won the game for Miami.

Lastly, the mountain of adversity that these warriors in Aqua and Orange had to overcome is truly superhuman. Whether it be the tragic natural disaster, Hurricane Irma, that postponed the Week 1 game, the week of practice spent in California, the new quarterback, the starters not playing since preseason week 3, the home opener of a new franchise, the missing persons report filed for starting linebacker Lawrence Timmons, the undrafted rookie Chase Allen being tasked with covering and stopping some of the most talented skill position players in the NFL, and the record setting touchdown from Chargers legend Antonio Gates. All of these ridiculous storylines stood in the way of a Dolphins victory, but they found a way to overcome it all and they earned their first win of the season, 19-17. #PhinsUp #ThanksYounghoe

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