In an interview earlier this week, Dolphins coach Adam Gase says that he wants to get running back Jay Ajayi 22-25 carries per game. Can Ajayi handle that kind of workload throughout a 16-game season?
The Miami Dolphins want to be more consistent in the run game next season. The key word there is consistent. The Dolphins did rank in the top 10 with an average of 114 yards rushing per game in 2016. However, those numbers were a bit skewed coming off of three games in which Jay Ajayi ran for 200+ yards. The truth is, Miami exceeded 100 yards rushing in just six games.
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase wants to change that, and he wants to do it with his featured back. In a morning interview on Thursday with 560-WQAM, Gase says he intends to get Ajayi 22-25 carries per game this upcoming season.
"“If I can get him between 22-25 [carries] that’s ideal, and it’s a good chance we’re winning that ball game.”"
This shows that Gase has a lot of confidence in Ajayi after his breakout season in 2016. These numbers equate to about 350 carries throughout a 16-game schedule. That does not even begin to include the idea that the Dolphins want to get Ajayi more involved in the passing game as well. This then raises the question, can Ajayi handle this kind of workload?
Initially, I’d have to say no. I would love to think that he can, however, especially if I can pick him up in a few of my fantasy football leagues. That kind of workload, however, would be tough on any running back in this league. Ajayi may be in the best shape of his life, but durability will remain a question.
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Let us not forget that the reason Ajayi dropped to the Dolphins in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft is because of medical concerns over his knee. Since recovering from ACL surgery in 2011, he’s proven every naysayer wrong dating back to his days at Boise State. The concern from a variety of NFL medical staffers leading up to the draft were that eventually Ajayi would need “micro-fracture surgery” down the road, potentially shortening his NFL career. It’s important to note, however, that these were merely rumors, and never actually confirmed.
Ajayi also battled a shoulder injury late in the season last year that saw him exit the Dolphins playoff game against Pittsburgh. It remains to be seen how well that will hold up this offseason and into the regular season. Either way, Gase’s intentions are a lot to put on a player.
The estimated 350 carries would be a dramatic increase over the 260 that Ajayi ran last season in 15 games. Factor in the anticipated increase in receptions, and we could see Ajayi given 100 touches more than he received last season. To give Ajayi an increase in touches is great, but it’s risky to put that type of workload on his back. Particularly, if Miami is going to make it back to the postseason.
I definitely want to see the Dolphins get their running backs more involved this season. I agree with Gase that if they are able to do so, it means that chances are they are winning the game. I just believe that they have other running backs that could step in as well.
Last season, Ajayi had five games where he rushed for 20 or more carries, with a career-high 32 coming in Week 16 against Buffalo. That was only five games, and we saw what kind of toll that took on him. Ajayi is tough, and would welcome the challenge, but Miami needs to try and keep him healthy.
The Dolphins have a nice pair of backup running backs in Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake. Williams finally signed his tender this week to stay in Miami, and will be the Dolphins RB2. If Ajayi were to get more involved in the passing game this would likely limit Williams’ involvement. Drake had a pretty good rookie season despite limited touches, averaging 5.4 yards per carry on 33 carries for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He should see an increase in snaps for his sophomore season if he can remain healthy.
It’s a great sign that Gase wants to give Ajayi such a heavy workload, and shows the faith that he has in him to lead the Dolphins backfield. Unlike the start of last season when Arian Foster went into the year as the lead back, there’s no question that Ajayi is their guy now. Sometimes though what you want to do, and what you should do are two different things.
Both Williams and Drake made some big plays with limited touches last season. They’ve earned the opportunity as well to step in occasionally, and give Ajayi some necessary rest. With all three players, I believe that the Dolphins can be one of the best run teams in the league for 2017.