The Miami Dolphins have two OTA’s in the bank this off-season and continue to inch their way along with the rest of the NFL towards the start of the 2017 season.
Each position will be under scrutiny of some type this year as the Miami Dolphins work towards a repeat appearance in the post-season. Last year the Dolphins running game stepped up on the legs of Jay Ajayi and many believe the 2017 unit will be better.
It goes without saying that in order for the Dolphins to have success running the ball, they need to have success passing the ball as well as blocking. Those positions will be covered later. How well Miami can run the ball however will be a major factor in how the offense performs.
Currently the Dolphins have six running backs listed on their roster. That could change any time between now and the start of training camp at the end of July. It’s highly doubtful that Miami would bring in a veteran barring injury.
Jay Ajayi – Ajayi earned the starting job in 2016 after being left home in the team season opener in Seattle as a discipline action. Ajayi’s attitude quickly changed and his play on the field improved as a result. He became far more focused and his explosive play netted him three 200 yard games and over 1,200 yards rushing.
Kenyan Drake – Drake didn’t see a lot of action in 2016 but he saw enough to leave the Dolphins with a positive impression heading into 2017. Drake has some growing to do but the Dolphins don’t need him to make a huge jump like they did Ajayi after losing Lamar Miller during the 2016 off-season. With both Ajayi and Drake spending more time working on their ability to catch the ball, Drake should see a big uptick in touches in 2017.
Damien Willaims – Williams tried but couldn’t find a big free agent offer and opted to sign his one year tender to remain with the Dolphins. Wiliams is valuable to Miami as he is the best pass catching running back the team has rostered. His frustration is his lack of ball carries but it’s unlikely that Williams will get a lot of carries wherever he goes in 2018. Barring injury, Williams is a team player not a featured one.
Senorise Perry – The 3rd year pro out of Louisville will have a tough time making the Dolphins roster without something happening to one of the three above. He will need to show enough to challenge Damien Williams who holds the 3rd and likely final RB spot. If the Dolphins opt for four RB’s in 2017 he will have to outplay two other hopefuls. Perry has no NFL game experience.
Storm Johnson – Johnson, a 2nd year man out of Central Florida is the only runner outside of the top three with game experience. He played six games for the Jaguars starting one. That start however came way back in 2014 and Johnson hasn’t seen field play since in a real game. Will he show enough to take a position away?
De’Veon Smith – the rookie out of Michigan at least comes from the right school. Smith is a long shot to make the roster but is a candidate for the practice squad.
Jay Ajayi has stepped out of the shadows and 2016 was not a fluke. His only concern would be injury but he took a big beating last season and came out fine putting an end to the concerns over his college injuries that dropped him in the 2015 draft to the 5th round.
Like Ajayi, Drake too should see improvement in his 2nd season but not likely to the level of Ajayi simply due to rep counts. That being said, the Dolphins relied on Ajayi a lot last season and they need someone who can give their top runner a break and keep the same momentum on the field.
On the surface the Dolphins running game might not look as good as it did at times last season. Ajayi is no longer an unknown and while teams still need to account for him, they won’t be surprised by him. One 200 yard game is tough, three won’t likely be repeated. This is window dressing though. The stats may not look as good as last season for Ajayi but overall the running game should be improved regardless of what the offensive line looks like.