Jay Ajayi can repeat 2016 success, maybe


When Jay Ajayi was left home to open the 2016 season, many believed the Dolphins should have traded him. Instead he learned a lesson and became one of the biggest surprises of the 2016 season.

Repeating success is not all that easy unless you cheat like the Patriots. For the Dolphins Jay Ajayi, repeated success will come down to more than just his ability to run the ball. More than his ability to get away from the first contact. More than simply rushing for another 1,000 yards.

There isn’t a lot that Ajayi can’t do but there are areas he needs to work on. While a very solid runner Ajayi needs to work on his route running and pass catching ability. He doesn’t have to be great but if he became a bigger part of the Dolphins passing game, he would become a dual threat in the offense. In 2016 Ajayi registered 27 receptions but no touchdowns.

In addition to his involvement in the passing game, Ajayi needs to work on his blocking as well. He got better in 2016 and should continue to improve. Blocking is important for play action passing to work and Ajayi is getting better at picking up the blitz when he is required to.

If Ajayi improves in those two areas he will become more dangerous but the reality is if he is going to have the same success as 2016 he needs to see improvement from the offensive line.

With Ja’Wuan James and Laremy Tunsil working the outside tackle spots three questions remain inside. Can Jermon Bushrod have another solid season and can Mike Pouncey finally remain healthy? The battle at left guard will be interesting because Ted Larsen and Kraig Urbik are going to have to win the position and there is no guarantees that Miami doesn’t bring in more.

Ajayi ran for over 1,200 yards in 2016 and scored eight times. Miami would like to see the TD total go North of 10 and it can. Miami was vastly improved in the red-zone in 2016 and that should continue as well.

Unfortunately 200 yard games are hard to come by and while Ajayi did it three times last year, it’s hard to imagine that he will repeat that production in 2017. 2016 was a breakout year that sent Ajayi to the Pro-Bowl, got him three AFC offensive weekly honors, and catapulted him into the NFL’s Top 100 ranks. A repeat season is possible but it’s going to be tough.

For the Dolphins, a repeat in yards per carry, 4.9, would be the biggest help because Ajayi is expected to carry the ball a lot in 2017 despite the many offensive talents on the roster who could take snaps away. The fact Miami is banking on Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker for big seasons and still feed the ball to Jarvis Landry as well as the addition of Julius Thomas, this could be a tough year to get 25 touches a game.

A lot will factor into Ajayi’s season and fans shouldn’t be hung up on the total yards but instead how Ajayi and the offense as a whole move the ball down the field. If Ajayi continues to run hard, the his success might be measured in something different from touches and yards which is why the yards per carry could be the key stat.

Regardless, Ajayi has shown that he is more than capable of tearing up opposing defenses and should improve in 2017. Maybe.