Miami Dolphins: Did Jay Ajayi rush his name into elite conversation in 2016?
At first, it didn’t look so good for Jay Ajayi in his rookie season with the Miami Dolphins. Playing behind leading rusher Lamar Miller, Ajayi only rushed the ball 49 times for 187 yards and 1 touchdown. In 2016 everything changed, but it took a stroke of luck. The Dolphins weren’t too sure about Ajayi so they went out and signed Arian Foster in the offseason. Not even half-way through the season, Foster decided to call it a career and the legend of Ajayi was born.
No longer looking over his shoulder, the Dolphins unleashed their secret weapon upon the NFL. Ajayi finished the year with 260 carries for 1272 yards and 8 touchdowns, earning his first Pro Bowl trip in the process. With Ryan Tannehill having a great season, it forced defenses into dime packages which resulted in more open lanes for Ajayi to dominate.
With his numbers, Ajayi deserves to be mentioned with the top backs in the NFL. But here is why people will give him the cold shoulder. It was just one year. With that said then how can they place Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys or Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears in the same conversation? Both guys are rookies so to place them means that Ajayi has to have a spot reserved as well.
How can anyone not take a player serious who had 3-200 yard rushing games in one season?
Ajayi may have struggled a bit with only 4 games over 100 yards but it was his toughness that set him apart from some of the veteran backs in the NFL. Not forgetting to point out that Ajayi split carries until week 5. Now that Tannehill is back healthy, the Dolphins can focus on what got them to the playoffs last season. If Ajayi can prove that his breakout year was not a fluke then his name will be mentioned every time someone brings up Elliott or Howard.
The Dolphins are clearly Tannehill’s team but they will only go as far as Ajayi takes them. If the running game struggles, so do Tannehill. If Tannehill is able to move the chains through the air then Ajayi will be able to prove the doubters wrong.
Say what you want but how can there be doubt about a player who finished the season in the top 5 in yards, attempts per game, and yards per carry?
The Dolphins realized what they had after his performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers then they just unleashed him on all defenses. Those 200-yard games may dip some in 2017 but his overall game should have him mentioned with the elite runners until proven otherwise.