RB Jay Ajayi
(Note: Today kicks off a series on Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits (or doesn’t fit) into the team’s plans for 2017. There’s no better player to begin this series than with running back Jay Ajayi, the team MVP who had a season of remarkable highs and one low.)
Height, weight: 6-0, 229
College: Boise State
Experience: Entering third NFL season, all with Dolphins
Acquired: Fifth round, 2015 draft
Contract: Signed through 2018, due $670,203 in 2017
Pro Football Focus rank: No. 3 of 62 ranked RBs
Stats: Rushing — 260 carries, 1,272 yards (4.9 avg), 8 TDs. Receiving — 27 for 151
Notable moments: Team MVP. … Three 200-yard rushing performances to join CB Sam Madison and QB Dan Marino as the only Dolphins to win Player of the Week honors three times in a season. … Named to Pro Bowl.
Straight talk: Nobody could have sensed on the morning of Oct. 16 that the Dolphins’ season was about to get tossed upside down — or, to put it more accurately, right side up.
And nobody could have sensed that evening that the Dolphins’ biggest upset wasn’t just setting the tone for the rest of the season, but likely the next several seasons.
That was the day Jay Ajayi launched the first of three 200-yard binges, romping through the Steelers and going from a guy who wasn’t missed when he was left home for the season-opener to a running back who eventually would be named team MVP.
Remember when coach Adam Gase told confidantes not to let him get away from feeding Ajayi as he called plays? Gase won’t need reminders in 2017.
With a style best described as running angry, Ajayi has established himself as one of the most punishing yards-after-contact runners in the league. Best of all, GM Chris Grier says, he has “just scratched the surface.” Grier says a priority is to “keep upgrading the offensive line so that we can make sure he becomes a factor for years to come.”
Years, not year.
Ajayi sounds eager. He has an ice machine and uses cryotherapy, which involves standing in a tank at least 100 degrees below zero. He’s considering buying a hyperbaric chamber, which seemed to work for ex-linebacker Zach Thomas. Part of Ajayi’s offseason training will be at Tony Villani’s XPE Sports Academy in Boca Raton, which helped him perfect his power-running style last summer.
“This offseason I’m probably going to work on completing my game even more, adding more to my toolbox and trying to build off of what I was able to do last season,” Ajayi said.
Prospects for 2017
A year ago, the Dolphins tried all sorts of ways to find an upgrade over Ajayi for the role of featured back. That’s one item they can scratch off their list this time. And with Damien Williams, they also have a dependable back who can spell Ajayi. If Kenyan Drake can offer more from scrimmage in Year 2, the Dolphins would be set at this position. Although Ajayi often creates his own holes, it’s now up to Grier, Mike Tannenbaum and Gase to make sure Ajayi has the run-blocking offensive line any good back desires.
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