More with less? Here’s what Dolphins are thinking after Jay Ajayi trade

Damien Williams is about to get the biggest opportunity of his career. (Bill Ingram/The Post)

DAVIE—One thing Adam Gase made expressly clear this week is his belief in addition by subtraction. The rest of the NFL will be checking his math over the next two months.

Gase and the Dolphins dumped one of their most productive players when they traded running back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles for a fourth-round pick this week, and there were a variety of reasons for doing it. There’s certainly some long-term thinking behind the move, but not to the extent that Gase was ready to lower his expectations for this season.

There’s a belief that Miami can get as much or more output from the newly formed backfield tandem of Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake, both of whom will be featured Sunday night against the Raiders in a nationally televised showcase. They’re young, unproven and highly versatile.

“We’re going to be able to maximize what they do well,” Gase said.

It’s easy to see his logic as he tries to jump start an offense that ranks last in the league in yardage (252.4 yards per game) and scoring (13.1 points).

At his best, Ajayi is a bruising runner with the strength to plow his way to 200-yard games, but he wasn’t anything like that this season at 3.4 yards per carry and 66.4 per game. When he was playing at a truly special level, Gase was willing to adjust to his game, but if not, he’s looking for more multifaceted weapons.

The fact that Williams and Drake haven’t unleashed their full power yet could simply be a result of their playing time being capped behind Ajayi.

“We were all somewhere before here, being the main guy and having the bulk of (the carries),” said Williams, who was very productive at Oklahoma. “We’re all different, but we all bring excitement to the game.”

Calling plays for Williams (5-foot-11, 224 pounds) and Drake (6-1, 211) should come more naturally for Gase because they’re faster and have more potency in the passing game. They’re reminiscent of the running backs he’s had at previous stops, as well as ones he pursued shortly after he took the Dolphins job because he didn’t believe Ajayi was the answer.

Remember that prior to his 204-yard outburst against Pittsburgh last season, the NFL made a clear evaluation of his ability and future prospects.

He was the 149th player chosen (13th among running backs) in the 2015 draft despite monster numbers at Boise State. Joe Philbin’s staff gave him 49 carries as a rookie, and—after Gase came aboard—the Dolphins tried to keep Lamar Miller, pursued C.J. Anderson and Arian Foster in free agency last year and drafted Drake in the third round.

When Gase was Anderson’s offensive coordinator in Denver for 2014 season, he earned a Pro Bowl invitation by rushing for 849 yards, averaging 9.5 yards per catch and totaling 10 touchdowns.

While Foster ultimately wasn’t healthy enough to do much for Miami and he retired after four games, his skillset fit Gase’s template as well. From 2010 through ’14, he averaged 43.9 catches per season. That’s what Gase hoped to recapture. As spent as Foster was, Gase chose him as the opening day starter after a full preseason to compare him against Ajayi.

In his lone season running the offense in Chicago, Gase inherited Matt Forte. He owns the all-time record for catches by a running back (102) and caught 44 passes for 389 yards with Gase in 2015.

The Dolphins were trying to turn Ajayi into that type of back during the recent offseason, further underscoring how essential that tool is to the offense Gase ideally wants to operate. To his credit, Ajayi shared that vision. It never materialized, though. His best receiving games this season were three catches for 26 yards against the Jets, and four for 18 in Baltimore.

Gase doesn’t have to force Williams and Drake into that mold. That’s already how they think of themselves.

Drake had more catches as a senior at Alabama (29) than Ajayi had last season (27) and is intent on using his speed as a vertical threat. Despite Williams playing just 16.8 percent of the offseason snaps last year, compared to Ajayi’s 61.3, he finished fifth on the team in receiving yards (249) and third in total touchdowns (six).

“It’s no secret that they’re probably a little more natural of a receiver,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “But they also aren’t as violent. I do think there’s a versatility that comes with those guys… that they’re really, really good athletes.”

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Marshawn Lynch coming back? Plenty of Miami Dolphins retired young, too

Ricky Williams. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, who was 29 when he walked away from the game, reportedly is considering coming out of retirement to play for the Oakland Raiders. Here are a few of the Dolphins players who for various reasons left football before you might expect:

RB Ricky Williams: The granddaddy of them all. Williams was 27 in 2004 when he stunned the NFL by announcing he was retiring. Of course, his retirement wasn’t permanent. He played six seasons after that, finally finishing at 34 — certainly not young by running back standards — with the Baltimore Ravens.

C Dwight Stephenson: Was only 30 in 1987, and finishing his fourth consecutive All-Pro season, when he was forced to retire because of a bad knee injury suffered against the Jets. Shortened career could not keep him out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dolphins RB Knowshon Moreno. (Post photo)

TE Jordan Cameron: The most recent example, retiring at age 28 after one too many concussions.

RB Arian Foster: Abruptly announced had enough in the middle of the 2016 season at age 30.

OT Jonathan Martin: Dolphins’ 2012 second-round pick played only three NFL seasons, finishing at age 25 with the 49ers and never bouncing back from Bullygate.

RB Knowshon Moreno: Gained 1,038 yards for Denver in 2013 but  retired from the Dolphins less than a year later, at age 28, after playing just three games. Had suffered two ACL tears. Made noise about making a comeback last spring but it never materialized.

LB Channing Crowder: After the Dolphins released him in 2011, he decided he’d had enough at age 27 and entered broadcasting, happy that the word hits take on an entirely different meaning in the radio business.

DE John Bosa: Dolphins’ first-round pick in 1987 played only three injury-plagued seasons, leaving the game at age 25. Father of top Chargers rookie Joey Bosa.

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Fostering talent: The five best games of Arian Foster’s NFL career

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Arian Foster (Getty Images)
Arian Foster (Getty Images)

Miami Dolphins running back Arian Foster announced Monday night that he was retiring from football at age 30. Foster said that his body was no longer allowing him to play the game at a high level, and that he was “walking away with peace.”

The former Houston Texan finished his career with four Pro Bowl selections, 6,527 rushing yards and plenty of memorable performances.

Here is a look at the top five games of Arian Foster’s terrific career:

5) Nov. 28, 2010 vs. Tennessee Titans

Foster amassed over 200 all-purpose yards in the Houston Texans’ 20-0 win over the Titans, showing his versatility in the process. The 143 rushing yards that he gained on 30 carries is the ninth-highest total in his career, and he also added a career-high nine receptions for 75 yards.

4) Oct. 5, 2014 at Dallas Cowboys

Foster rushed for the fifth-highest yard total in his career, getting the ball 23 times for 157 yards. Though he wasn’t a factor in the passing game with only two receptions, he was able to rip off 6.83 yards per carry. Foster also found the end zone twice on the ground.

3) Oct. 23, 2011 at Tennessee Titans

A then-25-year-old Foster gashed the Titans defense for three touchdowns — two rushing and one receiving — en route to a 41-7 Texans win. He averaged an astonishing 23.8 yards per reception, catching all five passes thrown his way for 119 yards. On the ground, Foster ran 25 times for 115 yards, an average of 4.6 yards per carry. It would be the only time in Foster’s career that he gained over 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game.

2) Jan. 2, 2011 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Foster closed out an otherwise disappointing 2010 season for the Texans by giving fans something to feel good about going into the offseason. Foster posted 190 yards of total offense in a 34-17 win over the Jaguars, with a majority of his damage coming on the ground. Foster rushed 31 times for 180 yards, the second highest total of his career. He also ran for two touchdowns, including a 35-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter that helped to put the game out of reach.

1) Sept. 12, 2010 vs. Indianapolis Colts

In what was, by far, the best rushing performance of his career, Foster went for a career-high 231 yards on 33 carries, an average of 7.0 yards per run. Foster also ran for three touchdowns, including two in the final 10 minutes of the game. His 231 yards on the day is 51 yards more than the second-highest amount of his career.

Dolphins practice update: Arian Foster works, Jason Jones doesn’t

Foster practiced today, meaning he might be ready for Sunday. (Getty Images)
Foster practiced today, meaning he might be ready for Sunday. (Getty Images)

[Updated: Oct. 19, 3:14 p.m.]

DAVIE–The Dolphins‘ injury situation remains in flux, with safety Reshad Jones out for the year, but several contributors getting healthy.

Here’s a look at who was available for today’s practice:
Continue reading “Dolphins practice update: Arian Foster works, Jason Jones doesn’t”

What happens with Arian Foster after Jay Ajayi’s huge game?

Arian Foster got three carries against Pittsburgh. (Getty Images)
Arian Foster got three carries against Pittsburgh. (Getty Images)

DAVIE–Many expected Arian Foster to reclaim his spot as the Dolphins‘ starting running back when he returned from a groin injury, but that’s on hold at the moment.
Continue reading “What happens with Arian Foster after Jay Ajayi’s huge game?”

Seven Miami Dolphins players to watch vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Foster put up 100 yards of offense in the opener against Seattle. (Getty Images)
Foster put up 100 yards of offense in the opener against Seattle. (Getty Images)

DAVIE—The Dolphins are up against possibly the strongest team they’ve faced to date with Pittsburgh and its high-octane offense coming to Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.

Do they have a chance at an upset? Here are the seven players who could make that possible:
Continue reading “Seven Miami Dolphins players to watch vs. Pittsburgh Steelers”

Dolphins LG Laremy Tunsil back at practice after shower injury

Tunsil got back to work today after a shower injury. (Getty Images)
Tunsil got back to work today after a shower injury. (Getty Images)

DAVIE—The Dolphins’ long-await hope of seeing all five offensive line starters together might finally become reality.

All five were practicing in the open portion of today’s work, including rookie Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil hurt his ankle in the shower Sunday morning and was a late scratch for Miami’s loss to the Titans.

Branden Albert also practiced today, as expected, and looks ready to return from an ankle injury and illness that kept him out the last two games.

Other notes:
Continue reading “Dolphins LG Laremy Tunsil back at practice after shower injury”

Miami Dolphins inactives: RB Arian Foster, others out vs. Titans

It'll be at least another week before the Dolphins get Arian Foster back. (Getty Images)
It’ll be at least another week before the Dolphins get Arian Foster back. (Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS–The Dolphins will be down seven starters for today’s game against the Tennessee Titans.

One of the more alarming inactives is left guard Laremy Tunsil, who was not on the injury report leading up to today. The team has not specified why he is out.

Here are the Miami inactives:
Continue reading “Miami Dolphins inactives: RB Arian Foster, others out vs. Titans”

Miami Dolphins inactives: 7 starters out vs. Bengals

Branden Albert was a game-time decision. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)
Branden Albert was a game-time decision. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

CINCINNATI–The Dolphins will go without several key players tonight at Cincinnati. Here are their inactives:
Continue reading “Miami Dolphins inactives: 7 starters out vs. Bengals”

Quick hits: Five takeaways from Dolphins’ victory over Browns

Jamar Taylor of Cleveland Browns intercepts a Ryan Tannehill pass during the first quarter. (Getty Images)
Jamar Taylor of Cleveland Browns intercepts a Ryan Tannehill pass during the first quarter. (Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS—It took the Dolphins a long time to finally bury Cleveland today, but they got there. After trailing by three early in the third quarter, Miami came back for a 30-24 overtime win at Hard Rock Stadium.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong for the Dolphins this afternoon:
Continue reading “Quick hits: Five takeaways from Dolphins’ victory over Browns”