Monday, August 01, 2016

Jay Ajayi Unlikely to Start for Dolphins

    This is the season when writers like to overreact to a thin slice of data, whether it's impressive speed that makes players look unstoppable before the pads go on (Jakeem Grant) or an inspiring one-handed catch that turns heads in the first week (Arian Foster).  But my contention that Ajayi is unlikely to start for this year's squad is nothing to do with early camp heroics.

    It is based on history.  In three years as the Denver OC, Adam Gase has leaned on experience in the backfield.  In 2012, Willis McGahee (31 at the time) started over Knowshon Moreno (then 25).  In 2013, Gase looked to Moreno at age 26 over the much heralded Montee Ball.  The following year, despite evidence Ball wasn't yet much of a player, Gase still looked to the 24 year-old over two younger alternatives. It wasn't until after the bye in week 4 that he moved on to his less proven alternatives.

    All of this suggests that Arian Foster is more likely to hold the reins in the coming season, at least early on, than is Ajayi.  This is not to fault Ajayi, who I believe will grow into an excellent pro.  It is only to temper the expectations (especially fantasy induced expectations) that this is Ajayi's job to lose.  It might be worth bearing in mind that Ajayi was a fifth round flier for a now departed coaching staff.  There is a promising running back on the roster (Kenyan Drake) that this group of coaches selected themselves in the third round.

    The smart guess is that Gase will run a committee by drive, rotating backs and letting a hot player see the field for more reps.  I love this approach, though it drives fantasy owners crazy.  As a football player, what more can you want than a meritocracy?  The three backs will likely distribute carries somewhere around 40%/30%/20%, with the last 10% going to Tannehill, a far more fleet quarterback than Gase has lately had.  In the end, I'm not sure if Ajayi will get that 30% workload or the 20%, but I'm betting the experienced Foster will get the 40% share.

    So long as these Dolphins find balance and score on the ground, I don't think any of us should care too much who gets it done.  Still, it pays to have reasonable expectations of Ajayi going in, and to let someone else overpay on fantasy draft day.

Jay Lopez
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Good read Jay! As a fantasy player, I have learned, DONT DRAFT ANY DOLPHINS! And if you do, temper expectations! LOL. Gase likes to rotate backs on drives, not plays so I have to agree with everything you said although the carries are going to be difficult to predict. This all hinders in health across the board, all three of our backs have had major injuries in their careers


Thanks Lawrence! I think you are right- health will have a great deal to say about proportionality of carries, and our backs have colorful medical histories. Lots of talent though, and hopefully they all get a chance to contribute in their own way. I think it's just important for us to be patient with Ajayi since he is still developing. Miller's departure put a lot of early attention on a developmental player.


You may be right Jay. But, he will get plenty of touches... I think slightly more than the 30% you suggest.


That is certainly possible, especially as the season wears on. Love the way the kid plays... the YAC he racks up are especially impressive. Just think he may rotate in less often while learning protections and such...


Funny to see The Herald and Phinsider jump on some of the stories we've been writing. Day or two late, but glad to see they are reading up...