Miami Dolphins

Dolphins should continue to feature Jay Ajayi

Nov. 15, 2015 - Philadelphia, Florida, U.S. - Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) runs past Philadelphia Eagles free safety Chris Maragos (42) for a first down at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia on November 15, 2015 (Photo by Allen Eyestone/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)
(Allen Eyestone/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

Not much has gone right for the Miami Dolphins this season. They are a couple made field goals from Browns backup kicker Cody Parkey away from an 0-5 start, and it only seems to be getting worse every week.

Injuries are mounting on an already weak offensive line. Both starting left tackle Branden Albert and left guard Laremy Tunsil missed Sunday’s game against Tennessee. Don’t forget, Miami has also been without starting running back Arian Foster since Week 2. Without them, the Dolphins’ offense sputtered again in Week 5, as they allowed six sacks and only gained 51 rushing yards. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota out-rushed the entire Dolphins team on his own.

The season is going nowhere fast, so although it may be tempting for head coach Adam Gase to believe he can turn this around once some players are healthy again, Miami may be better suited in the long run to start looking further down the road.

By no means should the team pack it in and concede every game from here on out, but the Dolphins need to begin determining who can be a long-term solution for this struggling team. Their evaluation process can start with second-year running back Jay Ajayi.

In the first couple games without Foster, Gase decided to go with a backfield by committee. It worked relatively well against Cleveland, but what doesn’t work against the Browns? The following week versus Cincinnati, Miami rushed for just 62 yards.

This past Sunday, Gase threw out the running back by committee strategy and went with Ajayi as his starter. He only averaged 3.23 yards per carry, but he scored and led the team in rushing. During the time Foster has been out, Ajayi has averaged about 4.0 yards per rush and scored twice.

Those numbers aren’t daunting, but let’s not forget that Miami has just the 23rd ranked offensive line according to the grades at Pro Football Focus and two starters missed their most recent game.

Behind the same offensive line, Foster has actually done worse. In his one start (granted, it was against Seattle), he had just 38 rushing yards on 13 attempts, which comes out to an average below 3.0. In the four games he played last season behind a better offensive line than Miami, Foster averaged 2.6 yards per rush.

Clearly, the 30-year-old isn’t exactly in his prime. If Foster was still a Pro Bowl-type back, of course he should be starting, but with his struggles, it makes you wonder what the motivation was to start or even sign him in the first place.

There’s also 24-year-old Damien Williams on the roster. The third-year back only has six rushes, so it’s an extremely small sample size, but he does have a 15-yard scamper, and Williams had the only notable play on offense for Miami against Tennessee. During the second quarter, he caught a screen pass and ran for a 58-yard gain, which set up the Dolphins in the red zone and led to the game-tying touchdown.

These two youngsters are the guys Gase needs to feature in his backfield. Yes, Ajayi got off to a rocky start with the team this season when he didn’t win the starting job. He was extremely upset and then when that carried over into the locker room, the Dolphins left him at home in Week 1.

But bury the hatchet. Miami has holes everywhere; the team needs to figure out if their future franchise running back is already on the roster. If he is, it’s not Foster, who, based on his last six games, isn’t a better short-term option anyway.

If benching veteran cornerback Bryon Maxwell is a justifiable tactic, then it should apply across the board. Foster probably isn’t going to be with the team next season anyway, so there won’t be any long-term repercussions for moving him to the bench. Let’s see what Ajayi and Williams can do with the opportunity to be the team’s 1-2 running punch.

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