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Is Jay Ajayi Ready to be the Featured Back in Miami?

As Free Agency is set to officially begin on Wednesday, several NFL teams are salivating over the possibility of acquiring Lamar Miller. With the Dolphins reported offer to Miller around $5.5 million, the difference between the two sides is enormous. The question remains whether or not Jay Ajayi is capable of filling the void left by Lamar Miller, becoming the playmaker the Dolphins so desperately need.

Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

Goodbye, Lamar Miller

The use of Lamar Miller during his tenure in Miami was inexplicable.  During his first few seasons, Miller played second fiddle to Reggie Bush. He was used sparingly on special teams and used situationally on offense. After the Dolphins released Bush, Lamar Miller was given the opportunity to thrive, and that is exactly what he did.

In 2013, Lamar Miller rushed for 709 yards on 111 carries and 2 touchdowns.  Miller followed up his impressive 2013 campaign with the best year of his career. Miller carried the ball 217 times for 1,099 yards in 2014, eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his young career.  He scored 8 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.  However; despite showing so much promise in 2014, Joe Philbin and company believed it was best to keep Miller's workload light, limiting him to less than 15 carries per game.

This is a perfect example of the kind of running back Lamar Miller is.

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Miller, 24, is looking for a contract similar to what DeMarco Murray signed last offseason.  Murray received $8 million a year from the Eagles, a number Miller and his agent Drew Rosenhaus believe to be obtainable.  Furthermore, he believes he should be a featured back, receiving a minimum of 20 carries a game.

When given the opportunity, Miller has shown flashes of being among the league's best backs. Additionally, the lack of wear and tear means Miller's best days are still ahead.  As the price tag continues to rise, the likelihood of the Dolphins retaining Miller begins to diminish.  The question now is whether or not Jay Ajayi is ready to take the reins, becoming the workhorse in Adam Gase's offense.

Hello, Jay Ajayi

As a true freshman at Boise State Jay Ajayi suffered a torn ACL in 2011.  The following season, Ajayi played in 11 games, rushing for 548 yards and 4 touchdowns.  In 2013 he started in 11 games, amassing 1,425 yards and 18 touchdowns.  His final year at Boise State, Ajayi rushed for 1,823 yards and 28 touchdowns.   Throughout his entire collegiate career, Jay Ajayi accumulated over 3,796 yards and 50 touchdowns in 38 games.  These numbers were impressive for any running back, but how would his ACL injury affect his draft stock?

Early on in the draft process, Ajayi was believed to be one of the best prospects at his position.  However, once teams and their doctors were able to analyze Ajayi, his knee became a red flag for many NFL teams  This is the reason he fell in the draft sliding all the way to the 5th round.  With the 149th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select; Jay Ajayi, Boise State University.

During the Dolphins' preseason finale vs the Buccaneers, Jay Ajayi suffered a broken rib.  His rib injury would force the team to place him on injured reserve, preventing him from playing until midway through the year.  Miami felt that it would be better for Ajayi to fully heal, rather than rush him back prematurely.  Joe Philbin also wanted the roster spot, to allow the team to add depth elsewhere.  Moreover; with Lamar Miller and Damian Williams in the mix, there was little need to haste his return.  With the additional time Ajayi had to heal he was able to return to full strength, allowing him the opportunity to have an impact his rookie season.

Despite spending the first half of the 2015 season on injured reserve, Ajayi was able to make an impact immediately.  In his first game in the NFL, Ajayi impressed.  He looked fast, decisive and utilized his blocks like a seasoned vet.

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As the season progressed, Ajayi continued to split carries with Lamar Miller.  Despite never receiving more than 10 carries a game, he continued to make the most out of each opportunity.  In fact, much like his game vs Buffalo;  Ajayi looked possessed with the ball in his hands, cutting effortlessly before exploding through the hole.

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From the conversation with him (Gase), he said he liked my skill-set and understands that I can do a lot of things. - Jay Ajayi (SkySports)

Ajayi's skill-set isn't secluded to just the run game.  He's an exceptional pass catcher out of the backfield. Once the ball is in his hands, he uses his quickness and vision to extend the play.

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Ajayi shows explosiveness and power when hitting the hole.  No hesitation.

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His first touchdown is a perfect example of why the Dolphins are so high on Ajayi.

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The Skinny

With Miller on his way out, the time has come for Jay Ajayi to step into the starting role.  During his rookie season, Ajayi was able to show off his impressive skill-set, giving the Dolphins a small sample size of what the back can do when given the chance.  Furthermore, there is little doubt the second-year running back can excel in Adam Gase's offense.  The question now is whether or not he can remain healthy.  In conclusion, Ajayi is everything you could want in a running back.  He's quick, decisive and has the power to run people over.  If he can stay healthy, the Dolphins may have a special running back in Jay Ajayi.