The Miami Dolphins head into the 2016 NFL season with second-year running back Jay Ajayi as the starter in a backfield minus last year's top runner, Lamar Miller. The team added rookie Kenyan Drake to serve as the complimentary back to Ajayi, using a third-round pick to add the Alabama running back. Those two together should give Miami a solid running game in new head coach Adam Gase's system.
At least, that is the hope. According to an NFL.com video, Miami should not be expecting much out of the Ajayi-Drake combination this year. According to Elliot Harrison and Maurice Jones-Drew, the Dolphins have the second biggest running back mess for 2016.
Jones-Drew covered the Dolphins, who were sandwiched between the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins in the countdown, and explained the ranking, saying, "This is my issue with the Dolphins. You have two backs, Jay Ajayi, who, he gets banged up. He gets banged up and he hasn't been productive. You try to find a ton of running backs to help; can't find one. And then, you go and draft Kenyan Drake, who I think it a very explosive back and does some really good things, but I was once told, the number one ability is availability. If you blow on him, he might fall apart. He's like Humpty Dumpty, you know, he had a great fall and you have to put him back together again."
Harrison then added, "Meanwhile, Lamar Miller, who they never wanted to give 20 carries, is now rolling down in Houston. He'll probably run for 1,200 yards. And the Dolphins who have season tickets to 7-9 are going to be 7-9 again."
"I don't think they will even make it that far," MJD commented. "The AFC East is getting better."
"6-10?" Harrison asked.
"That's cool," MJD responded.
What I took away form this in-depth analysis is that the team did not give enough carries to Lamar Miller last year, but that Ajayi, who was behind Miller on the depth chart, was supposed to somehow be "productive." Ajayi is also constantly "banged up," which must stem from the broken rib he sustained in the Preseason, but was ready to come back and contribute well prior to the "IR-Designated for Return" rules allowed last year.
Ajayi gained 187 yards on 49 carries with 1 touchdown last year. Again, on a team that did not give running backs carries.
This year, with a completely new coaching staff and system, not giving Miller carries last year has nothing to do with what the Dolphins will do with Ajayi this year.
MJD's assessment of Drake has "Humpty Dumpty" is somewhat fair - he did have plenty of injury issues in college at Alabama. In 2014, he was tackled awkwardly and broke and dislocated his ankle, an injury that required an airlift to the hospital and surgery. He returned for 2015 - less than a year after the injury - and then had odd injuries happen throughout the year: broken ribs, a concussion, a quadriceps injury, a sprained ankle, and a broken arm. Yet, there was Drake back and on the field for the SEC Championship game at the end of the year.
Drake may have had a string of injuries at Alabama, but he never stopped working and he constantly came back ready to play again.
Maybe Drake has had to be put together a few times, but that has not stopped him from going back out there and doing it all again.
The Dolphins clearly have a running game in place, with two runners who should compliment each other perfectly. It may not be two top names in the NFL today, but that does not make the running game a "mess" - at least not the second biggest mess in the league in 2016.