Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi made an appearance on NFL Network’s NFL HQ on Monday, discussing the 2016 season for the team. Ajayi, heading into his second season in the NFL and first as a starter, made a brief three-minute appearance, but he was able to cover several key topics for the Dolphins this year.
“Definitely just seeing a lot more growth,” Ajay said of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and what should be expected from the fifth-year played. “Last year, for me, I was a rookie, so I was still trying to just figure everything out. Now, just being in the mix, being out there with him in the huddle and everything, it has been really great. Seeing how he has been able to work with Coach Gase, and seeing what he has been doing on the line of scrimmage, just being able to make those different calls and things like that, it’s been really cool to see. I’m excited to see him blossom and dominate this year.”
The Dolphins have transitioned to Adam Gase as their head coach, his first year holding that position. He comes to Miami after stints as the offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos, positions that earned Gase a reputation as a quarterback whisperer after the success he had with Jay Cutler, Peyton Manning, and Tim Tebow. Now, Gase will be asked to have the same type of success with Tannehill, who is still seen as a quarterback with a lot of potential, but one who has not yet put it all together.
“I’m excited for our o-line personally, as a running back, of course” Ajayi explained when asked about rookie offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil being added to the team this year. Tunsil was selected with the team’s first-round pick back in April, falling to Miami with the 13th overall selection after a video appeared on Tunsil’s Twitter account showing him smoke from a gas-mask bong. “Those guys are healthy. It’s been really good just to see all those guys lined up in front of me, across the board. Last year, you know, we had some of those guys dinged up. B.A. [offensive tackle Branden Albert], [center Mike] Pouncey, Ja’Wuan [James, right tackle], they kind of played banged up here and there. We had to shuffle a little bit. Now, it’s been really great seeing all of those guys healthy, out there, athletic, moving around, pushing people. As long as we can stay healthy, I think we have a really good chance of being a great running team, and keeping Tannehill off the ground.”
The conversation then turned to the Dolphins’ 2016 season as a whole. “To be honest, we are just going to focus on ourselves right now,” Ajayi replied when asked if this is the year Miami can challenge the New England Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East. “The Patriots, in the past, they have dominated the league. Right now, all we can really do is focus on ourselves, working each day to just prepare ourselves to have a season to do that. That’s basically going to be coming in every day to work and learning this offense and just preparing ourselves so when we get into conference play, we have to do better than we’ve done in the past. Obviously, it hasn’t been good enough, because we haven’t made the playoffs and won our division. Those are definitely goals that we have to achieve, but right now, we are going to be focusing just on the day-to-day until we get to those points in the season.”
Finally, Ajayi was asked to explain to fantasy football owners what they will be getting if they add him to their roster. “If you do pick me, you’re going to get a guy that can make huge plays in the air, on the ground, is exciting to watch, is going to run hard for you. I don’t know how many points you’re going to need every game, but I’m going to try to get you the maximum amount of points that I can.”
Ajayi moved into the top spot on the depth chart this year after Lamar Miller left the club to sign with the Houston Texans. Ajayi had 49 carries for 187 yards with a touchdown in his rookie campaign, playing in just nine games after missing the first six contests with a broken rib he suffered in the preseason.
The Dolphins open their season on September 11 at the Seattle Seahawks.