The Miami Dolphins seem to have finally found their offensive identity with a 20-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Through the team’s first four games, they had struggled to get the offense into any sort of rhythm, scoring just 10.3 points per game through that period. While the offense still struggled on Sunday, they nearly doubled that average, and discovered the identity for the team that every one should have already known was there:
With 26 carries for 130 yards, Ajayi looked like the running back he is supposed to be, breaking off chunks of yards and breaking tackles. He was ranked as the top running back in the league for the week, according to PFF:
The Dolphins’ offensive struggles have been well documented so far this season. Quarterback Jay Cutler has looked uncomfortable throughout the season, playing with poor mechanics and not being able to do everything that the team wants of him. The receivers have struggled to get open and with drops this year. Tight end Julius Thomas has been invisible. The offensive line struggles with both run- and pass-blocking.
But, it appears the team has found something. They have to keep it up, but if they have found their identity - feeding Ajayi - then they will be a bigger danger for every opponent.
“He makes it really easy to stay with because it is almost like throwing the ball, you know you are going to get some of these 10, 12, and 15-yard runs,” head coach Adam Gase said of the star running back. “He starts hopping around feeling how they are playing him, and he is hard to bring down.”
In 2016, Ajayi rushed for 100 or more yards in four games. The Dolphins were 4-0 in those games. In 2017, he has reached that mark twice, and Miami is 2-0. If you drop that rushing total to 75 yards, Ajayi reached that total two more times in 2016, with the Dolphins winning both games, and one additional time in 2017, with Miami winning that additional game as well.
When Ajayi rushes for 75 or more yards, the Dolphins are 9-0 over the past two seasons. He is the identity of this team, and the team seems to be starting to remember that. In three seasons with the Dolphins, with just 29 games played, Ajayi is already 17th in all-time Dolphins rushing yards. The next closest player with fewer games played than Ajayi is Leroy Harris, who played in 26 games, and has the 32nd most rushing yards in team history.
“I always want to be able to be a factor for this team and help us win,” Ajayi said after Sunday’s game. “Being that workhorse for us, I pride myself on that. It was a clutch time getting crucial first downs in scoring range, and I was glad I was able to help. The offensive line and receivers on the outside did their jobs, and I just run hard.”
Ajayi’s running hard is clearly the identity of the offense, even if they do not seem to know it all the time. If Ajayi is back on track, the Dolphins’ offense should be ready to explode this season.