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A film breakdown of Jay Ajayi’s 2016 season

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The little engine that could...

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

It was quite the year for Jay Ajayi in 2016. After losing the top spot to Arian Foster in the summer, Ajayi wasn’t pleased and began sulking around the team’s facility. It was so bad, that according to The Phinsider’s own Matthew Cannata, Adam Gase was very close to releasing the second-year player. However, he never gave up and after Foster went down, it was Ajayi’s time to shine. And that’s exactly what he did. Ajayi would become the Dolphins’ most valuable player, finishing the year fourth in the NFL in yards with 1,272. All of this, despite missing the first two games of the season. He became the player many thought he would with the team, and should only get better in 2017

Here is a film breakdown of Jay Ajayi’s 2016 season.

Jay Ajayi is a physical specimen

His first big play of the year, came in week 3 against the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland had every opportunity to win this game, but fortunately Miami was able to hang around, forcing overtime. This is where the Dolphins’ and J-Train’s season began to turn around.

Part of his success in 2016 came on outside run plays, like this one here. Two great blocks from tight end Dion Sims and Marques Gray, and the Dolphins walked-off in style.

The Tennessee game was a huge disappointment. This was my first ever Dolphins’ home game, and it was completely demoralizing. Shortly after however, Miami released Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner, two moves that happened a few years too late. Nonetheless, it gave the team a boost as they welcomed the Pittsburgh Steelers to town.

This was Ajayi’s breakout game, and the Boise State alum rushed for his first 200-yard game as a pro. In this game, he carried the ball 25 times for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns. Below, you can see how fast and elusive he is with the rock in his hands. He might not be the quickest back in the league, but he plays faster than his 4.57 forty time. Ajayi hits the hole with purpose, eluding the tackle with ease.

Again, he hits the hole without any hesitation. A nice block from Landry on the outside allows him to get to the second level. No one has a chance of catching him, 57-yards later TOUCHDOWN MIAMI!

Back-to-back 200-yard games rarely happen in the NFL. O.J Simpson, Earl Campbell, and Ricky Williams have all done it. And after an impressive game vs Pittsburgh, Ajayi’s repeat performance vs the Bills, put him in the record books. He finished the game with 28 carries, 214 yards and 1 touchdown, cementing himself alongside some of NFL’s greatest running backs.

This was probably my favorite play of the year from Ajayi. With the offense’s back against the wall, he makes one guy miss exploding through the hole. Two Bills’ defenders try to make the tackle, but like his name implies, J-Train breaks through for a big gain.

Buffalo reads run all the way and despite the unbalanced box, Ajayi is unable to bounce to the outside. He lowers his shoulder, bullying his way into the endzone for an easy score. Durability concerns had a lot to do with Ajayi falling in the draft, but so far he’s been quite the workhorse for Miami.

This formation is something the Dolphins used often in 2016 and should continue to do so moving forward. It’s designed to give Tannehill the option to throw the screen or hand the ball off, depending on what look the defense gives. In doing so, it also spreads the defense out, making the odds that much better for a big gain. Defenders must also account for the read option, which is where the defensive end goes wrong in this play. He bites hard on the read option, allowing Ajayi to pick up a substantial gain.

Much like the previous play, the defensive end is more concerned about Tannehill keeping the ball. Ajayi runs right past him on his way to nice gain.

In this play, Tannehill sees something in the defense and changes the play. Whether or not he went from pass to run, or changed the play from right to left, I do not know. Nonetheless, he made the right read and with nice blocks from Pouncey and Gray, he scampers into the end zone for a touchdown. Again, you can see just how decisive he is with the ball in his hands. Without any wasted motion, he explodes through the hole leaving defenders in his wake. Easy touchdown for Ajayi.

Here, inside pressure forces Ajayi to bounce outside. His vision allows him to see the play develop before him, and a big block from Landry downfield allows him to pick up additional yards.

Again, Landry comes in from the outside and delivers a huge block that allows Ajayi to pick up additional yardage. Landry has been compared to some of the greatest receivers in the history of the NFL, but Hines Ward might be the most accurate. Landry’s block makes this play happen.

A massive hole on the left side allows Ajayi to pick up a 36-yard gain vs the Rams.

Here, San Francisco stacks the line of scrimmage expecting the run. Like they did often in 2016, Miami used Damien Williams at fullback. The defense bites hard on the inside run, allowing Ajayi enough time to get to the outside for the touchdown. Lost in this play, is a great block from former tight end Dominique Jones.

In this play, nothing is there for Ajayi up the middle, so he bounces the play to the outside. A nice block from Brandon Albert, opens a hole for the pro-bowl running back. He makes the defensucr tackle miss on his way to a huge 57-yard gain. His vision and explosiveness is second-to-none.

This might be the best two-yard run you will ever see in your lifetime. First, Moore stumbles, nearly ending the play for a loss. He manages to get the ball to Ajayi, who makes the unblocked defensive end miss. In the same motion, he lays a menacing stiff arm on the corner. Despite looking like an easy 4 or 5 yard loss, Ajayi manages to score, making this one of his most exciting runs of the season.

In the end, the sky is the limit for Jay Ajayi, who had a true breakout season in 2016. All reports from Davie this offseason, is that he’s in even better shape than a season ago. Furthermore, he’s spent a lot of time this offseason improving as a pass catcher. If Ajayi can become an all-around back, his name will be among the NFL’s elite for years to come. Gase has publicly said he’s ready to feed J-Train the ball 300+ times, and it would be in Miami’s best interest to do so. Yes, Miami’s receiving corps is one of the best in the NFL, but without Jay Ajayi the Dolphins can not succeed in 2017. His presence opens things up in the passing game, and gives the team a potent rushing attack. The little engine known as J-Train, could be a lot better in 2017.

This article was written by Josh Houtz. Follow him on Twitter!

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