Dolphins’ backs: high risk/reward or…
The Miami Dolphins are headed into this season with a group of low-budget, relatively unknown running backs. The team let starting tailback Lamar Miller escape in free agency and he is now a Houston Texan. Second-year back Jay Ajayi is now the projected starter. Ajayi was drafted in the fifth-round out of Boise State. This looks to be a big risk from the outside looking in. Last year Ajayi broke his ribs in the preseason and was stuck on injured reserve with a designation to return. When the rookie returned to action he only carried the football 49-times for 187-yards and one touchdown in 9-games. Ajayi did show the ability to be a three-down back in limited action and caught 7-passes for 90-yards as the backup to Miller. Surprisingly, Dolphins’ first-year general manager Chris Grier stated his comfort level with his running back depth prior to this year’s draft when he answered reporters:
“I think we’re comfortable. I think (with) Coach (Adam) Gase’s history of what he has done with running backs, these guys all fit what he’s looking for in terms of their skill sets. But again, we’ll take any opportunity we can to add at any position if it’s a good football player.” (Miami Herald)
Can Drake shake off the injury stigma?
In May the franchise drafted Alabama running back Kenyan Drake in the third round. Drake is a talented running back but he has a reputation for injuries. Kenyan’s NFL draft report stated the following:
“Drake’s explosiveness as an all-purpose weapon is somewhat tempered by his injury history.” (NFL.com)
Drake had multiple injuries including a broken ankle that required surgery and a broken arm along with quadricep’s injury at the collegiate level. However, the rookie has shown the ability to be a playmaker but at 6-1, 210 lbs he is more of a third-down back with pass catching abilities and special teams potential. In the SEC championship Drake returned a kickoff 95-yards for a game-changing touchdown.
Former offensive coordinator Adam Gase has been hired as the new head coach in Miami. Gase has a track record of success with stints in Denver and Chicago. Although the Dolphins will need to establish a clear lead back, it is possible for the duo to be a successful one-two punch at the pro level, depending upon how they are used in the new offensive scheme.
The Dolphins running game was declared “a hot mess” by Elliot Harrison and Maurice Jones-Drew on NFL Network who picked the Dolphins as the second worst ground attack in 2016 behind the Cleveland Browns. The two mentioned the “availability” problem of both running backs, and new GM Grier’s failed efforts to sign Arizona Cardinals‘ Chris Johnson or Denver Broncos‘ CJ Anderson; both of which opted to stay with their respective teams. The Dolphins are also said to have had talks with Arian Foster, but no deal has been made.
Potentially career shifting gamble…
The Dolphins may be waiting to see who becomes available on the market, as veteran running backs are released closer to the start of the season. A better alternative would be to test the trade possibilities with teams carrying multiple talented running backs such as Terrance West, with the Baltimore Ravens. However, it is possible the team is planning to stay with the two unproven and inexperienced tailbacks they have in Ajayi and Drake. If they do, Grier and Gase will be taking a tremendous gamble that could prove to be disastrous to the Dolphins season and their new jobs.
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